by Stephen Charnock
MARK 10:18.—And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God.
THE words are part of a reply of our Saviour to the young man’s petition to him: a certain person came in haste, “running” as being eager for satisfaction, to entreat his directions, what he should do to inherit everlasting life; the person is described only in general (ver. 17), “There came one,” a certain man: but Luke describes him by his dignity (Luke 18:18), “A certain ruler;” one of authority among the Jews. He desires of him an answer to a legal question, “What he should do?” or, as Matthew hath it, “What good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life” (Matt. 19:16)? He imagined everlasting felicity was to be purchased by the works of the law; he had not the least sentiments of faith: Christ’s answer implies, there was no hopes of the happiness of another world by the works of the law, unless they were perfect, and answerable to every divine precept. He doth not seem to have any ill, or hypocritical intent in his address to Christ; not to tempt him, but to be instructed by him. He seems to come with an ardent desire, to be satisfied in his demand; he performed a solemn act of respect to him, he kneeled to him, γονυπετήσας, prostrated himself upon the ground; besides, Christ is said (ver. 21) to love him, which had been inconsistent with the knowledge Christ had of the hearts and thoughts of men, and the abhorrence he had of hypocrites, had he been only a counterfeit in this question. But the first reply Christ makes to him, respects the title of “Good Master,” which this ruler gave him in his salutation.
1st, Some think, that Christ hereby would draw him to an acknowledgment of him as God; you acknowledge me “good;” how come you to salute me with so great a title, since you do not afford it to your greatest doctors? Lightfoot, in loc. observes, that the title of Rabbi bone is not in all the Talmud. You must own me to be God, since you own me to be “good:” goodness being a title only due, and properly belonging, to the Supreme Being. If you take me for a common man, with what conscience can you salute me in a manner proper to God? since no man is “good,” no, not one, but the heart of man is evil continually. The Arians used this place, to back their denying the Deity of Christ: because, say they, he did not acknowledge himself “good,” therefore he did not acknowledge himself God. But he doth not here deny his Deity, but reproves him for calling him good, when he had not yet confessed him to be more than a man. You behold my flesh, but you consider not the fulness of my Deity; if you account me “good,” account me God, and imagine me not to be a simple and a mere man. He disowns not his own Deity, but allures the young man to a confession of it. Why callest thou me good, since thou dost not discover any apprehensions of my being more than a man? Though thou comest with a greater esteem to me than is commonly entertained of the doctors of the chair, why dost thou own me to be “good,” unless thou own me to be God? If Christ had denied himself in this speech to be “good,” he had rather entertained this person with a frown and a sharp reproof for giving him a title due to God alone, than have received him with that courtesy and complaisance as he did. Had he said, there is none “good” but the Father, he had excluded himself; but in saying, there is none “good” but God, he comprehends himself.
2d. Others say, that Christ had no intention to draw him to an acknowledgment of his Deity, but only asserts his divine authority or mission from God. For which interpretation Maldonat calls Calvin an Arianizer. He doth not here assert the essence of his Deity, but the authority of his doctrine; as if he should have said, You do without ground give me the title of “good,” unless you believe I have a Divine commission for what I declare and act. Many do think me an impostor, an enemy of God, and a friend to devils; you must firmly believe that I am not so, as your rulers report me, but that I am sent of God, and authorized by him; you cannot else give me the title of good, but of wicked. And the reason they give for this interpretation, is, because it is a question, whether any of the apostles understood him, at this time, to be God, which seems to have no great strength in it; since not only the devil had publicly owned him to be the “Holy One of God” (Luke 4:34), but John the Baptist had borne record, thal he was the “Son of God” (John 1:32, 34); and before this time Peter had confessed him openly, in the hearing of the rest of the disciples, that he was “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16). But I think Paroeus’ interpretation is best, which takes in both those; either you are serious or deceitful in this address; if you are serious, why do you call me “good,” and make bold to fix so great a title upon one you have no higher thoughts of than a mere man? Christ takes occasion from hence, to assert God to be only and sovereignly “good:” “There is none good but God.” God only hath the honor of absolute goodness, and none but God merits the name of “good.” A heathen could say much after the same manner; All other things are far from the nature of good; call none else good but God, for this would be a profane error: other things are only good in opinion, but have not the true substance of goodness: he is “good” in a more excellent way than any creature can be denominated “good.”
1. God is only originally good, good of himself. All created goodness is a rivulet from this fountain, but Divine goodness hath no spring; God depends upon no other for his goodness; he hath it in, and of, himself: man hath no goodness from himself, God hath no goodness from without himself: his goodness is no more derived from another than his being: if we were good by any external thing, that thing must be in being before him, or after him; if before him, he was not then himself from eternity; if after him, he was not good in himself from eternity. The end of his creating things, then, was not to confer a goodness upon his creatures, but to partake of a goodness from his creatures. God is good by and in himself, since all things are only good by him; and all that goodness which is in creatures, is but the breathing of his own goodness upon them: they have all their loveliness from the same hand they have their being from.
Though by creation God was declared good, yet he was not made good by any, or by all the creatures. 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.
2. God only is infinitely good. A boundless goodness that knows no limits, a goodness as infinite as his essence, not only good, but best; not only good, but goodness itself, the supreme inconceivable goodness. All things else are but little particles of God, small sparks from this immense flame, sips of goodness to this fountain. Nothing that is good by his influence can equal him who is good by himself: derived goodness can never equal primitive goodness. Divine goodness communicates itself to a vast number of creatures in various degrees; to angels, glorified spirits, men on earth, to every creature; and when it hath communicated all that the present world is capable of, there is still less displayed, than left to enrich another world. All possible creatures are not capable of exhausting the wealth, the treasures, that Divine bounty is filled with.
3. God is only perfectly good, because only infinitely good. He is good without indigence, because he hath the whole nature of goodness, not only some beams that may admit of increase of degree. As in him is the whole nature of entity, so in him is the whole nature of excellency. As nothing hath an absolute perfect being but God, so nothing hath an absolutely perfect goodness but God; as the sun hath a perfection of heat in it, but what is warmed by the sun is but imperfectly hot, and equals not the sun in that perfection of heat wherewith it is naturally endued. The goodness of God is the measure and rule of goodness in everything else.
4. God only is immutably good. Other things may be perpetually good by supernatural power, but not immutably good in their own nature. Other things are not so good, but they may be bad; God is so good, that he cannot be bad. It was the speech of a philosopher, that it was a hard thing to find a good man, yea, impossible; but though it were possible to find a good man, he would be good but for some moment, or a short time: for though he should be good at this instant, it was above the nature of man to continue in a habit of goodness, without going awry and warping. But “the goodness of God endureth forever” (Psalm 52:1). God always glitters in goodness, as the sun, which the heathens called the visible image of the Divinity, doth with light. There is not such a perpetual light in the sun as there is a fulness of goodness in God; “no variableness” in him, as he is the “Father of Lights” (James 1:17).
Before I come to the doctrine, that is, the chief scope of the words, some remarks may be made upon the young man’s question and carriage: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
1. The opinion of gaining eternal life by the outward observation of the law, will appear very unsatisfactory to an inquisitive conscience. This ruler armed, and certainly did confidently believe, that he had fulfilled the law (ver. 20): “All this have I observed from my youth;” yet he had not any full satisfaction in his own conscience; his heart misgave, and started upon some sentiments in him, that something else was required, and what he had done might be too weak, too short to shoot heaven’s lock for him. And to that purpose he comes to Christ, to receive instructions for the piecing up whatsoever was defective. Whosoever will consider the nature of God, and the relation of a creature, cannot with reason think, that eternal life was of itself due from God as a recompense to Adam, had he persisted in a state of innocence. Who can think so great a reward due, for having performed that which a creature in that relation was obliged to do? Can any man think another obliged to convey an inheritance of a thousand pounds per annum upon his payment of a few farthings, unless any compact appears to support such a conceit? And if it were not to be expected in the integrity of nature, but only from the goodness of God, how can it be expected since the revolt of man, and the universal deluge of natural curruption? God owes nothing to the holiest creature; what he gives is a present from his bounty, not the reward of the creature’s merit. And the apostle defies all creatures, from the greatest to the least, from the tallest angel to the lowest shrub, to bring out any one creature that hath first given to God (Rom. 11:35); “Who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed to him again?” The duty of the creature, and God’s gift of eternal life, is not a bargain and sale. God gives to the creature, he doth not properly repay; for he that repays hath received something of an equal value and worth before. When God crowns angels and men , he bestows upon them purely what is his own, not what is theirs by merit and and natural obligation: though indeed, what God gives by virtue of a promise made before, is, upon the performance of the condition, due by gracious obligation. God was not indebted to man in innocence, but every man’s conscience may now mind him that he is not upon the same level as in the state of integrity; and that he cannot expect anything from God, as the salary of his merit, but the free gift of Divine liberality. Man is obliged to the practice of what is good, both from the excellency of the Divine precepts, and the duty he owes to God; and cannot, without some declaration from God, hope for any other reward, than the satisfaction of having well acquitted himself.
2. It is the disease of human nature, since its corruption, to hope for eternal life by the tenor of the covenant of works. Though this ruler’s conscience was not thoroughly satisfied with what he had done, but imagined he might, for all that, fall short of eternal life, yet he still hugs the imagination of obtaining it by doing (ver. 17); “What shall I do, that I may inherit eternal life?” This is natural to corrupted man.
Cain thought to be accepted for the sake of his sacrifice; and, when he found his mistake, he was so weary of seeking happiness by doing, that he would court misery by murdering. All men set too high a value upon their own services. Sinful creatures would fain make God a debtor to them, and be purchasers of felicity: they would not have it conveyed to them by God’s sovereign bounty, but by an obligation of justice upon the value of their works. The heathens thought God would treat men according to the merit of their services; and it is no wonder they should have this sentiment, when the Jews, educated by God in a wiser school, were wedded to that notion. The Pharisees were highly fond of it: it was the only argument they used in prayer for Divine blessing. You have one of them boasting of his frequency in fasting, and his exactness in paying his tithes (Luke 19:12); as if God had been beholden to him, and could not, without manifest wrong, deny him his demand. And Paul confesseth it to be his own sentiment before his conversion; he accounted this “righteousness of the law gain to him” (Phil. 3:7); he thought, by this, to make his market with God. The whole nation of the Jews affected it, encompassing sea and land to make out a righteousness of their own, as the Pharisees did to make proselytes. The Papists follow their steps, and dispute for justification by the merit of works, and find out another key of works of supererogation, to unlock heaven’s gate, than whatever the Scripture informed us of. It is from hence, also, that men are so ready to make faith, as a work, the cause of our justification. Man foolishly thinks he hath enough to set up himself after he hath proved bankrupt, and lost all his estate. This imagination is born with us, and the best Christians may find some sparks of it in themselves, when there are springings up of joy in their hearts, upon the more close performance of one duty than of another; as if they bad wiped off their scores, and given God a satisfaction for their former neglects. “We have forsaken all, and followed thee,” was the boast of his disciples: “What shall we have, therefore?” was a branch of this root (Matt. 19:27). Eternal life is a gift, not by any obligation of right, but an abundance of goodness; it is owing, not to the dignity of our works, but the magnificent bounty of the Divine nature, and must be sued for by the title of God’s promise, not by the title of the creature’s services. We may observe,
3. How insufficient are some assents to Divine truth, and some expressions of affection to Christ, without the practice of christian precepts. This man addressed Christ with a profound respect, acknowledging him more than an ordinary person, with a more reverential carriage than we read any of his disciples paid to him in the days of his flesh; he fell down at his feet, kissed his knees, as the custom was, when they would testify the great respect they had to any eminent person, especially to their rabbins. All this some think to be included in the word γονυπετήσας, He seems to acknowledge him the Messiah by giving him the title of “Good,” a title they did not give to their doctors of the chair; he breathes out his opinion, that he was able to instruct him beyond the ability of the law; he came with a more than ordinary affection to him, and expectation of advantage from him, evident by his departing sad, when his expectations were frustrated by his own perversity; it was a sign he had a high esteem of him from whom he could not part without marks of his grief. What was the cause of his refusing the instructions he pretended such an affection to receive? He had possessions in the world. How soon do a few drops of worldly advantages quench the first sparks of an ill-grounded love to Christ! How vain is a complimental and cringing devotion, without a supreme preference of God, and valuation of Christ above every outward allurement. We may observe this,
4. We should never admit anything to be ascribed to us, which is proper to God. “Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God.” If you do not acknowledge me God, ascribe not to me the title of Good. It takes off all those titles which fawning flatterers give to men, “mighty,” “invincible” to princes, “holiness” to the pope. We call one another good, without considering how evil; and wise, without considering how foolish; mighty, without considering how weak, and knowing, without considering how ignorant. No man, but hath more of wickedness than goodness; of ignorance than knowledge; of weakness than strength. God is a jealous God of his own honor; he will not have the creature share with him in his royal titles. It is a part of idolatary to give men the titles which are due to God; a kind of a worship of the creature together with the Creator. Worms will not stand out, but assault Herod in his purple, when he usurps the prerogative of God, and prove stiff and invincible vindicators of their Creator’s honor, when summoned to arms by the Creator’s word (Acts 12:22, 23).
Doctrine. The observation which I intend to prosecute, is this:—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 good, 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 first good: whatsoever is perfect goodness, is God; whatsoever is truly goodness in any creature, is a resemblance of God. All the names of God are comprehended in this one 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, he refers all things to himself, as the end, for the representation of his own goodness; “Truly God is good” (Psalm 73:1). Certainly, it is an undoubted truth; it is written in his works of nature, and his acts of grace (Exod. 34:6). “He is abundant in goodness.” And every thing is a memorial, not of some few sparks, but of his greater goodness (Psalm 145:7). This is often celebrated in the Psalms, and men invited more than once, to sing forth the praises of it (Psalm 107:8, 15, 21, 31). It may better be admired than sufficiently spoken of, or thought of, as it merits. It is discovered in all his works, as the goodness of a tree in all its fruits; it is easy to be seen, and more pleasant to be contemplated. In general,
1. All nations in the world have acknowledged God good; ΤὸἈγαθὸν was one of the names the Platonists expressed him by; and good and God, are almost the same words in our language. All as readily consented in the notion of his goodness, as in that of his Deity. Whatsoever divisions or disputes there were among them in the other perfections of God, they all agreed in this without dispute, saith Synesius. One calls him Venus, in. regard of his loveliness. Another calls him Ἔρωιτα love, as being the band which ties all things together. No perfection of the Divine nature is more eminently, nor more speedily visible in the whole book of the creation, than this. His greatness shines not in any part of it, where his goodness doth not as gloriously glister: whatsoever is the instrument of his work, as his power; whatsoever is the orderer of his work, as his wisdom; yet nothing can be adored as the motive of his work, but the goodness of his nature. This only could induce him to resolve to create his wisdom then steps in, to dispose the methods of what he resolved; and his power follows to execute, what his wisdom hath disposed, and his goodness designed. His power in making, and his wisdom in ordering, are subservient to his goodness; and this goodness, which is the end of the creation, is as visible to the eyes of men, as legible to the understanding of men, as his power in forming them, and his wisdom in tuning them. And as the book of creation, so the records of his government must needs acquaint them with a great part of it, when they have often beheld him, stretching out his hand, to supply the indigent, relieve the oppressed, and punish the oppressors, and give them, in their distresses, what might “fill their hearts with food and gladness.” It is this the apostle (Rom. 1:20, 21,) means by his Godhead, which he links with his eternity and power, as clearly seen in the things that are made, as in a pure glass, “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead.” The Godhead which comprehends the whole nature of God as discoverable to his creatures, was not known, yea, was impossible to be known, by the works of creation. There had been nothing then reserved to be manifested in Christ: but his goodness, which is properly meant there by his Godhead, was as clearly visible as his power. The apostle upbraids them with their unthankfulness, and argues their inexcusableness, because the arm of his power in creation made no due impression of fear upon their spirits, nor the beams of his goodness wrought in them sufficient sentiments of gratitude. Their not glorifying God, was a contempt of the former; and their not being thankful, was a slight of the latter. God is the object of honor, as he is powerful, and the object of thankfulness properly as he is bountiful. All the idolary of the heathens, is a clear testimony of their common sentiment of the goodness of God: since the more emmently useful any person was in some advantageous invention for the benefit of mankind, they thought he merited a rank in the number of their deities. The Italians esteemed Pithagoras a god, because he was Φιλαιθρωπόιατος: to be good and useful, was an approximation to the Divine nature. Hence it was, that when the Lystrians saw a resemblance of the Divine goodness in the charitable and miraculous cure of one of their crippled citizens, presently they mistook Paul and Barnabas for gods, and inferred from thence their right to divine worship, inquiring into nothing else but the visible character of their goodness and usefulness, to capacitate them for the honor of a sacrifice (Acts 14:8–11). Hence it was, that they adored those creatures that were a common benefit, as the sun and moon, which must be founded upon a preexistent notion, not only of a Being, but of the bounty and goodness of God, which was naturally implanted in them, and legible in all God’s works. And the more beneficial anything was to them, and the more sensible advantages they received from it, the higher station they gave it in the rank of their idols, and bestowed upon it a more solemn worship: an absurd mistake to think everything that was sensibly good to them, to be God, clothing himself in such a form to be adored by them. And upon this account the Egyptians worshipped God under the figure of an ox; and the East Indians, in some parts of their country, deify a heifer, intimating the goodness of God, as their nourisher and preserver, in giving them corn, whereof the ox is an instrument in serving for ploughing, and preparing the ground.
2. The notion of goodness is inseparable fiom the notion of a God. We cannot own the existence of God, but we must confess also the goodness of his nature. Hence, the apostle gives to his goodness the title of his Godhead, as if goodness and godhead were convertible terms (Rom. 1:20). As it is indissolubly linked with the being of a Deity, so it cannot be severed from the notion of it: we as soon, undeify him by denying him good, as by denying him great: Optimus, Maximus, the best, greatest, was the name whereby the Romans entitled Him. His nature is as good, as it is majestic; so doth the Psalmist join them (Psalm 145:6, 7), “I will declare my greatness; they shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great goodness.” They considered his goodness before his greatness, in putting Optimus before Maximus; greatness without sweetness, is an unruly and affrighting monster in the world; like a vast turbulent sea, always casting out mire and dirt. Goodness is the brightness and loveliness of our majestical Creator. To fancy a God without it, is to fancy a miserable, scanty, narrow-hearted, savage God, and so an unlovely, and horrible being: for he is not a God that is not good; he is not a God that is not the highest good: infinite goodness is more necessary to, and more straitly joined with an infinite Deity, than infinite power and infinite wisdom: we cannot conceive him God, unless we conceive him the highest good, having nothing superior to himself in goodness, as he hath nothing superior to himself in excellency and perfection. No man can possibly form a notion of God in his mind and yet form a notion of something better than God; for whoever thinks anything better than God, fancieth a God with some defect: by how much the better he thinks that thing to be, by so much the more imperfect he makes God in his thoughts. This notion of the goodness of God was so natural, that some philosophers and others, being startled at the evil they saw in the world, fancied, besides a good God, an evil principle, the author of all punishments in the world. This was ridiculous; for those two must be of equal power, or one inferior to the other; if equal, the good could do nothing, but the evil one would restrain him; and the evil one could do nothing, but the good one would contradict him; so they would be always contending, and never conquering: if one were inferior to the other, then there would be nothing but what that superior ordered. Good, if the good one were superior; and nothing but evil, if the bad one were superior. In the prosecution of this, let us see.
I What this goodness is. II. Some propositions concerning the nature of it. III. That God is good. IV. The manifestation of it in creation, providence, and redemption. V. The use.
I. What this goodness is. There is a goodness of being, which is the natural perfection of a thing; there is the goodness of will, which is the holiness, and righteousness of a person; there is the goodness of the hand, which we call liberality, or beneficence, a doing good to others.
1. We mean not by this, the goodness of his essence, or the perfection of his nature. God is thus good, because his nature is infinitely perfect; he hath all things requisite to the completing of a most perfect and sovereign Being. All good meets in his essence, as all water meets in the ocean. Under this notion all the attributes of God, which are requisite to so illustrious a Being, are comprehended. All things that are, have a goodness of being in them, derived to them by the power of God, as they are creatures; so the devil is good, as he is a creature of God’s making: he hath a natural goodness, but not a moral goodness: when he fell from God, he retained his natural goodness as a creature; because he did not cease to be, he was not reduced to that nothing, from whence he was drawn; but he ceased to be morally good, being stripped of his righteousness by his apostasy; as a creature, he was Gods work; as a creature, he remains still God’s work; and, therefore, as a creature, remains still good, in regard of his created being. The more of being anything hath, the more of this sort of natural goodness it hath; and so the devil hath more of this natural goodness than men have; because he hath more marks of the excellency of God upon him, in regard of the greatness of his knowledge, and the extent of his power, the largeness of his capacity, and the acuteness of his understanding, which are natural perfections belonging to the nature of an angel, though he hath lost his moral perfections. God is sovereignly and infinitely good in this sort of goodness. He is unsearchably perfect (Job 11:7); nothing is wanting to his essence, that is necessary to the perfection of it; yet this is not that which the Scripture expresseth under the term of goodness, but a perfection of God’s nature as related to us, and which he poureth forth upon all his creatures, as goodness which flows from this natural perfection of the Deity.
2. Nor is it the same with the blessedness of God, but something flowing from his blessedness. Were he not first infinitely blessed, and full in himself, he could not be infinitely good and diffusive to us; had he not an infinite abundance in his own nature, he could not be overflowing to his creatures; had not the sun a fulness of light in itseif, and the sea a vastness of water, the one could not enrich the world with its beams, nor the other fill every creek with its waters.
3. Nor is it the same with the holiness of God. The holiness of God is the rectitude of his nature, whereby he is pure, and without spot in himself; the goodness of God is the efflux of his will, whereby he is beneficial to his creatures: the holiness of God is manifest in his rational creatures; but the goodness of God extends to all the works of his hands. His holiness beams most in his law; his goodness reacheth to everything that had a being from him (Psalm 145:9): “The Lord is good to all.” And though he be said in the same Psalm (ver. 17) to be “holy in all his works,” it is to be understood of his bounty, bountiful in all his works; the Hebrew word signifying both holy and liberal, and the margin of the Bible reads it “merciful” or “bountiful.”
4. Nor is this goodness of God the same with the mercy of God. Goodness extends to more objects than mercy; goodness stretcheth itself out to all the works of his hands; mercy extends only to a miserable object: for it is joined with a sentiment of pity, occasioned by the calamity of another. The mercy of God is exercised about those that merit punishment; the goodness of God is exercised upon objects that have not merited anything contrary to the acts of his bounty. Creation is an act of goodness, not of mercy; providence in governing some part of the world, is an act of goodness, not of mercy. The heavens, saith Austin, need the goodness of God to govern them, but not the mercy of God to relieve them; the earth is full of the misery of man, and the compassions of God; but the heavens need not the mercy, of God to pity them, because they are not miserable; though they need the goodness and power of God to sustain them; because, as creatures, they are impotent without him. God’s goodness extends to the angels, that kept their standing, and to man in innocence, who in that state stood not in need of mercy. Goodness and mercy are distinct, though mercy be a branch of goodness; there may be a manifestation of goodness, though none of mercy. Some think Christ had been incarnate, had not man fallen: had it been so, there had been a manifestation of goodness to our nature, but not of mercy, because sin had not made our natures miserable. The devils are monuments of God’s creating goodness, but not of his pardoning compassions. The grace of God respects the rational creature; merey the miserable creature; goodness all his creatures, brutes, and the senseless plants, as well as reasonable man.
5. By goodness, is meant the bounty of God. This is the notion of goodness in the world; when we say a good man, we mean either a holy man in his life, or a charitable and liberal man in the management of his goods. A righteous man, and a good man, are distinguished (Rom. 5:7). “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet for a good man one would even dare to die;” for an innocent man, one as innocent of the crime as himself would scarce venture his life; but for a good man, a liberal, tender-hearted man, that had been a common good in the place where he lived, or had done another as great a benefit as life itself amounts to, a man out of gratitude might dare to die. “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, i. e. highly amiable to himself; and, therefore, some define it a perfection of God, whereby he loves himself and his own excellency; but as it stands in relation to his creatures, it is that perfection of God whereby he delights in his works, 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. He sends out his beams, without receiving any addition to himself, or substantial advantage from his creatures. It is from this perfection that he loves whatsoever is good, and that is whatsoever he hath made, “for every creature of God is good” (1 Tim. 4:4); every creature hath some communications from him, which cannot be without some affection to them; every creature hath a footstep of Divine goodness upon it; God, therefore, loves that goodness in the creature, else he would not love himself. God hates no creature, no, not the devils and damned, as creatures; he is not an enemy to them, as they are the works of his hands; he is properly an enemy, that doth simply and absolutely wish evil to another; but God doth not absolutely wish evil to the damned; that justice that he inflicts upon them, the deserved punishment of their sin, is part of his goodness, as shall afterwards be shown. This 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. As the sun, by effecting things, is an emblem of God’s power; by discovering things to us, is an emblem of his wisdom; but by refreshing and comforting us, 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.
6. The goodness of God comprehends all his attributes. All the acts of God are nothing else but the effluxes 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; as the British and German Ocean, though all be one sea. 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 rase out 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 had been seen in creation, nothing of his compassions had been seen in redemption,
II. . The second thing is, some propositions to explain the nature of this goodness.
1. He is good by his own essence. God is not only good in his essence, but good by his essence; the essence of “every created being is good;” so the unerring God pronounced everything which he had made (Gen. 1:31). The essence of the worst creatures, yea, of the impure and savage devils, is good; but they are not good per essentiam, for then they could not be bad, malicious, and oppressive. God is good, as he is God; and therefore good by himself; and from himself, not by participation from another; he made everything good, but none made him good; since his goodness was not received from another, he is good by his own nature. He could not receive it from the things he created, they are later than he; since they received all from him, they could bestow nothing on him; and no God preceded him, in whose inheritance and treasures of goodness, he could be a successor; he is absolutely his own goodness, he needed none to make him good; but all things needed him, to be good by him. Creatures are good by being made so by him, and cleaving to him; he is good without cleaving to any goodness without him. Goodness is not a quality in him, but a nature; not a babit added to his essence, but his essence itself; he is not first God, and then afterwards good; but he is good as he is God; his essence, being one and the same, is formally and equally God and good. Αυιάγαθον, “good of himself,” was one of the names the Platonists gave him. He is essentially good in his own nature, and not by any outward action which follows his essence. He is an independent Being, and hath nothing of goodness or happiness from anything without him, or anything he doth act about. If he were not good by his essence, he could not be eternally good, he could not be the first good; he would have something before him, from whence he derived that goodness wherewith he is possessed; nor could he be perfectly good, for he could not be equally good to that from whom he derived his goodness; no star, no splendid body, that derives light from the sun, doth equal that sun by which it is enlightened. Hence his goodness must be infinite, and circumscribed by no limits; the exercise of his goodness may be limited by himself; but his goodness, the principle, cannot; for since his essence is infinite, and his goodness is not distinguished from his essence, it is infinite also; if it were limited, it were finite; he cannot be bounded by anything without him; if so, then he were not God, because he would have something superior to him, to put bars in his way; if there were anything to fix him, it must be a good or evil being; good it cannot be, for it is the property of goodness to encourage goodness, not to bound it; evil it cannot be, for then it would extinguish goodness, as well as limit it; it would not be content with the circumscribing it, without destroying it; for it is the nature of every contrary, to endeavor the destruction of its opposite. He is essentially good by his own essence; therefore, good of himself; therefore, eternally good; and therefore, abundantly good.
2. God is the prime and chief goodness. Being good per se, and by his own essence, he must needs be the chief goodness, in whom there can be nothing but good, from whom there can proceed nothing but good, to whom all good whatsoever must be referred, as the final cause of all good. As he is the chief Being, so he is the chief good; and as we rise by steps from the existence of created things, to acknowledge one Supreme Being, which is God, so we mount by steps from the consideration of the goodness of created things, to acknowledge one Infinite Ocean of sovereign goodness, whence the streams of created goodness are derived. When we behold things that partake of goodness from another , we must acquiesce in one that hath goodness by participation from no other, but originally from himself, and therefore supremely in himself above all other things: so that, as nothing greater and. more majestic can be imagined, so also nothing better and more excellent can be conceived than God. Nothing can add to him, or make him better than he is; nothing can detract from him, to make him worse; nothing can be added to him, nothing can be severed from him; no created good can render him more excellent; no evil, from any creature, can render him less excellent; “our goodness extends not to him” (Psalm 16:2); “wickedness may hurt a man, as we are, and our righteousness may profit the son of man; but, if we be righteous, what give we to Him, or what receives he at our hands” (Job 35:7, 8)? as he hath no superior in place above him, so, being chief of all, he cannot be made better by any inferior to him. How can he be made better by any that hath from himself all that he hath? The goodness of a creature may be changed, but the goodness of the Creator is immutable; he is always like himself, so good that he cannot be evil, as he is so blessed that he cannot be miserable. Nothing is good but God, because nothing is of itself but God; as all things, being from nothing, are nothing in comparison of God, so all things, being from nothing, are scanty and evil in comparison of God. If anything had been, ex Deo, God being the matter of it, it had been as good as God is, but since the principle, whence all things were drawn, was nothing, though the efficient cause by which they were extracted from nothing was God, they are as nothing in goodness, and not estimable in comparison of God (Psalm 73:25): “Whom have I in heaven but thee?”
&c. God is all good; every creature hath a distinct variety of goodness: God distinctly pronounced every day’s work in the creation “good.” Food communicates the goodness of its nourishing virtue to our bodies; flowers the goodness of their odors to our smell; every creature a goodness of comeliness to our sight; plants the goodness of healing qualities for our cure; and all derive from themselves a goodness of knowledge, objectively to our understandings. The sun, by one sort of goodness, warms us; metals enrich us; living creatures sustain us, and delight us by another; all those have distinct kinds of goodness, which are eminently summed up in God, and are all but parts of his immense goodness. It is he that enlightens us by his sun, nourisheth us by bread (Matt. 4:4): “It is not by bread alone that we live, but by the word of God.” It is all but his own supreme goodness, conveyed to us through those varieties of conduit-pipcs. “God is all good;” other things are good in their kind; as, a good man, a good angel, a good tree, a good plant; but God hath a good of all kinds eminently in his nature. He is no less all-good, than he is almighty, and all-knowing; as the sun contains in it all the light, and more light than is in all the clearest bodies in the world, so doth God contain in himself all the good, and more good than is in the richest creatures.
Nothing is good, but as it resembles him; as nothing is hot, but as it resembles fire, the prime subject of heat. God is omnipotent, therefore no good can be wanting to him. If he were destitute of any which he could not have, he were not almighty: he is so good, that there is no mixture of anything which can be called not good in him; everything besides him wants some good, which others have. Nothing can be so evil as God is good. There can be no evil but there is some mixture of good with it; no nature so evil but there is some spark of goodness in it: but God is a good which hath no taint of evil; nothing can be so supreme an evil as God is supreme goodness. He is only good, without capacity of increase; he is all good, and unmixedly good; none good but God: a goodness, like the sun, that hath all light, and no darkness. That is the second thing; he is the supreme and chief goodness.
3. This 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 a Deity, and without diffusiveness he would cease to be good. The being good is necessary to the being God; for goodness is nothing else, in the notion of it, but a strong inclination to do good; either to find or make an object, wherein to exercise itself, according to the propension of its own nature; and it is an inclination of communicating itself, not for its own interest, but the good of the object it pitcheth upon. Thus God is good by nature; and his nature is not without activity; he acts conveniently to his own nature (Psalm 119:68): “Thou art good, and dost good.” And nothing accrues to him, by the communications of himself to others, since his blessedness was as great before the frame of any creature as ever it was since the erecting of the world; so that the goodness of Christ himself increaseth not the lustre of his happiness (Psalm 16:2): “My goodness extends not to thee.” He is not of a niggardly and envious nature; he is too rich to have any cause to envy, and too good to have any will to envy; he is as liberal as he is rich, according to the capacity of the object about which his goodness is exercised. The Divine goodness, being the supreme goodness, is goodness in the highest degree of activity; not an idle, enclosed, pent up goodness, as a spring shut up, or a fountain sealed, bubbling up within itself, but bubbling out of itself: a fountain of gardens to water every part of his creation; “He is an ointment poured forth” (Cant. 1:3): nothing spreads itself more than oil, and takes up a larger space wheresoever it drops. It may be no less said of the goodness of God, as it is of the fulness of Christ (Eph. 1:23); “He fills all in all:” he fills rational creatures with understanding, sensitive nature with vigor and motion, the whole world with beauty and sweetness. Every taste, every touch of a creature, is a taste and touch of Divine goodness. Divine goodness offers itself in one spark in this creature, in another spark in the other creature, and altogether make up a goodness inconceivable by any creature. The whole mass, and extracted spirit of it, is infinitely short of the goodness of the Divine nature, imperfect shadows of that goodness which is in himself. Indeed, the more excellent anything is, the more nobly it acts; how remotely doth light, that excellent brightness of the creation, disperse itself! How doth that glorious creature, which God hath set in the heavens, spread its wings over heaven and earth, roll itself about the world, cast its beams upward and downward, insinuate into all corners, pierce the depths, and shoot up its rays into the heights, encircle the higher and lower creatures in its arms, reach out its communications to influence everything under the earth, as well as dart its beams of light and heat on things above, or upon the earth! “Nothing is hid from it” (Psalm 19:6); not from its power, nor from its sweetness. How communicative also is water, a necessary and excellent creature! How active is it in a river, to nourish the living creatures engendered in its womb! refresheth every shore it runs by; promotes the propagation of fruits for the nourishment, and bestows a verdure upon the ground, for the delight of man; and where it cannot reach the higher ground in its substance, it doth by its vapors, mounted up and concocted by the sun, and gently distilled upon the earth, for the opening its womb to bring forth its fruits. God is more prone to communicate himself, than the sun to spread its wings, or the earth to mount up its fruits, or the water to multiply living creatures.
Goodness is his nature. Hence were there internal communications of himself from eternity; diffusions of himself, without himself, in time, in the creation of the world, like a full vessel running over. He created the world that he might impart his goodness to something without him, and diffuse larger measures of his goodness, after he had laid the first foundation of it in his being; and therefore he created several sorts of creatures, that they might be capable of various and distinct measures of his liberality, according to the distinct capacities of their nature, but imparted most to the rational creature, because that is only capable of an understanding to know him, and will to embrace him. He is the highest goodness, and therefore a communicative goodness, and acts excellently according to his nature.
4. God is necessarily good. None is necessarily good but God; he is as necessarily good, as he is necessarily God. His goodness is as inseparable from his nature as his holiness. He is good by nature, not only by will; as he is holy by nature, not only by will, he is good in his nature, and good in his actions; and as he cannot be bad in his nature, so he cannot be bad in his communications; he can no more act contrary to this goodness in any of his actions, than he can un-God himself. It is not necessary that God should create a world; he was at his own choice whether he would create or no; but when he resolves to make a world, it is necessary that he should make it good, because he is goodness itself, and cannot act against his own nature. He could not create anything without goodness in the very act; the very act of creation, or communicating being to anything without himself, is in itself an act of goodness, as well as an act of power; had he not been good in himself, nothing could have been endued with any goodness by him. In the act of giving being, he is liberal; the being he bestows is a displaying his own liberality; he could not confer what he needs not, and which could not be deserved, without being bountiful; since what was nothing, could not merit to be brought into being, the very act of giving to nothing a being, was an act of choice goodness. He could not create anything without goodness as the motive, and the necessary motive; his goodness could not necessitate him to make the world, but his goodness could only move him to resolve to make a world; he was not bound to erect and fashion it because of his goodness, but he could not frame it without his goodness as the moving cause. He could not create anything, but he must create it good. It had been inconsistent with the supreme goodness of his nature, to have created only murderous, ravenous, injurious creatures; to have created a bedlam rather than a world: a mere heap of confusion would have been as inconsistent with his Divine goodness, as with his Divine wisdom. Again, when his goodness had moved him to make a creature, his goodness would necessarily move him to be beneficial to his creature; not that this necessity results from any merit in the creature, which he had framed; but from the excellency and diffusiveness of his own nature, and his own glory; the end for which he formed it, which would have been obscure, yea, nothing, without some degrees of his bounty. What occasion of acknowledgments and praise could the creature have for its being, if God had given him only a miserable being, while it was innocent in action? The goodness of God would not suffer him to make a creature, without providing conveniences for it, so long as he thought good to maintain its being, and furnishing it with that which was necessary to answer that end for which he created it; and his own nature would not suffer him to be unkind to his rational creature, while it was innocent. It had been injustice to inflict evil upon the creature, that had not offended, and had no relation to an offending creature; the nature of God could not have brought forth such an act: and, therefore, some say, that God, after he had created man , could not presently annihilate him, and take away his life and being. As a sovereign, he might do it; as Almighty, he was able to do it, as well as create him; but in regard of his goodness, he could not morally do it: for had he annihilated man as soon as ever he had made him, he had not made man for himself, and for his own glory; to be loved, worshipped, sought, and acknowledged by him. He would not then have been the end of man; he had created him in vain, and the world in vain, which he assures us he did not (Isa. 45:18, 19). And, certainly, if the gifts of God be without repentance, man could not have been annihilated after his creation, without repentance in God, without any cause, had not sin entered into the world. If God did not say to man, after sin had made its entrance into the world, “Seek ye me in vain,” he could not, because of his goodness, have said so to man in his innocence. As God is necessarily mind, so he is necessarily will; as he is necessarily knowing, so he is necessarily loving. He could not be blessed, if he did not know himself, and his own perfection; nor good, if he did not delight in himself, and his own perfections. And this goodness whereby he delights in himself, is the source of his delight in his creatures, wherein he sees the footsteps of himself. If he loves himself, he cannot but love the resemblance of himself, and the image of his own goodness. He loves himself, because he is the highest goodness and excellency; and loves everything as it resembles himself, because it is an efflux of his own goodness; and as he doth necessarily love himself, and his own excellency, so he doth necessarily love anything that resembles that excellency, which is the primary object of his esteem. But,
5. Though he be necessarily good, yet he is also freely good. The necessity of the goodness of his nature hinders not the liberty of his actions; the matter of his acting is not at all necessary, but the manner of his acting in a good and bountiful way, is necessary, as well as free. He created the world and man freely, because he might choose whether he would create it, but he created them good necessarily, because he was first necessarily good in his nature, before he was freely a Creator. When he created man , he freely gave him a positive law, but necessarily a wise and righteous law; because he was necessarily wise, and righteous, before he was freely a Lawgiver. When he makes a promise, he freely lets the word go out of his lips, but when he hath made it, he is necessarily a faithful performer; because he was necessarily true and righteous in his nature, before he was freely a promiser. God is necessarily good in his nature, but free in his communications of it; to make him necessarily to communicate his goodness in the first creation of the creature, would render him but impotent, good without liberty and without will; if the communications of it be not free, the eternity of the world must necessarily be concluded, which some anciently asserted from the naturalness of God’s goodness, making the world flow from God as light from the sun. God, indeed, is necessarily good, affective in regard of his nature, but freely good, affectivé, in regard of the effluxes of it to this or that particular subject he pitcheth on. He is not so necessarily communicative of his goodness as the sun of his light, or a tree of its cooling shade, that chooseth not its objects, but enlightens all indifferently, without any variation or distinction; this were to make God of no more understanding than the sun, to shine not where it pleaseth, but where it must. He is an understanding agent, and hath a sovereign right to choose his own subjects; it would not be a supreme goodness, if it were not a voluntary goodness. It is agreeable to the nature of the highest good, to be absolutely free, to dispense his goodness in what methods and measures he leaseth, according to the free determinations of his own will, guide by the wisdom of his mind, and regulated by the holiness of his nature. He is not to “give an account of any of his matters” (Job 33:13); “He will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and he will have compassion on whom he will have compassion” (Rom. 9:15); and he will be good, to whom he will be good; when he doth act, he cannot but act well, so it is necessary; yet he may act this good or that good, to this or that degree, so it is free. As it is the perfection of his nature, it is necessary; as it is the communication of his bounty, it is voluntary. The eye cannot but see if it be open, yet it may glance upon this or that color, fix upon this or that object, as it is conducted by the will. God necessarily loves himself, because he is good, yet not by constraint, but freedom; because his affection to himself is from a knowledge of himself. He necessarily loves his own image, because it is his image; yet freely, because not blindly, but from motions of understanding and will. What necessity could there be upon him, to resolve to communicate his goodness? It could not be to make himself better by it, for he had a goodness incapable of any addition; he confers a goodness on his creatures, but reaps not a harvest of goodness to his own essence from his creatures. What obligation could there be from the creature, to confer a goodness on him to this or that degree, for this or that duration? If he had not created a man, nor angel, he had done them no wrong; if he had given them only a simple being, he had manifested a part of his goodness, without giving them a right to challenge any more of him; if he had taken away their beings after a time when he had answered his end, be had done them no injury for what law obliged him to enrich them, and leave them in that being wherein he had invested them, but his sole goodness? Whatever sparks of goodness any creature hath, are the free effusions of God’s bounty, the offspring of his own inclination to do well, the simple favor of the donor; not purchased, not merited by the creature. God is as unconstrained in his liberty, in all his communications, as infinite in his goodness, the fountain of them.
6. This goodness is communicative with the greatest pleasure. Moses desired to see his glory, God assures him he should see his goodness (Exod.33:18, 19); intimating that his goodness is his glory, and his glory his delight also. He sends not forth his blessings with an ill will; he doth not stay till they are squeezed from him; he prevents men with his blessings of goodness (Psalm 21:3); he is most delighted when he is most diffusive; and his pleasure in bestowing, is larger than his creature’s in possessing. He is not covetous of his own treasures. He lays up his goodness in order to laying it out with a complacency wholly divine. The jealousy princes have of their subjects makes them sparing of their gifts, for fear of giving them materials for rebellion: God’s foresight of the ill use men would make of his benefits damped him not in bestowing his largesses. He is incapable of envy; his own happiness can no more be diminished, than it can be increased. None can over-top him in goodness, because nothing hath any good but what is derived from him; his gifts are without repentance: sorrow hath no footing in him, who is infinitely happy, as well as infinitely good. Goodness and envy are inconsistent. How unjustly, then, did the devil accuse God! 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), and his wisdom stood by him, “delighting in the habitable parts of the earth” (Prov. 8:31). He beheld the world after its creation with a complacency, and still governs it with the same pleasure wherewith he reviewed it. Infinite cheerfulness attends infinite goodness. He would not give, if he had not a pleasure that others should enjoy his goodness; since he is better than anything, and more communicative than anything; he is more joyful in giving out, than the sun can be to run its race, in pouring forth light. He is said only to repent, and grieve, when men answer not the obligations and ends of his goodness; which would be their own felicity, as well as his glory. Though he doth not force greater degrees of his goodness upon those that neglect it, yet he denies them not to those that solicit him for it: it is always greater pleasure to him to impart upon the importunities of the creatures, than it is to a mother to reach out her breast to her crying and longing infant. He is not wearied by the solicitations of men; he is pleased with their prayers, because he is pleased with the imparting of his own goodness: he seems to be in travail with it, longing to be delivered of it into the lap of his creature. He is as much delighted with petitions for his liberality in bestowing his best goodness, as princes are weary of the craving of their subjects. None can be so desirous to squeeze those that are under them, as God is delighted to enlarge his hand towards them. It is the nature of his goodness to be glad of men’s solicitations for it, because they are significant valuations of it, and therefore fit occasions for him to bestow it. Since he doth not delight in the unhappiness of any of his creatures, he certamly delights in what may conduce unto their felicity. He doth with the same delight multiply the effects of his goodness where his wisdom sees it convenient, as he beheld the first-fruits of his goodness with a complacency upon laying the top-stone of the creation.
7. The displaying of this goodness was the motive and end of all his works of creation and providence. God being infinitely wise, would not act without the highest reason, and for the highest end. The reason that induced him to create, must be of as great an eminency as himself: the motive could not be taken without him, because there was nothing but himself in being; it must be taken, therefore, from within himself, and from some one of those most excellent perfections whereby we conceive him. But, upon the exact consideration of all of them, none can seem to challenge that honor of being the motive of them, to resolve the setting forth any work, but his own goodness; this being the first thing manifest in his creation, seems to be the first thing moving him to a resolution to create. Wisdom may be considered as directing, power considered as acting, but it is natural to reflect upon goodness as moving the one to direct, and the other to act. Power was the principle of his action, wisdom the rule of his action, goodness the motive of his action; principle and rule are awakened by the motive, and subservient to the end. That which is the most amiable perfection in the Divine nature, and that which he first took notice of, as the footsteps of them, in the distinct view of every day’s work, and the general view of the whole frame, seems to claim the best right to be entitled the motive and end of his creation of things. God could have no end but himself, because there was nothing besides himself. Again, the end of every agent is that which he esteems good, and the best good for that kind of action: since nothing is to be esteemed good but God, nothing can be the ultimate end of God but himself, and his own goodness. What a man wills chiefly is his end; but God cannot will any other thing but himself as his end, because there is nothing superior to himself in goodness. He cannot will anything that supremely serves himself and his own goodness as his end; for, if he did, that which he wills must be superior to himself in goodness, and then he is not God; or inferior to him in goodness, and then he would not be righteous, in willing that which is a lower good before a higher. God cannot will anything as his end of acting, but him self, without undeifying himself.
God’s will being infinitely good, cannot move for anything but what is infinitely good; and, therefore, whatsoever God made, he made for himself (Prov. 16:4), that whatsoever he made might bear a badge of this perfection upon it, and be a discovery of his wonderful goodness: for the making things for himself doth not signify any indigence in God, that he made anything to increase his excellency (for that is capable of no addition), but to manifest his excellency. God possessing everything eminently in himself, did not create the world for any need he had of it; finite things were unable to make any accession to that which is infinite. Man, indeed, builds a house to be a shelter to him against wind and weather, and makes clothes to secure him from cold, and plants gardens for his recreation and health. God is above all those little helps; he did not make the world for himself in such a kind, but for himself, i. e. the manifestation of himself and the riches of his nature; not to make himself blessed, but to discover his own blessedness to his creatures, and to communicate something of it to them. He did not garnish the world with so much bounty, that he might live more happily than he did before, but that his rational creatures might have fit conveniences. As the end for which God demands the performance of our duty is not for his own advantage, but for our good (Deut. 10:13), so the end why he conferred upon us the excellency of such a being was for our good, and the discovery of his goodness to us; for had not God created the world, he had been wholly unknown to any but himself; he produced creatures, that he might be known: as the sun shines not only to discover other things, but to be seen itself in its beauty and brightness. God would create things, because he would be known in his glory and liberality; hence is it that he created intellectual creatures, because without them the rest of the creation could not be taken notice of: it had been in some sort in vain; for no nature lower than an understanding nature, was able to know the marks of God in the creation, and acknowledge him as God. In this regard, God is good above all creatures, because he intends only to comrnunicate his goodness in creation, not to acquire any goodness, or excellency from them, as men do in their framing of things. God is all, and is destitute of nothing, and, therefore, nothing accrues to him by the creation, but the acknowledgment of his goodness. This goodness, therefore, must be the motive and end of all his works.
III. he third thing, that God is good.
1. The more excellent anything is in nature, the more of goodness and kindness it hath. For we see more of love and kindness in creatures that are endued with sense, to their descendants, than in plants, that have only a principle of growth. Plants preserve their seeds whole that are enclosed in them; animals look to their young only after they are dropped from them; yet, after some time, take no more notice of them than of a stranger that never had any birth from them. But man, that hath a higher principle of reason, cherisheth his offspring, and gives them marks of his goodness while he lives, and leaves not the world at the time of his death without some testimonies of it: much more must God, who is a higher principle than sense or reason, be “good” and bountiful to all his offspring. The more perfect anything is, the more it doth communicate itself. The sun is more excellent than the stars, and, therefore, doth more sensibly , more extensively, disperse its liberal beams than the stars do. And the better any man is, the more charitable he is; God being the most excellent nature, having nothing more excellent than himself, because nothing more ancient than himself, who is the Ancient of Days: there is nothing, therefore, better and more bountiful than himself.
2. He is the cause of all created goodness; he must therefore himself be the Supreme Good. What good is in the heavens, is the product of some Being above the earth; and those varieties of goodness in the earth, and several creatures, are somewhere in their fulness and union: that, therefore, which possesses all those scattered goodnesses in their fulness, must be all good, all that good which is displayed in creatures; therefore sovereignly best. Whatsoever natural or moral goodness there is in the world, in angels, or men, or inferior creatures, is a line drawn from that centre, the bubblings of that fountain. God cannot but be better than all, since the goodness that is in creatures is the fruit of his own. If he were not good, he could produce no good: he could not bestow what he had not. If the creature be “good,” as the apostle says “every creature is” (1 Tim. 4:4), he must needs be better than all, because they have nothing but what is derived to them from him; and much more goodness than all, because finite beings are not capable of receiving into them, and containing in themselves, all that goodness which is in an Infinite Being; when we search for good in creatures, they come short of that satisfaction which is in God (Psalm 4:6). As the certainty of a first principle of all things, is necessarily concluded from the being of creatures, and the upholding and sustaining power and virtue of God is concluded from the mutability of those things in the world; whence we infer, that there must be some stable foundation of those tottering things, some firm hinge upon which those changeable things do move, without which there would be no stability in the kinds of things, no order, no agreement, or union among them: so from the goodness of everything, and their usefulness to us, we must conclude him good, who made all those things. And since we find distinct goodnesses in the creature, we must conclude that one principle whence they did flow, excels in the glory of goodness: all those little glimmerings of goodness which are scattered in the creatures, as the image in the glass, represent the face, posture, motion of him whose image it is, but not in the fulness of life and spirit, as in the original; it is but a shadow at the best, and speaks something more excellent in the copy. As God hath an infiniteness of being above them, so he hath a supremacy of goodness beyond them: what they have, is but a participation from him; what he hath, must be infinitely supereminent above them. If anything be good by itself, it must be infinitely good, it would set itself no bounds; we must make as many gods, as particulars of goodness in the world: but being good by the bounty of another, that from whence they flow must be the chief goodness. It is God’s excellency and goodness, which, like a beam, pierceth all things: he decks spirits with reason, endues matter with form, furnisheth everything with useful qualities. As one beam of the sun illustrates fire, water, earth; so one beam of God enlightens and endows minds, souls, and universal nature nothing in the world had its goodness from itself, any more than it had its being from itself: The cause must be richer than the effect.
But that which I intend is the defence of this goodness.
First, The goodness of God is not impaired by suffering sin to enter into the world, and man to fall thereby. It is rather a testimony of God’s goodness, that he gave man an ability to be happy, than any charge against his goodness, that he settled man in a capacity to be evil. God was first a benefactor to man, before man could be a rebel against God. May it not be inquired, whether it had not been against the wisdom of God, to have made a rational creature with liberty, and not suffer him to act according to the nature he was endowed with, and to follow his own choice for some time? Had it been wisdom to frame a free creature, and totally to restrain that creature from following its liberty? Had it been goodness, as it were, to force the creature to be happy against its will? God’s goodness furnished Adam with a power to stand; was it contrary to his goodness, to leave Adam to a free use of that power? To make a creature, and not let that creature act according to the freedom of his nature, might have been thought to have been a blot upon his wisdom, and a constraint upon the creature, not to make use of that freedom of his nature, which the Divine goodness had bestowed upon him. To what purpose did God make a law, to govern his rational creature, and yet resolve that creature should not have his choice, whether he would obey it or no? Had he been really constrained to observe it, his observation of it could no more have been called obedience, than the acts of brutes that have a kind of natural constraint upon them by the instinct of their nature, can be called obedience: in vain had God endowed a creature with so great and noble a principle as liberty. Had it been goodness in God, after he had made a reasonable creature, to govern him in the same manner as he does brutes by a necessary instinct? It was the goodness of God to the nature of men and angels, to leave them in such a condition, to be able to give him a voluntary obedience, a nobler offering than the whole creation could present him with; and shall this goodness be undervalued, and accounted mean, because man made an ill use of it, and turned it into wantonness? As the unbelief of man doth not diminish the redeeming grace of God (Rom. 3:3), so neither doth the fall of man lessen the creating goodness of God. Besides, why should the permission of sin be thought more a blemish to his goodness, than the providing a way of redemption for the destroying the works of sin and the devil, be judged the glory of it, whereby he discovered a goodness of grace that surpassed the bounds of nature? If this were a thing that might seem to obscure or deface the goodness of God, in the permission of the fall of angels and Adam, it was in order to bring forth a greater goodness in a more illustrious pomp, to the view of the world (Rom. 11:32): “God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.” But if nothing could be alleged for the defence of his goodness in this, it were most comely for an ignorant creature not to impeach his goodness, but adore him in his proceedings, in the same language the apostle doth (ver. 33): “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!”
Secondly, Nor is his goodness prejudiced, by not making all things the equal subjects of it.
1. It is true all things are not subjects of an equal goodness. The goodness of God is not so illustriously manifested in one thing as another. In the creation he hath dropped goodness upon some, in giving them beings and sense, and poured it upon others in endowing them with understanding and reason. The sun is full of light, but it hath a want of sense; brutes excel in the vigor of sense, but they are destitute of the light of reason; man hath a mind and reason conferred on him, but he hath neither the acuteness of mind, nor the quickness of motion equal with an angel. In providence also he doth give abundance, and opens his hand to some; to others he is more sparing: he gives greater gifts of knowledge to some, while he lets others remain in ignorance; he strikes down some, and raiseth others; he afflicts some with a continual pain, while he blesseth others with an uninterrupted health; he hath chosen one nation wherein to set up his gospel sun, and leaves another benighted in their own ignorance. “Known was God in Judea; they were a peculiar people alone of all the nations of the earth” (Deut. 14:2). He was not equally good to the angels: he held forth his hand to support some in their happy habitation, while he suffered others to sink in irreperrable ruin; and he is not so diffusive here of his goodness to his own as he will be in heaven. Here their sun is sometimes clouded, but there all clouds and shades will be blown away, and melted into nothing: instead of drops here, there will be above rivers of life. Is any creature destitute of the open marks of his goodness, though all are not enriched with those signal characters which he vouchsafes to others? He that is unerring, pronounced everything good distinctly in its production, and the whole good in its universal perfection (Gen. 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). Though he made not all things equally good, yet he made nothing evil; and though one creature in regard of its nature may be better than another, yet an inferior creature, in regard of its usefulness in the order of the creation, may be better than a superior. The earth hath a goodness in bringing forth fruits, and the waters in the sea a goodness in multiplying food. That any of us have a being is goodness; that we have not so healthful a being as others is unequal, but not unjust goodness. He is good to all, though not in the same degree: “The whole earth is full of his mercy” (Psalm 119:64). A good man is good to his cattle, to his servants; he makes a provision for all, but he bestows not those floods of bounty upon them that he doth upon his children. As there are various gifts, but one Spirit (1 Cor. 12:4), so there are various distributions, but from one goodness; the drops, as well as the fuller streams, are of the same fbuntain, and relish of the nature of it; and though he do not make all men partake of the riches of his grace after the corruption of their nature, is his goodness disgraced hereby? or doth he merit the title of cruelty? Will any diminish the goodness of a father for his not setting up his son after he hath foolishly and wilfully proved bankrupt; or not rather admire his liberality in giving him so large a stock to trade with when he first set him up in the world?
2. The goodness of God to creatures, is to be measured by their distinct usefulness to the common end. It were better for a toad or serpent to be a man, i. e. better for the creature itself, as it were advanced to a higher degree of being, but not better for the universe: he could have made every pebble a living creature, and every living creature a rational one; but that he made everything as we see, it was a goodness to the creature itself; but that he did not make it of a higher elevation in nature, was a part of his goodness to the rational creature. If all were rational creatures, there would have been wanting creatures of an inferior nature for their conveniency; there would have wanted the manifestation of the variety and “fulness of his goodness.” Had all things in the world been rational creatures, much of that goodness which he hath communicated to rational creatures would not have appeared: how could man have showed his skill in taming and managing creatures more mighty than himself? What materials would there have been to manifest the goodness of God, bestowed upon the reasonable creatures for framing excellent works and inventions? Much of the goodness of God had lain wrapt up from sense and understanding. All other things partake not of so great a goodness as man; yet they are so subservient to that goodness poured forth on man, that little of it could have been seen without them. Consider man, every member in his body hath a goodness in itself; but a greater goodness as referred to the whole, without which the goodness of the more noble part would not be manifested. The head is the most excellent member, and hath greater impressions of Divine goodness upon it, in regard that it is the organ of understanding: were every member of the body a head, what a deformed monster would man be! If he were all head, where would be feet for motion, and arms for action? Man would be fit only for thought, and not for exercise. The goodness of God in giving man so noble a part as the head, could not be known without a tongue , whereby to express the conception of his mind; and without feet and hands whereby to act much of what he conceives, and determines, and execute the resolves of his will; all those have a goodness in themselves, an honor, a comeliness from the goodness of God (1 Cor. 12:22, 23), but not so great a goodness as the nobler part: yet, if you consider them in their functions, and refer them to that excellent member which they serve, their inferior goodness is absolutely necessary to the goodness of the other; without which, the goodness of the head and understanding would he in obscurity, be insignificant to the whole world, and, in a great measure, to the person himself that wants such members.
3. “The goodness of God is more seen in this inequality.” If God were equally good to all, it would destroy commerce, unity, the links of human society, damp charity, and render that useless which is one of the noblest and delightfulest duties to be exercised here; it would cool prayer, which is excited by wants, and is a necessary demonstration of the creature’s dependence on God. But in this inequality every man hath enough in his enjoyments for praise, and in his wants, matter for his prayer. Besides the inequality of the creature is the ornament of the world; what pleasure could a garden afford if there were but one sort of flowers, or one sort of plants? far less than when there is variety to please the sight, and every other sense. Again, the freedom of Divine goodness, which is the glory of it, is evident hereby; had he been alike good to all, it would have looked like a necessary, not a free act; but by the inequality, it is manifest that he doth not do it by a natural necessity as the sun shines, but by a voluntary liberty, as being the entire Lord, and free disposer of his own goods; and that is the gift of the pleasure of his will, as well as the efflux of his nature, that he hath not a goodness without wisdom, but a wisdom as rich as his bounty.
4. The goodness of God could not be equally communicated to all, after their settlement in their several beings,—because they have not a capacity in their natures for it: he doth bestow the marks of his goodness according to that natural capacity of fitness he perceives in his creatures; as the water of the sea fills every creek and gulf with different measures, according to the compass each have to contain it; and as the sun doth disperse light to the stars above, and the places below, to some more, to some less, according to the measures of their reception. God doth not do good to all creatures according to the greatness of his own power, and the extent of his own wealth, but according to the capacity of the subject; not so much good as he can do, but so much good as the creature can receive. The creature would sink, if God would pour out all his goodness upon it; as Moses would have perished, if God should have shown him all his glory (Exod. 33:18, 20). He doth manifest more good to his reasonable creatures, because they are more capable of acknowledging, and setting forth his goodness.
5. God ought to be allowed the free disposal of his own goodness. Is not God the Lord of his own gifts; and will you not allow him the privilege of having some more peculiar objects of his love and pleasure, which you allow without blame to man, and use yourself without any sense of a crime? Is a prince esteemed good, though he be not equally bountiful to all his servants, nor equally gracious in pardoning all his rebels; and shall the goodness of the great Sovereign of the world be impeached, notwithstanding those mighty distributions of it, because he will act according to his own wisdom and pleasure, and not according to men’s fancies and humors? Must purblind reason be the judge and director how God shall dispose of his own, rather than his own infinite wisdom and sovereign will? Is God less good, because there are numberless nothings, which he is able to bring into being? He could create a world of more creatures than he hath done: doth he, therefore, wish evil to them, by letting them remain in that nothing from whence he could draw them? No; but he denies that good to them, which he is able, if he pleased, to confer upon them. If God doth not give that good to a creature which it wants by its own demerit, can he be said to wish evil to it; or, only to deny that goodness which the creature hath forfeited, and which is at God’s liberty to retain or disperse? Though God cannot but love his own image where he finds it, yet when this image is lost, and the devil’s image voluntary received, he may choose whether he will manifest his goodness to such a one or no. Will you not account that man liberal, that distributes his alms to a great company, though he rejects some? Much more will you account him good, if he rejects none that implore him, but dispenseth his doles to every one upon their petition: and is he not good, because he will not bestow a farthing upon those that address not themselves to him? God is so good, that he denies not the best good to those that seek him: he hath promised life and happiness to them that do so. Is he less good, because he will not distribute his goodness to those that despise him? Though he be good, yet his wisdom is the rule of dispensing his goodness.
6. The severe punishment of offenders, and the afflictions he inflicts upon his servants, are no violations of his goodness. The notion of God’s vindictive justice is as naturally inbred, and implanted in the mind of man, as that of his goodness, and those two sentiments never shocked one another. The heathen never thought him bad, because he was just; nor unrighteous, because he was good. God being infinitely good, cannot possibly intend or act anything but what is good: “Thou art good, and thou doest good;” i. e. whatsoever thou dost is good, whatsoever it be, pleasant or painful to the creature (Psalm 119:68): punishments themselves are not a moral evil in the person that inflicts, though they are a natural evil in the person that suffers them. In ordering punishment to the wicked, good is added to evil; in ordering impunity to the wicked, evil is added to evil. To punish wickedness is right, therefore good: to leave men uncontrolled in their wickedness, is unrighteous, and therefore bad. But again shall his justice in some few judgments in the world, impeach his goodness, more than his wonderful patience to sinners is able to silence the calumnies against him? Is not his hand fuller of gracious doles, than of dreadful thunderbolts? Doth he not oftener seem forgetful of his justice, when he pours out upon the guilty the streams of his mercy, than to be forgetful of his goodness, when he sprinkles in the world some drops of his wrath?
First, God’s judgments in the world, do not infringe his goodness; for,
1. The justice of God is a part of the goodness of his nature. God himself thought so, when he told Moses he would make all his goodness pass before him (Exod. 33:19): he leaves not out in that enumeration of the parts of it, his resolution, by no means to clear the guilty, but to visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the children (Exod. 34:7). It is a property of goodness to hate evil, and, therefore, a property of goodness to punish it: it is no less righteousness to give according to the deserts of a person in a way of punishment, than to reward a person that obeys his precepts in a way of recompense. Whatsoever is righteous is good; sin is evil; and, therefore, whatsoever doth witness against it, is good; his goodness, therefore, shines in his justice, for without being just he could not be good. Sin is a moral disorder in the world: every sin is injustice: injustice breaks God’s order in the world; there is a necessity therefore of justice to put the world in order. Punishment orders the person committing the injury, who, when he will not be in the order of obedience, must be in the order of suffering for God’s honor. The goodness of all things which God pronounced so, consisted in their order and beneficial helpfulness to one another: when this order is inverted, the goodness of the creature ceaseth: if it be a bad thing to spoil this order, is it not a part of Divine goodness to reduce them into order, that they may be reduced in some measure to their goodness? Do we ever account a governor less in goodness, because he is exact in justice, and punisheth that which makes a disorder in his government? and is it a diminution of the Divine goodness, to punish that which makes a disorder in the world? As wisdom without goodness would be a serpentine craft, and issue in destruction; so goodness without justice would be impotent indulgence, and cast things into confusion. When Abel’s blood cried out for engeance against Cain, it spake a good thing; Christ’s blood speaking better things than the blood of Abel, implies that Abel’s blood spake a good thing; the comparative implies a positive (Heb. 12:24). If it were the goodness of that innocent blood to demand justice, it could not be a badness in the Sovereign of the world to execute it. How can God sustain the part of a good and righteous judge, if he did not preserve human society? and how would it be preserved, without manifesting himself by public judgments against public wrongs? Is there not as great a necessity that goodness should have instruments of judgment, as that there should be prisons, bridewells, and gibbets, in a good commonwealth? Did not the thunderbolts of God sometimes roar in the ears of men, they would sin with a higher hand than they do, fly more in the face of God, make the world as much a moral, as it was at first a natural chaos: the ingenuity of men would be damped, if there were not something to work upon their fears, to keep them in their due order. Impunity of the innocent person is worse than any punishment. It is a misery to want medicines for the cure of a sharp disease; and a mark of goodness in a prince to consult for the security of the political body, by cutting off a gangrened and corrupting member: and what prince would deserve the noble title of good, if he did not restrain, by punishment, those evils which impair the public welfare? Is it not necessary that the examples of sin, whereby others have been encouraged to wickedness, should be made examples of justice, whereby the same persons and others may be discouraged from what before they were greedily inclined unto? Is not a hatred of what is bad and unworthy, as much a part of Divine goodness, as a love to what is excellent, and bears a resemblance to himself? Could he possibly be accounted good, that should bear the same degree of affection to a prodigious vice, as to a sublime virtue? and should behave himself in the same manner of carriage to the innocent and culpable? could you account him good, if he did always with pleasure behold evil, and perpetually suffer the oppressions of the innocent under unpunished wickedness? How should we know the goodness of the Divine nature, and his affection to the goodness of his creature, if he did not by some acts of severity witness his implacable aversion against sin, and his care to preserve the good government of the world? If corrupted creatures should always be exempt from the effects of his indignation, he would declare himself not to be infinitely good, because be would not be really righteous. No man thinks it a natural vice in the sun, by the power of its scorching heat, to dry up and consume the unwholesome vapors of the air; nor are the demonstrations of Divine justice any blots upon his goodness, since they are both for the defence and glory of his holiness, and for the preservation of the beauty and order of the world.
2. Is it not part of the goodness of God to make laws, and annex threatenings; and shall it be an impeachment of his goodness to support them? The more severe laws are made for deterring evil, the better is that prince accounted in making such provision for the welfare of the community. The design of laws, and the design of upholding the honor of those laws by the punishment of offenders, is to promote goodness and restrain evil; the execution of those laws must be therefore pursuant to the same design of goodness which first settled them. Would it not be contrary to goodness, to suffer that which was designed for the support of goodness, to be scorned and slighted? It would neither be prudence nor goodness, but folly and vice, to let laws, which were made to promote virtue, be broken with impunity. Would not this be to weaken virtue, and give a new life and vigor to vice? Not only the righteousness of the law itself, but the wisdom of the Lawgiver would be exposed to contempt, if the violations of it remained uncontrolled, and the violence offered by men passed unpunished. None but will acknowledge the Divine precepts to be the image of the righteousness of God, and beneficial for the common good of the world (Rom. 7:12): “The law is holy, just, and good,” and so is every precept of it; the law is for no other end, but to keep the creature in subjection to, and dependence on God; this dependence could not be preserved without a law, nor that law be kept in reputation, without a penalty; nor would that penalty be significant without an execution. Every law loseth the nature of a law, without a penalty; and the penalty loseth its vigor, without the infliction of it: how can those laws attain their end, if the transgressions of them be not punished? Would not the wickedness of the men’s hearts be encouraged by such a kind of uncomely goodness? and all the threatenings be to no other end, than to engender vain and fruitless fears in the minds of men? Is it good for the majesty of God to suffer itself to be trampled on by his vassals? to suffer men, by their rebellion, to level his law with the wickedness of their own hearts; and by impunity slight his own glory, and encourage their disobedience? Who would give any man, any prince, any father, that should do so, the name of a good governor? If it were a fruit of Divine goodness to make laws, is it contrary to goodness to support the honor of them? It is every whit as rational and as good to vindicate the honor of his laws by justice, as at first to settle them by authority; as much goodness to vindicate it from contempt, as at first to enact it; as it is as much wisdom to preserve a law, as at first to frame it: shall his precepts be thought by him unworthy of a support, that were not thought by him unworthy to be made?
The same reason of goodness that led him to enjoin them, will lead him to revenge them. Did evil appear odious to him, while he enacted this law; and would not his goodness, as well as his wisdom, appear odious to him, if he did never execute it? Would it not be a denial of his own goodness, to be led by the foolish and corrupt judgment of his creatures, and slight his own law, because his rebels spurn at it? Since he valued it before they could actually contemn it, would he not misjudge his own law and his own wisdom, discount from the true value of them, condemn his own acts, censure his precepts as unrighteous, and therefore evil and injurious? remove the differences between good and evil, look upon vice as virtue, and wickedness as righteousness, if he thought his commands unworthy a vindication? How can there be any support to the honor of his precepts, without sometimes executing the severity of his threatenings?
And as to his threatenings of punishment for the breach of his laws, are they not designed to discourage wickedness, as the promises of reward were designed to encourage goodness? Hath he not multiplied the one, to scare men from sin, as well as the other, to allure men to obedience? Is not the same truth engaged to support the one, as well as the other; and how could he be abundant in goodness, if he were not abundant in truth (Exod. 34:6)? both are linked together; if he neglected his truth, he would be out of love with his own goodness; since it cannot be manifested in performing the promises to the obedient, if it be not also manifested in executing his threatenings upon the rebellious. Had not God annexed threatenings to his laws, he would have had no care of his own goodness. The order between God and the creature, wherein the declaration of his goodness consisted, might have been easily broken by his creature; man would have freed himself from subjection to God; been unaccountable to him, had this consisted with that infinite goodness whereby he loves himself, and loves his creatures. As therefore the annexing threatenings to his law, was a part of his goodness; the execution of them is so far from being a blemish, that it is the honor of his goodness. The rewards of obedience, and the punishment of disobedience, refer to the same end, viz. the due manifestation of the valuation of his own law, the glorifying his own goodness, which enjoined so beneficial a law for man, and the support of that goodness in the creatures, which by that law he demands righteously and kindly of them.
3. Hence it follows, That not to punish evil, would be a want of goodness to himself. The goodness of God is an indulgent goodness, in a way of wisdom and reason; not a fond goodness, in a way of weakness and folly: would it not be a weakness, always to bear with the impenitent? a want of expressing a goodness to goodness itself? Would not goodness have more reason to complain, for a want of justice to rescue it, than men have reason to complain, for the exercise of justice in the vindication of it? If God established all things in order, with infinite wisdom and goodness, and God silently beheld, forever, this order broken, would he not either charge himself with a want of power, or a want of will, to preserve the marks of his own goodness? Would it be a kindness to himself to be careless of the breaches of his own orders? His throne would shake, yea, sink from under him, if justice, whereby he sentenceth, and judgment, whereby he executes his sentence, were not the supports of it (Psalm 89:14). “Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne,” חכוק, the stability or foundation of thy throne. So, Psalm 92:2. Man would forget his relation to God; God would be unknown to be sovereign of the world, were he careless of the breaches of his own order (Psalm 9:16). “The Lord is known by the judgments which he executes;” is it not a part of his goodness, to preserve the indispensable order between himself and his creatures? His own sovereignty, which is good, and the subjection of the creature to him as sovereign, which is also good; the one would not be maintained in its due place, nor the other restrained in due limits, without punishment. Would it be a goodness in him to see goodness itself trampled upon constantly, without some time or other appearing for the relief of it? Is it not a goodness to secure his own honor, to prevent further evil? Is it not a goodness to discourage men by judgments, sometimes, from a contempt and ill use of his bounty; as well as sometimes patiently to bear with them, and wait upon them for a reformation? Must God be bad to himself, to be kind to his enemies? And shall it be acounted an unkindness, and a mark of evil in him, not to suffer himself to be always outraged and defied? The world is wronged by sin, as well as God is injured by it. How could God be good to himself, if he righted not his own honor? or be a good governor of the world, if he did not sometimes witness against the injuries it receives sometimes from the works of his hands? Would he be good to himself, as a God, to be careless of his own honor? or good, as the Rector of the world, and be regardless of the world’s confusion? That God should give an eternal good to that creature that declines its duty, and despiseth his sovereignty, is not agreeable to the goodness of his wisdom, or that of his righteousness. It is a part of God’s goodness to love himself. Would he love his sovereignty, if he saw it daily slighted, without sometimes discovering how much he values the honor of it? Would he have any esteem for his own goodness, if he beheld it trampled upon, without, any will to vindicate it? Doth mercy deserve the name of cruelty, because it pleads against a creature that hath so often abused it, and hath refused to have any pity exercised towards it in a righteous and regular way? Is sovereignty destitute of goodness, because it preserves its honor against one that would not have it reign over him? Would he not seem, by such a regardlessness, to renounce his own essence, undervalue and undermine his own goodness, if he had not an implacable aversion to whatsoever is contrary to it? If men turn grace into wantonness, is it not more reasonable he should turn his grace into justice? All his attributes, which are parts of his goodness, engage him to punish sin; without it, his authority would be vilified, his purity stained, his power derided, his truth disgraced , his justice scorned, his wisdom slighted; he would be thought to have dissembled in his laws; and be judged, according to the rules of reason, to be void of true goodness.
4. Punishment is not the primary intention of God. It is his goodness that he hath no mind to punish; and therefore he hath put a bar to evil, by his prohibitions and threatenings, that he might prevent sin, and, consequently, any occasions of severity against his creature. The principal intention of God, in his law, was to encourage goodness, that he might reward it; and when, by the commission of evil, God is provoked to punish, and takes the sword into his hand, he doth not act against the nature of his goodness, but against the first intention of his goodness in his precepts, which was to reward; as a good judge principally intends, in the exercise of his office, to protect good men from violence, and maintain the honor of the laws, yet, consequently, to punish bad men, without which the protection of the good would not be secured, nor the honor of the law be supported; and a good judge, in the exercise of his office, doth principally intend the encouragement of the good, and wisheth there were no wickedness that might occasion punishment; and, when he doth sentence a malefactor, in order to the execution of him, he doth not act against the goodness of his nature, but pursuant to the duty of his place, but wisheth he had no occasion for such severity. Thus God seems to speak of himself (Isa. 28:21); he calls the act of his wrath his “strange work, his strange act;” a work, not against his nature, as the Governor of the world, but against his first intention, as Creator, which was to manifest his goodness; therefore he moves with a slow pace in those acts, brings out his judgments with relentings of heart, and seems to cast out his thunderbolts with a trembling hand: “He doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men” (Lam. 3:33); and therefore he “delights not in the death of a sinner” (Ezek. 33:11); not in death, as death; in punishment, as punishment; but as it reduceth the suffering creature to the order of his precept, or reduceth him into order under his power, or reforms others who are spectators of the punishment upon a criminal of their own nature; God only hates the sin, not the sinner; he desires only the destruction of the one, not the misery of the other; the nature of a man doth not displease him, because it is a work of his own goodness, but the nature of the sinner displeaseth him, because it is a work of the sinner’s own extravagance. Divine goodness pitcheth not its hatred primarily upon the sinner, but upon the sin: but since he cannot punish the sin without punishing the subject to which it cleaves, the sinner falls under his lash. Whoever regards a good judge as an enemy to the malefactor, but as an enemy to his crime, when he doth sentence and execute him?
5. Judgments in the world have a goodness in them, therefore they are no impeachments of the goodness of God.
(1.) A goodness in their preparations. He sends not judgments without giving warnings; his justice is so far from extinguishing his goodness, that his goodness rather shines out in the preparations of his justice; he gives men time, and sends them messengers, to persuade them to another temper of mind, that he may change his hand, and exercise his liberality where he threatened his severity. When the heathen had presages of some evil upon their persons or countries, they took them for invitations to repentance, excited themselves to many acts of devotion, implored his favor, and often experimented it. The Ninevites, upon the proclamation of the destruction of their city by Jonah, fell to petitioning him, whereby they signified, that they thought him good, though he were just, and more prone to pity than severity; and their humble carriage caused the arrows he bad ready against them to drop out of his hands (Jonah 3:9, 10). When he brandisheth his sword, he wishes for some to stand in that gap, to mollify his anger, that he might not strike the fatal blow (Ezek. 32:30); “I sought for a man among them that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me in the land, that I should not destroy it.” He was desirous that his creatures might be in a capacity to receive the marks of his bounty. This he signified, not obscurely, to Moses (Ex. 32:10), when he spoke to him to let him alone, that his anger might wax hot against the people, after they had made a golden calf and worshipped it. “Let me alone,” said God: not that Moses restrained him, saith Chrysostom, who spake nothing to him, but stood silent before him, and knew nothing of the people’s idolatry; but God would give him an occasion of praying for them, that he might exercise his mercy towards them; yet in such a manner, that the people, being struck with a sense of their crime, and the horror of Divine justice, they might be amended for the future, when they should understand that their death was riot averted by their own merit or intercession, but by Moses, his patronage of them, and pleading for them; as we see sometimes masters and fathers angry with their servants and children, and preparing themselves to punish them, but secretly wish some friend to intercede for them, and take them out of their hands: there is a goodness shining in the preparations of his judgments.
2. A goodness in the execution of them. They are good, as they chew God disaffected to evil, and conduce to the glory of his holiness, and deter others from presumptuous sins (Lev. 10:3): “I will be glorified in all that draw near unto me;”—in his judgment upon Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, for offering strange fire. By them God preserves the excellent footsteps of his own goodness in his creation and his law, and curbs the licentiousness of men, and contains them within the bounds ef their duty. “Thy judgments are good,” saith the Psalmist (119:39); i. e. thy judicial proceedings upon the wicked; for he desires God there to turn away, by some signal act, the reproach the wicked cast upon him. Can there be any thing more miserable than to live in a world full of wickedness, and void of the marks of Divine goodness and justice to repress it? Were there not judgments in the world, men would forget God, be insensible of his government of the world, neglect the exercises of natural and christian duties; religion would be at its last gasp, and expire among them, and men would pretend to break God’s precepts by God’s authority. Are they not good, then, as they restrain the creature from further evils; affright others from the same crimes which they were inclinable to commit? He strikes some, to reform others that are spectators; as Apollonius tamed pigeons by beating dogs before them. Punishments are God’s gracious warnings to others, not to venture upon the crimes which they see attended with such judgments. The censers of Corah, Dathan, and Abiram, were to be wrought into plates for a covering of the altar, to abide there as a memento to others, not to approach to the exercise of the priestly office without an authoritative call from God (Num. 16:38, 40); and those judgments exercised in the former ages of the world, were intended by Divine goodness for warnings, even in evangelical times. Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt, to prevent men from apostasy; that use Christ himself makes of it, in the exhortation against “turning back” (Luke 17:32, 33). And (Psalm 58:10): “The righteous shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked.” When God shall drench his sword in the blood of the wicked, the righteous shall take occasion from thence, to purify themselves, and reform their ways, and look to the paths of their feet. Would not impunity be hurtful to the world, and men receive encouragement to sin, if severities sometimes did not bridle them from the practice of their inclinations? Sometimes the sinner himself is reformed, and sometimes removed from being an example to others. Though thunder be an affrightening noise, and lightning a scaring flash, yet they have a liberal goodness in them in shattering and consuming those contagious vapors which burden and infect the air, and thereby render it more clear and healthful. Again, there are few acts of Divine justice upon a people, but are in the very execution of them attended with demonstrations of his goodness to others; he is a protector of his own, while he is a revenger on his enemies; when he rides upon his horses in anger against some, his chariots are “chariots of salvation” to others (Hab. 3:8). Terror makes way for salvation; the overthrow of Pharaoh and the strength of his nation, completed the deliverance of the Israelites. Had not the Egyptians met with their destruction, the Israelites had unavoidably met with their ruin, against all the promises God had made to them, and to the defamation of his former justice, in the former plagues upon their oppressors. The death of Herod was the security of Peter, and the rest of the maliced christians. The gracious deliverance of good men is often occasioned by some severe stroke upon some eminent persecutor; the destruction of the oppressor is the rescue of the innocent. Again, where is there a judgment but leaves more criminals behind than it sweeps away, that deserved to be involved in the same fate with the rest? More Egyptians were left behind to possess and enjoy the goodness of their fruitful land, than they were that were hurried into another world by the overflowing waves; is not this a mark of goodness as well as severity? Again, is it not a goodness in Him not to pour out judgments according to the greatness of his power? to go gradually to work with those whom he might in a moment blow to destruction with one breath of his mouth? Again, he sometimes exerciseth judgments upon some, to form a new generation for himself; he destroyed an old world, to raise a new one more righteous, as a man pulls down his old buildings to erect a sounder and more stately fabric. To sum up what hath been said in this particular; how could God be a friend to goodness, if he were not an enemy to evil? how could he shew his enmity to evil, without revenging the abuse and contempt of his goodness? God would rather have the repentance of a sinner than his punishment; but the sinner would rather expose himself to the severest frowns of God, than pursue those methods wherein he hath settled the conveyances of his kindness; “You will not come to me that you might have life,” saith Christ. How is eternity of punishment inconsistent with the goodness of God? nay, how can God be good without it? If wickedness always remain in the nature of man, is it not fit the rod should always remain on the back of men? Is it a want of goodness that keeps an incorrigible offender in chains in a bridewell? While sin remains, it is fit it should be punished; would not God else be an enemy to his own goodness, and shew favor to that which doth abuse it, and is contrary to it? He hath threatened eternal flames to sinners, that he might the more strongly excite them to a reformation of their ways, and a practice of his precepts. In those threatenings he hath manifested his goodness; and can it be bad in him to defend what his goodness hath commanded, and execute what his goodness hath threatened? His truth is also a part of his goodness; for it is nothing but his goodness performing that which it obliged him to do. That is the first thing; severe judgments in the world are no impeachments of his goodness.
Secondly, The afflictions God inflicts upon his servants, are no violations of his goodness. Sometimes God afflicts men for their temporal and eternal good; for the good of their grace, in order to the good of their glory; which is a more excellent good, than afflictions can be an evil. The heathens reflected upon Ulysses’ hardship, as a mark of Jupiter’s goodness and love to him, that his virtue might be more conspicuous. By strong persecutions brought upon the church, her lethargy is cured, her chaff purged, the glorious fruit of the gospel brought forth in the lives of her children; the number of her proselytes multiply, and the strength of her weak ones is increased, by the testimonies of courage and constancy which the stronger present to them in their sufferings. Do these good effects speak a want of goodness in God, who brings them into this condition? By those he cures his people of their corruptions, and promotes their glory, by giving them the honor of suffering for the truth, and raiseth their spirits to a divine pitch.
The epistles of Paul to the Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians, wrote by him while he was in Nero’s chains, seem to have a higher strain than some of those he wrote when he was at liberty. As for afflictions, they are marks of a greater measure of fatherly goodness than he discovers to those that live in an uninterrupted prosperity, who are not dignified with that glorious title of sons, as those are that “he chasteneth” (Heb. 12:6, 7). Can any question the goodness of the father that corrects his child to prevent his vice and ruin, and breed him up to virtue and honor? It would be a cruelty in a father leaving his child without chastisement, to leave him to that misery an ill education would reduce him to: “God judges us that we might not be condemned with the world” (1 Cor. 11:32). Is it not a greater goodness to separate us from the world to happiness by his scourge, than to leave us to the condemnation of the world for our sins? Is it not a greater goodness to make us smart here, than to see us scorched hereafter? As he is our Shepherd, it is no part of his enmity or ill-will to us, to make us feel sometimes the weight of his shepherd’s crook, to reduce us from our struggling. The visiting our transgressions with rods, and our iniquities with stripes, is one of the articles of the covenant of grace, wherein the greatest lustre of his goodness appears (Psalm 89:33). The advantage and gain of our afflictions is a greater testimony of his goodness to us, than the pain can be of his unkindness; the smart is well recompensed by the accession of clearer graces. It is rather a high mark of goodness, than an argument for the want of it, that he treats us as his children, and will not suffer us to run into that destruction we are more ambitious of, than the happiness he hath prepared for us, and by afflictions he fits us for the partaking of, by “imparting his holiness,” together with the inflicting his rod (Heb. 12:10). That is the third thing, God is good.
IV. The fourth thing is the manifestation of this goodness in Creation, Redemption, and Providence.
First, In Creation. This is apparent from what hath been said before, that no other attribute could be the motive of his creating, bitt his goodness; his goodness was the cause that he made any thing, and his wisdom was the cause that he made every thing in order and harmony. He pronounced “every thing good,” i. e. such as became his goodness to bring forth into being, and rested in them more, as they were stamps of his goodness, than as they were marks of his power, or beams of his wisdom. And if all creatures were able to answer to this question, What that was which created them? the answer would be, Almighty power, but employed by the motion of infinite goodness. All the varieties of creatures are so many apparitions of this goodness. Though God be one, yet he cannot appear as a God but in variety. As the greatness of power is not manifest but in variety of works, and an acute understanding not discovered but in variety of reasonings, so an infinite goodness is not so apparent as in variety of communications.
1. The creation proceeds from goodness. It is the goodness of God to extract such multitutes of things from the depths of nothing. Because God is good, things have a being; if he had not been good, nothing could have been good: nothing could leave imparted that which it possessed not; nothing but goodness could have communicated to things an excellency, which before they wanted. Being is much more excellent than nothing. By this goodness, therefore, the whole creation was brought out of the dark womb of nothing; this formed their natures, this beautified them with their several ornaments and perfections, whereby everything was enabled to act for the good of the common world. God did not create things because he was a living Being, but because he was a good Being. No creature brought forth anything in the world merely because it is, but because it is good, and by a communicated goodness fitted for such a production. If God had been the creating principle of things only as he was a living Being, or as he was an understanding Being, then all things should have partaken of life and understanding, because all things were to bear some characters of the Deity upon them. If by understanding, solely, God were the Creator of all things, all things should have borne the mark of the Deity upon them, and should have been more or less understanding; but he created things as he was good, and by goodness he renders all things more or less like himself: hence everything is accounted more noble, not in regard of its being, but in regard of the beneficialness of its nature. The being of things was not the end of God in creating, but the goodness of their being. God did not rest from his works because they were his works, i. e. because they bad a being; but because they had a good being (Gen. 1.); because they were naturally useful to the universe: nothing was more pleasing to him, than to behold those shadows and copies of his own goodness in his works.
2. Creation was the first act of goodness without himself. When he was alone from eternity, he contented himself with himself, abounding in his own blessedness, delighting in that abundance; he was incomprehensively rich in the possession of an unstained felicity. This creation was the first efflux of his goodness without himself for the work of creation cannot be called a work of mercy. Mercy supposeth a creature miserable, but that which hath no being is subject to no misery; for to be miserable supposeth a nature in being, and deprived of that good which belongs to the pleasure and felicity of nature; but since there was no being, there could be no misery. The creation, therefore, was not an act of mercy, but an act of sole goodness; and, therefore, it was the speech of an heathen, that when God first set upon the creation of the world, he transformed himself into love and goodness, Είρ ἔρωτα μεταβλῆθαι τὸν θεὸν μέλλοιτα δημιουργεῖν. This led forth, and animated his power, the first moment it drew the universe out of the womb of nothing. And,
3. There is not one creature but hath a character of his goodness. The whole world is a map to represent, and a herald to proclaim this perfection. It is as difficult not to see something of it in every creature with the eye of our minds, as it is not to see the beams of the shining sun with those off our bodies. “He is good to all” (Psalm 145:9); he is, therefore, good in all; not a drop of the creation, but is a drop of his goodness. These are the colors worn upon the heads of every creature. As in every spark the light of the fire is manifested, so doth every grain of the creation wear the visible badges of this perfection. In all the lights, the Father of Lights hath made the riches of goodness apparent; no creature is silent in it; it is legible to all nations in every work of his hands. That, as it is said of Christ (Psalm 40:7), “In the volume of thy book it is written of me:” In the volume of the book of the Scripture it is written of me, and my goodness in redemption: so it may be said of God, In the volume of the book of the creature it is written of me, and my goodness in creation. Every creature is a page in this book, whose “line is gone through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world” (Psalm 19:4); though, indeed, the less goodness in some is obscured by the more resplendent goodness he hath imparted unto others. What an admirable piece of goodness is it to communicate life to a fly! How should we stand gazing upon it, till we turn our eye inwards, and view our own frame, which is much more ravishing!
But let us see the goodness of God in the creation of man,—in the being and nature of man. God hath, with a liberal hand, conferred upon every creature the best being it was capable of in that station and order, and conducing to that end and use in the world he intended it for. But when you have run over all the measures of goodness God hath poured forth upon other creatures, you will find a greater fulness of it in the nature of man, whom he hath placed in a more sublime condition, and endued with choicer prerogatives, than other creatures: he was made but little lower than the angels, and much more loftily crowned with glory and honor than other creatures (Psalm 8:5). Had it not been for Divine goodness, that excellent creature had lain wrapt up in the abyss of nothing; or if he had called it out of nothing, there might have been less of skill and less of goodness displayed in the forming of it, and a lesser kind of being imparted to it, than what he hath conferred.
1. How much of goodness is visible in his body! God drew out some part of the dust of the ground, and copied out this perfection, as well as that of his power, on that mean matter, by erecting it into the form of a man, quickening that earth by the inspiration of a “living soul” (Gen. 2:7): of this matter he composed an excellent body, in regard of the majesty of the face, erectness of its stature, and grace of every part. How neatly hath he wrought this “tabernacle of clay, this earthly house,” as the apostle calls it (2 Cor. 5:1)! a curious wrought piece of needle-work, a comely artifice (Psalm 139:10), an embroidered case for an harmonious lute. What variety of members, with a due proportion, without confusion , beautiful to sight, excellent for use, powerful for strength! It hath eyes to conduct its motion, to serve in matter for the food, and delight of the understanding; ears to let in the pleasure of sound, to convey intelligence of the affairs of the world, and the counsels of heaven, to a more noble mind. It hath a tongue to express and sound forth what the learned inhabitant in it thinks; and hands to act what the inward counsellor directs; and feet to support the fabric. It is tempered with a kindly heat, and an oily moisture for motion, and endued with conveyances for air, to qualify the fury of the heat, and nourishment to supply the decays of moisture. It is a cabinet fitted by Divine goodness for the enclosing a rich jewel; a palace made of dust, to lodge in it the viceroy of the world; an instrument disposed for the operations of the nobler soul which he intended to unite to that refined matter. What is there in the situation of every part, in the proportion of every member, in the usefulness of every limb and string to the offices of the body, and service of the soul; what is there in the whole structure that doth not inform us of the goodness of God?
2. But what is this to that goodness which shines in the nature of the soul? Who can express the wonders of that comeliness that is wrapped up in this mask of clay? A soul endued with a clearness of understanding and freedom of will: faculties no sooner framed, but they were able to produce the operation they were intended for; a soul that excelled the whole world, that comprehended the whole creation; a soul that evidenced the extent of its skill in giving names to all that variety of creatures which had issued out of the hand of Divine Power (Gen. 2:19); a soul able to discover the nature of other creatures, and manage and conduct their motions. In the ruins of a palace we may see the curiosity displayed, and the cost expended in the building of it; in the ruins of this fallen structure, we still find it capable of a mighty knowledge; a reason able to regulate affairs, govern states, order more mighty and massy creatures, find out witty inventions; there is still an understanding to irradiate the other faculties, a mind to contemplate its own Creator, a judgment to discern the differences between good and evil, vice and virtue, which the goodness of God hath not granted to any lower creature. These excellent faculties, together with the power of self-reflection, and the swiftness of the mind in running over the things of the creation, are astonishing gleams of the vast goodness of that Divine Hand which ennobled this frame. To the other creatures of this world, God had given out some small mites from his treasury; but in the perfections of man, he hath opened the more secret parts of his exchequer, and liberally bestowed those doles, which he hath not expended upon the other creatures on earth.
3. Besides this, he did not only make man so noble a creature in his frame, but “he made him after his own image in holiness.” He imparted to him a spark of his own comeliness, in order to a communion with himself in happiness, had man stood his ground in his trial, and used those faculties well, which had been the gift of his Bountiful Creator: he “made man after his image,” after his own image (Gen. 1:26, 27); that as a coin bears the image of the prince, so did the soul of man the “image of God:” not the image of angels, though the speech be in the plural number: “Let us make man.” It is not to a creature, but to a Creator; let “us,” that are his makers, make him in the image of his makers. God created man, angels did not create him; God created man in his “own” image, not, therefore, in the image of angels: the nature of God, and the nature of angels, are not the same. Where, in the whole Scripture, is man said to be made after the image of angels? God made man not in the image of angels, to be conformed to them as his prototype, but in the image of the blessed God, to be conformed to the Divine nature: that as he, was conformed to the image of his holiness, he might also partake of the image of his blessedness, which, without it, could not be attained: for as the felicity of God could not be clear without an unspotted holiness, so neither can there be a glorious happiness without purity in the creature; this God provided for in his creation of man, giving him such accomplishments in those two excellent pieces of soul and body, that nothing was wanting to hirn but his own will, to instate him in an invariable felicity. He was possessed with such a nature by the hand of Divine Goodness, such a loftiness of understanding, and purity of faculties, that he might have been for ever happy as welt as the standing angels: and he was placed in such a condition, that moved the envy of fallen spirits; he had as much grace bestowed upon him, as was proportionable to that covenant God then made with him: the tenor of which was, that his life should continue so long as his obedience, and his happiness endure so long as his integrity: and as God, by creation, had given him an integrity of nature, so he had given him a power to persist in it, if he would. Herein is the goodness of God displayed, that he made man after his own image.
4. As to the life of man in this world, God, by an immense goodness, copied out in him the whole creation, and made him an abridgment of the higher and lower world,—a little world in a greater one. The link of the two worlds, of heaven and earth, as the spiritual and corporeal natures are united in him, the earth in the dust of his body, and the heavens in the crystal of his soul: he hath the upper springs of the life of angels in his reason, and the nether springs of the life of animals in his sense. God displayed those virtues in man, which he had discovered in the rest of the lower creation; but, besides the communication which he had with earth in his nature, God gave him a participation with heaven in his spirit. A mere bodily being he hath given to the heavens, earth, elements; a vegetative life, or a life of growth, he hath vouchsafed to the plants of the ground: he hath stretched out his liberality more to animals and beasts, by giving them sense. All these hath his goodness linked in man, being, life, sense, with a richer dole than any of those creatures have received in a rational, intellectual life, whereby he approacheth to the nature of angels. This some of the Jews understood (Gen. 2:7): “God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life , and man became a living soul,” חיום, breath of lives, in the Hebrew; not one sort of life, but that variety of lives which he had imparted to other creatures: all the perfections scattered in other creatures do unitedly meet in man: so that Philo might well call him “every creature, the model of the whole creation:” his soul is heaven, and his body is earth. So that the immensity of his goodness to man, is as great as all that goodness you behold in sensitive and intelligible things.
5. All this was free goodness. God eternally possessed his own felicity in himself, and had no need of the existence of anything without himself for his satisfaction. Man, before his being, could have no good qualities to invite God to make him so excellent a fabric: for, being nothing, he was as unable to allure and merit, as to bring himself into being; nay, he created a multitude of men, who, he foresaw would behave themselves in as ungrateful a manner, as if they had not been his creatures, but had bestowed that rich variety upon themselves without the hand of a superior Benefactor. How great is this goodness, that hath made us models of the whole creation, tied together heaven and earth in our nature, when he might have ranked us among the lower creatures of the earth, made us mere bodies as the stones, or mere animals as the brutes, and denied us those capacious souls, whereby we might both know him and enjoy him! What could man have been more, unless he had been the original, which was impossible? He could not be greater than to be an image of the Deity, an epitome of the whole. Well may we cry out with the Psalmist (Psalm 8:1, 4), “O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is thy name,” the name of thy goodness, “in all the earth!” How, more particularly in man! “What is man that thou art mindful of him?” What is a little God of earth and dust, that thou shouldst ennoble him with so rich a nature, and engrave upon him such characters of thy immense Being?
6. The goodness of God appears in the conveniences he provided for, and gave to man. As God gave him a being morally perfect in regard of righteousness, so he gave him a being naturally perfect in regard of delightful conveniences, which was the fruit of excellent goodness; since there was no quality in man, to invite God to provide him so rich a world, nor to bestow upon him so comely a being.
(1). The world was made for man. Since angels have not need of anything in this world, and are above the conveniences of earth and air, it will follow, that man, being the noblest creature on the earth, was the more immediate end of the visible creation. All inferior things are made to be subservient to those that have a more excellent prerogative of nature; and, therefore, all things for man, who exceeds all the rest in dignity: as man was made for the honor of God, so the world was made for the support and delight of man, in order to his performing the service due from him to God. The empire God settled man in as his lieutenant over the works of his lands, when he gave him possession of paradise, is a clear manifestation of it: God put all things under his feet, and gave him a dcputed dominion over the rest of the creatures under himself, as the absolute sovereign (Psalm 8:6–8); “Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen; yea, and the beasts of the field, the fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea; yea, and whatsoever passeth over the paths of the sea.” What less is witnessed to by the calamity all creatures were subjected to by the corruption of man’s nature? Then was the earth cursed, and a black cloud flung upon the beauty of the creation, and the strength and vigor of it languisheth to this day under the curse of God (Gen.2:17, 18), and groans under that vanity the sin of man subjected it to (Rom. 8:20, 22). The treasons of man against God brought misery upon that which was framed for the use of man: as when the majesty of a prince is violated by the treason and rebellion of his subjects, all that which belongs to them, and was, before the free gift of the prince to them, is forfeit; their habitations, palaces, cattle, all that belongs to them bear the marks of his sovereign fury: had not the delicacies of the earth been made for the use of man, they had not fallen under the indignation of God upon the sin of man. God crowned the earth with his goodness to gratify man; gave man a right to serve himself of the deliglitful creatures he had provided (Gen. 1:28–30); yea, and after man had forfeited all by sin, and God had washed again the creature in a deluge, he renews the creation, and delivers it again into the hand of man, binding all creatures to pay a respect to him, and recognise him as their Lord, either spontaneously, or by force; and commissions them all to fill the heart of man with “food and gladness” (Gen. 9:2, 3): and he loves all creatures as they conduce to the good of , and are serviceable to, his prime creature, which he set up for his own glory: and therefore, when he loves a person, he loves what belongs to him: he takes care of Jacob and his cattle: of penitent Nineveh and their cattle (Jonah 4:11): as when he sends judgments upon men he destroys their goods.
2. God richly furnished the world for man. He did not only erect a stately palace for his habitation, but provided all kind of furniture as a mark of his goodness, for the entertainment of his creature, man he arched over his habitation with a bespangled heaven, and floored it with a solid earth, and spread a curious wrought tapestry upon the ground where he was to tread, and seemed to sweep all the rubbish of the chaos to the two uninhabitable poles. When at the first creation of the matter the waters covered the earth, and rendered it uninhabitable for man, God drained them into the proper channels he had founded for them, and set a bound that they might not pass over, that they turn not again to “cover the earth” (Gen. 1:9.) They fled and hasted away to their proper stations (Psalm 104:7–9), as if they were ambitious to deny their own nature, and content themselves with an imprisonment for the convenient habitation of Him who was to be appointed Lord of the world. He hath set up standing lights in the heaven, to direct our motion, and to regulate the seasons: the sun was created, that man might see to “go forth to his labor”
(Psalm 104:22, 23): both sun and moon, though set in the heaven, were formed to “give light” on the earth (Gen. 1:1, 17). The air is his aviary, the sea and rivers his fish-ponds, the valleys his granary, the mountains his magazine; the first afford man creatures for nourishment, the other metals for perfection: the animals were created for the support of the life of man; the herbs of the ground were provided for the maintenance of their lives; and gentle dews, and moistening showers, and, in some places, slimy floods appointed to render the earth fruitful, and capable to offer man and beast what was fit for their nourishment. He hath peopled every element with a variety of creatures both for necessity and delight; all furnished with useful qualities for the service of man. There is not the most despicable thing in the whole creation but it is endued with a nature to contribute something for our welfare: either as food to nourish us when we are healthful; or as medicine to cure us when we are distempered; or as a garment to clothe us when we arc naked, and arm us against the cold of the season; or as a refreshment when we are weary; or as a delight when we are sad: all serve for necessity or ornament, either to spread our table, beautify our dwellings, furnish our closets, or store our wardrobes (Psalm 104:24): “The whole earth is full of his riches.” Nothing but by the rich goodness of God is exquisitely accommodated, in the numerous brood of things, immediately or mediately for the use of man; all, in the issue, conspire together to render the world a delightful residence for man; and, therefore, all the living creatures were brought by God to attend upon man after his creation, to receive a mark of his dominion over them, by the “imposition of their names” (Gen. 2:19, 20). He did not only give variety of senses to man, but provided variety of delightful objects in the world for every sense; the beauties of light and colors for our eye, the harmony of sounds for our ear, the fragrancy of odors for our nostrils, and a delicious sweetness for our palates: some have qualities to pleasure; all, everything, a quality to pleasure, one or other: he doth not only present those things to our view, as rich men do in ostentation their goods, he makes us the enjoyers as well as the spectators, and gives us the use as well as the sight; and, therefore, he hath not only given us the sight, but the knowledge of them: he hath set up a sun in the heavens, to expose their outward beauty and conveniences to our sight; and the candle of the Lord is in us, to expose their inward qualities and conveniences to our knowledge, that we might serve ourselves of, and rejoice in, all this furniture wherewith he hath garnished the world, and have wherewithal to employ the inquisitiveness of our reason, as well as gratify the pleasures of our sense; and, particularly, God provided for innocent man a delightful mansion-house, a place of more special beauty and curiosity, the garden of Eden, a delightful paradise, a model of the beauties and pleasures of another world, wherein he had placed whatsoever might contribute to the felicity of a rational and animal life, the life of a creature composed of mire and dust, of sense and reason (Gen.
2:9). Besides the other delicacies consigned, in that place, to the use of man, there was a tree of life provided to maintain his being, and nothing denied, in the whole compass of that territory, but one tree, that of the knowledge of good and evil, which was no mark of an ill-will in his Creator to him, but a reserve of God’s absolute sovereignty, and a trial of man’s voluntary obedience. What blur was it to the goodness of God, to reserve one tree for his own propriety, when he had given to man, in all the rest, such numerous marks of his rich bounty and goodness? What Israel, after man’s fall, enjoyed sensibly, Nehemiah calls “great goodness” (Neh. 9:25). How inexpressible, then, was that goodness manifested to innocent man, when so small a part of it, indulged to the Israelites after the curse upon the ground, is called, as truly it merits, such great goodness! How can we pass through any part of this great city, and cast our eyes upon the well-furnished shops, stored with all kinds of commodities, without reflections upon this goodness of God starting up before our eyes in such varieties, and plainly telling us that he hath accommodated all things for our use, suited things, both to supply our need, content a reasonable curiosity, and delight us in our aims at, and passage to, our supreme end!
(3.) The goodness of God appears in the laws he hath given to man, the covenant he hath made with him. It had not been agreeable to the goodness of God to let a creature, governable by a law, be without a law to regulate him; his goodness then which had broke forth in the creation, had suffered an eclipse and obscurity in his government. As infinite goodness was the motive to create, so infinite goodness was the motive of his government. And this appears,
[1.] In the fitting the law to the nature of man. It was rather below than above his strength; he had an integrity in his nature to answer the righteousness of the precept. God created “man upright” (Eccles.
7:29); his nature was suited to the law, and the law to his nature; it was not above his understanding to know it, nor his will to embrace it, nor his passions to be regulated by it. The law and his nature were like to exact straight lines, touching one another in every part when joined together. God exacted no more by his law than what was written by nature in his heart: he had a knowledge by creation to observe the law of his creation, and he fell not for want of a righteousness in his nature: he was enabled for more than was commanded him, but wilfully indisposed to less than he was able to perform. The precepts were easy, not only becoming the authority of a sovereign to exact, but the goodness of a father to demand, and the ingenuity of a creature and a son to pay. “His commands are not grievous”(1 John 5:3); the observance of them had filled the spirit of man with an extraordinary contentment. It had been no less a pleasure and a delightful satisfaction to have kept the law in a created state, than it is to keep it in some measure in a renewed state. The renewed nature finds a suitableness in the law to kindle a “delight” (Psalm 1:2): it could not then have anywise shook the nature of an upright creature, nor have been a burden too heavy for his shoulders to bear. Though he had not a grace given him above nature, yet he had not a law given him that surmounted his nature: it did not exceed his created strength, and was suited to the dignity and nobility of a rational nature. It was a “just law” (Rom. 7:12), and, therefore, not above the nature of the subject that was bound to obey it. And had it been impossible to be observed, it had been unrighteous to be enacted: it had not been a matter of Divine praise, and that seven times a day; as it is, “Seven times a day do I praise thee, because of thy righteous judgments” (Psalm 119:164). The law was so righteous, that Adam had every whit as much reason to bless God in his innocence for the righteousness of it, as David had with the relics of enmity against it: his goodness shines so much in his law, as merits our praise of him, as he is a sovereign Lawgiver, as well as a gracious Benefactor, in the imparting to us a being.
[2.] In fitting it for the happiness of man. For the satisfaction of his soul, which finds a reward in the very act of keeping it, (Psalm 119:160), “Great peace in the loving it;” for the preservation of human society, wherein consists the external felicity of man. It had been inconsistent with the Divine goodness to enjoin man anything that should be oppressive and uncomfortable. Bitterness cannot come from that which is altogether sweet: goodness would not have obliged the creature to anything, but what is not only free from damaging him, but wholly conducing to his welfare, and perfective of his nature. Infinite wisdom could not order anything but what was agreeable to infinite goodness. As his laws are the most rational as being the contrivance of infinite wisdom; so they are the best, as being the fruit of infinite goodness. His laws are not only the acts of his sovereign authority, but the effluxes of his loving- kindness, and the conductors of man to an enjoyment of a greater bounty he minds as well the promotion of his creatures’ felicity, as the asserting his own authority; as good princes make laws for their subjects’ benefit as well as their own honor. What was said of a more difficult and burdensome law long after man’s fall, may much more be said of the easy law of nature in the state of man’s innocence, that it was ‘for our good’ (Deut. 10:12, 13). He never pleaded with the Israelites for the observation of his commands upon the account of his authority, so much as upon the score of their benefit by them (Deut. 4:40; 12:28). And when his precepts were broken, he seems sometimes to be more grieved for men’s impairing their own felicity by it, than for their violating his authority: “O, that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments, then had thy peace been as a river!” (Isa. 48:18). Goodness cannot prescribe a thing prejudicial: whatsoever it enjoins, is beneficial to the spiritual and eternal happiness of the rational creature: this was both the design of the law given, and the end of the law. Christ, in his answer to the young man’s question, refers him to the moral law, which was the law of nature in Adam, as that whereby eternal life was to be gained: which evidenceth, that when the law was first given as the covenant of works, it was for the happiness of man; and the end of giving it was, that man might have eternal life by it: there would else be no strength or truth in that answer of Christ to that Ruler. And, therefore, Stephen calls the law given by Moses, which was the same with the law of nature in Adam, “the living oracles” (Acts 7:38). He enjoined men’s services to them not simply for his own glory, but his glory in men’s welfare: as if there were any being better than himself, his goodness and righteousness would guide him to love that better than himself; because it is good and righteous to love that best which is most amiable: so, if there were any that could do us more good, and shower down more happiness upon us than himself , he would be content we should obey that as sovereign, and steer our course according to his laws: “If God be God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him” (1 Kings 18:21). If the observance of the precepts of Baal be more beneficial to you; if you can advance your nature by bis service, and gain a more mighty crown of happiness than by mine, follow him with all my heart: I never intended to enjoin you anything to impair, but increase your happiness. The chief design of God in his law is the happiness of the subject; and obedience is intended by him as a means for the attaining of happiness, as well as preserving his own sovereignty: this is the reason why he wished that Israel had walked in his ways, “that their time might have endured forever” (Psalm 81:13, 15, 16). And by the same reason, this was his intendment in his law given to man, and his covenant made with man at the creation, that he might be fed with the finest part of his bounty, and be satisfied with honey out of the eternal Rock of Ages. To paraphrase his expression there:—The goodness of God appears further,
[3.] In engaging man to obedience by promises and threatenings. A threatening is only mentioned (Gen. 2:17), but a promise is implied: if eternal death were fixed for transgression, eternal life was thereby designed for obedience: and that it was so, the answer of Christ to the Ruler evidenceth, that the first intendment of the precept was the eternal life of the subject, ordered to obey it.
1st. God might have acted, in settling his law, only as a sovereign. Though he might have dealt with man upon the score of his absolute dominion over hirn as his creature, and signified his pleasure upon the right of his sovereignty, threatening only a penalty if man transgressed, without the promising a bountiful acknowledgment of his obedience by a reward as a benefactor: yet he would treat with man in gentle methods, and rule him in a track of sweetness as well as sovereignty: he would preserve the rights of his dominion in the authority of his commands, and honor the condescensions of his goodness in the allurements of a promise. He that might have solely demanded a compliance with his will, would kindly article with him, to oblige him to observe him out of love to himself as well as duty to his Creator; that he might have both the interest of avoiding the threatened evil to affright him, and the interest of attaining the promised good to allure him to obedience. How doth he value the title of Benefactor above that of a Lord, when he so kindly solicits, as well as commands; and engageth to reward that obedience which he might have absolutely claimed as his due, by enforcing fears of the severest penalty! His sovereignty seems to stoop below itself for the elevation of his goodness; and he is pleased to have his kindness more taken notice of than his authority. Nothing imported more condescension than his bringing forth his law in the nature of a covenant, whereby he seems to humble himself, and veil his superiority to treat with man as his equal, that the very manner of his treatment might oblige him in the richest promises he made to draw him, and the startling threatenings he pronounced to link him to his obedience: and, therefore, is it observable, that when after the transgression of Adam God comes to deal with him, he doth not do it in that thundering rigor, which might have been expected from an enraged sovereign, but in a gentle examination (Gen. 3:11, 13): “Hast thou eaten of the tree whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldst not eat?” To the woman, he said no more than, “What is this that thou hast done?” And in the Scripture we find, when he cites the Israelites before him for their sin, he expostulates with them not so much upon the absolute right he had to challenge their obedience, as upon the equity and reasonableness of his law which they had transgressed; that by the same argument of sweetness, wherewith he would attract them to their duty, he might shame them after their offence (Isa. 1:2; Ezek. 18:25).
2d. By the threatenings he manifests his goodness as well as by his promises. He promises that he might be a rewarder, and threatens that he might not be a punisher; the one is to elevate our hope, and the other to excite our fear, the two passions whereby the nature of man is managed in the world. He imprints upon man sentiments of a misery by sin, in his thundering commination, that he might engage him the more to embrace and be guided by the motives of sweetness in his gracious promises. The design of them was to preserve man in his due bounds, that God might not have occasion to blow upon him the flames of his justice; to suppress those irregular passions, which the nature of man (though created without any disorder) was capable of entertaining upon the appearance of suitable objects; and to keep the waves from swelling upon any turning wind, that so man, being modest in the use of the goodness God had allowed him, might still be capable of fresh streams of Divine bounty, without ever falling under his righteous wrath for any transgression. What a prospect of goodness is in this proceeding, to disclose man’s happiness to be as durable as his innocence; and set before a rational creature the extremest misery due to his crime, to affright him from neglecting his Creator, and making unworthy returns to his goodness!
What could be done more by goodness to suit that passion of fear which was implanted in the nature of man, than to assure him he should not degenerate from the righteousness of his nature, and violate the authority of his Creator, without falling from his own happiness, and sinking into the most deplorable calamity!
3d. The reward he promised manifests yet further his goodness to man. It was his goodness to intend a reward to man; no necessity could oblige God to reward man, had he continued obedient in his created state: for in all rewards which are truly merited, beside some kind of equality to be considered between the person doing service and the person rewarding, and also between the act performed and the reward bestowed, there must also be considered the condition of the person doing the service, that he is not obliged to do it as a duty, but is at his own choice whether to offer it or no. But man, being wholly dependent on God in his being and preservation, having nothing of his own, but what he had received from the hands of Divine bounty, his service was due by the strongest obligation to God (1 Cor. 4:7). But there was no natural engagement on God to return a reward to him; for man could return nothing of his own but that only which he had received from his Creator. It must be pure goodness that gives a gracious reward for a due debt, to receive his own from man, and return more than he had received. A Divine reward doth far surmount the value of a rational service. It was, therefore, a mighty goodness to stipulate with man, that upon his obedience he should enjoy an immortality in that nature. The article on man’s part was obedience, which was necessarily just, and founded in the nature of man; he had been unjust , ungrateful, and violated all laws of righteousness, had he committed any act unworthy of one that had been so great a subject of Divine liberality. But the article on God’s part, of giving a perpetual blessedness to innocent man, was not founded upon rules of strict justice and righteousness, for that would have argued God to be a debtor to man; but that God cannot be to the work of his hands, that had received the materials of his being and acting from hire, as the vessel doth from the potter. But this was founded only on the goodness of the Divine nature, whereby he cannot but be kind to an innocent and holy creature. The nature of God inclined him to it by the rules of goodness, but the service of man could not claim it by the rules of justice without a stipulation; so that the covenant whereby God obliged himself to continue the happiness of man upon the continuance of his obedience, in the original of it, springs from pure goodness; though the performance of it, upon the fulfilling condition required in the creature, was founded upon the rules of righteousness and truth, after Divine goodness had brought it forth. God did create man for a reward and happiness; now God’s implanting in the nature of man a desire after happiness, and some higher happiness than he had in creation invested him in, doth evidence that God did not create man only for his own service, but for his attaining a greater happiness. All rational creatures are possessed with a principle of seeking after good, the highest good, and God did not plant in man this principle in vain; it had not been goodness to put this principle in man, if he had designed never to bestow a happiness on man for his obedience: this had been repugnant to the goodness and wisdom of God; and the Scripture doth very emphatically express the felicity of man to be the design of God in the first forming him and moulding him a creature, as well as working him a new creature; “He that hath wrought us for the self-same thing is God” (2 Cor. 5:1, 5): he framed this earthly tabernacle for a residence in an eternal habitation, and a better habitation than an earthly paradise. What we expect in the resurrection , that very same thing God did in creation intend us for; but since the corruption of our natures, we must undergo a dissolution of our bodies, and may have just reason of a despondency, since sin hath seemed to change the course of God’s bounty, and brought us under a curse. He hath given us the earnest of his Spirit, as an assurance that he will perform that very self-same thing, the conferring that happiness upon renewed creatures for which he first formed man in creation, when he compacted his earthly tabernacle of the dust of the ground, and reared it up before him.
4th. It was a mighty goodness that God should give man an eternal reward. That an eternity of reward was promised, is implied in the death that was threatened upon transgression: whatsoever you conceive the threatened death to be, either for nature, or duration upon transgression; of the same nature and duration you must suppose the life to be, which is implied upon his constancy in his integrity. As sin would render him an eternal object of God’s hatred, so his obedience would render him an eternally amiable object to his Creator, as the standing angels are preserved and confirmed in an entire felicity and glory. Though the threatening be only expressed by God (Gen. 2:17), yet the other is implied, and might easily be concluded from it by Adam. And one reason why God only expressed the threatening, and not the promise, was, because man might collect some hopes and expectations of a perpetual happiness from that image of God which he beheld in himself, and from the large provision he had made for him in the world, and the commission given him to increase and multiply, and to rule as a lord over his other works; whereas he could not so easily have imagined himself capable of being exposed to such an extraordinary calamity as an eternal death, without some signification of it from God. It is easily concludable, that eternal life was supposed to be promised, to be conferred upon him if he stood, as well as eternal death to be inflicted on him if he rebelled. Now this eternal life was not due to his nature, but it was a pure beam, and gift of Divine goodness; for there was no proportion between man’s service in his innocent estate, and a reward so great both for nature and duration: it was a higher reward than can be imagined either due to the nature of man, or apon any natural right claimable by his obedience. All that could be expected by him was but a natural happiness, not a supernatural: as there was no necessity upon the account of natural righteousness, so there was no necessity upon the account of the goodness of God to elevate the nature of man to a supernatural happiness, merely because he created him: for though it be necessary for God, when he would create, in regard of his wisdom, to create for some end, yet it was not necessary that end should be a supernatural end and happiness, since a natural blessedness had been sufficient for man. And though God, in creating angels and men intellectual and rational creatures, did make them necessary for himself and his own glory, yet it was not necessarily for him to order either angels or men to such a felicity as consists in a clear vision, and so high a fruition, of himself: for all other things are made by him for himself, and yet not for the vision of himself; God might have created man only for a natural happiness, according to the perfection of his natural faculties, and had dealt bountifully with him, if he had never intended him a supernatural blessedness and an eternal recompense: but what a largeness of goodness is here, to design man, in his creation, for so rich a blessedness as an eternal life, with the fruition of himself! He hath not only given to man all things which are necessary, but designed for man that which the poor creature could not imagine: he garnished the earth for him, and garnished him for an eternal felicity, had he not, by slighting the goodness of God, stripped himself of the present, and forfeited his future blessedness.
Secondly, The manifestation of this goodness in Redemption. The whole gospel is nothing but one entire mirror of Divine goodness the whole of redemption is wrapped up in that one expression of the angels’ song (Luke 2:14), “Good-will towards men.” The angels sang but one song before, which is upon record, but the matter of it seems to be the wisdom of God chiefly in creation (Job 38:7; compare chap.
9:5, 6, 8, 9). The angels are there meant by the “morning stars;” the visible stars of heaven were not distinctly formed when the foundations of the earth were laid: and the title of the sons of God verifies it, since none but creatures of understanding are dignified in Scripture with that title. There they celebrate his wisdom in creation; here his goodness in redemption, which is the entire matter of the song.
i. Goodness was the spring of redemption. All and every part of it owes only to this perfection the appearance of it in the world. This only excited wisdom to bring forth from so great an evil as the apostacy of man, so great a good as the recovery of him. When man fell from his created goodness, God would evidence that he could not fall from his infinite goodness: that the greatest evil could not surmount the ability of his wisdom to contrive, nor the riches of his bounty to present us a remedy for it. Divine Goodness would not stand by a spectator, without being reliever of that misery man had plunged himself into; but by astonishing methods it would recover him to happiness, who had wrested himself out of his hands, to fling himself into the most deplorable calamity: and it was the greater, since it surmounted those natural inclinations, and those strong provocations which he had to shower down the power of his wrath. What could be the source of such a procedure, but this excellency of Divine nature, since no violence could force him, nor was there any merit to persuade to such a restoration? This, under the name of his “love,” is rendered the sole cause of the redeeming death of the Son: it was to commend his love with the highest gloss, and in so singular a manner that had not its parallel in nature, nor in all his other works, and reaches in the brightness of it beyond the manifested extent of any other attribute (Rom. 5:8). It must be only a miraculous goodness that induced him to expose the life of his Son to those difficulties in the world, and 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, as might be attractive to his creature, remove its shakings and tremblings, and encourage its approaches to him. It is in this he would not only manifest his love, but assume the name of “Love.” By this name the Holy Ghost calls him, in relation to this good will manifested in his Son (1 John 4:8, 9), “God is love.” In this is manifested the love of God towards us, because that God sent his only-begotten Son into the world, that we might “live through him.” He would take the name he never expressed himself in before. He was Jehovah, in regard of the truth of his promise; so he would be known of old: he is Goodness, in regard of the grandeur of his affection in the mission of his Son: and, therefore, he would be known by the name of Love now, in the days of the gospel.
ii. It was a pure goodness. He was under no obligation to pity our misery, and repair our ruins: he might have stood to the terms of the first covenant, and exacted our eternal death, since we had committed an infinite transgression: he was under no tie to put off the robes of a judge for the bowels of a father, and erect a mercyseat above his tribunal of justice. The reparation of man had no necessary connexion with his creation; it follows not, that because Goodness had extracted us from nothing by a mighty power, that it must lift us out of wilful misery by a mighty grace. Certainly that God who had no need of creating us, had far less need of redeeming us: for, since he created one world, he could have as easily destroyed it , and reared another. It had not been unbecoming the Divine Goodness or Wisdom, to have let man perpetually wallow in that sink wherein he had plunged himself, since he was criminal by his own will, and, therefore, miserable by his own fault: nothing could necessitate this reparation. If Divine Goodness could not be obliged by the angelical dignity to repair that nature, he is further from any obligation by the meanness of man to repair human nature. There was less necessity to restore man than to restore the fallen angels. What could man do to oblige God to a reparation of him, since he could not render him a recompense for his goodness manifested in his creation? He must be much more impotent to render him a debtor for the redemption of him from misery. Could it be a salary for anything we had done? Alas! we are so far from meriting it, that by our daily demerits, we seem ambitious to put a stop to any further effusions of it: we could not have complained of him, if he had left us in the misery we had courted, since he was bound by no law to bestow upon us the recovery we wanted. When the apostle speaks of the gospel of “redemption,” he giveth it the title of the “gospel of the blessed God” (2 Tim. 1:11). It was the gospel of a God abounding in his own blessedness, which received no addition by man’s redemption; if he had been blessed by it, it had been a goodness to himself, as well as to the creature: it was not an indigent goodness needing the receiving anything from us; but it was a pure goodness, streaming out of itself, without bringing anything into itself for the perfection of it: there was no goodness in us to be the motive of his love, but his goodness was the fountain of our benefit.
iii. It was a distinct goodness of the whole Trinity. In the creation of man we find a general consultation (Gen. 1:26), without those distinct labors and offices of each person, and without those raised expressions and marks of joy and triumph as at man’s restoration. In this there are distinct functions; the grace of the Father, the merit of the Son, and the efficacy of the Spirit. The Father makes the promise of redemption, the Son seals it with his blood, and the Spirit applies it. The Father adopts us to be his children, the Son redeems us to be his members, and the Spirit renews us to be his temples. In this the Father testifies himself well-pleased in a voice; the Son proclaims his own delight to do the will of God, and the Spirit hastens, with the wing of a dove, to fit him for his work, and afterwards, in his apparition in the likeness of fiery tongues, manifests his zeal for the propagation of the redeeming gospel.
iv. The effects of it proclaim His great goodness. It is by this we are delivered from the corruption of our nature, the ruin of our happiness, the deformity of our sins, and the punishment of our transgressions; he frees us from the ignorance wherewith we were darkened and from the slavery wherein we were fettered. When he came to make Adam’s process after his crime, instead of pronouncing the sentence of death he had merited, he utters a promise that man could not have expected; his kindness swells above his provoked justice, and, while he chaseth him out of paradise, he gives him hopes of regaining the same, or a better habitation; and is, in the whole, more ready to prevent him with the blessings of his goodness, than charge him with the horror of his crimes (Gen. 3:15). It is a goodness that pardons us more transgressions than there are moments in our lives, and overlooks as many follies as there are thoughts in our heart: he doth not only relieve our wants, but restores us to our dignity. It is a greater testimony of goodness to instate a person in the highest honors, than barely to supply his resent necessity: it is an admirable pity whereby he was incline to redeem us, and an incomparable affection whereby he was resolved to exalt us. What can be desired more of him than his goodness hath granted? He hath sought us out when we were lost, and ransomed us when we were captives; he hath pardoned us when we were condemned, and raised us when we were dead. In creation he reared us from nothing, in redemption he delivers our understanding from ignorance and vanity, and our wills from impotence and obstinacy, and our whole man from a death worse than that nothing he drew us from by creation.
v. Hence we may consider the height of this goodness in redemption to exceed that in creation. He gave man a being in creation, but did not draw him from inexpressible misery by that act. His liberality in the gospel doth infinitely surpass what we admire in the works of nature; his goodness in the latter is more astonishing to our belief, than his goodness in creation is visible to our eye. There is more of his bounty expressed in that one verse, “So God loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16), than there is in the whole volume of the world: it is an incomprehensible so; a so that all the angels in heaven cannot analyse; and few comment upon, or understand, the dimensions of this so. In creation he formed an innocent creature of the dust of the ground; in redemption he restores a rebellious creature by the blood of his Son: it is greater than that goodness manifested in creation.
1st. In regard of the difficulty in effecting it. In creation, mere nothing was vanquished to bring us into being; in redemption, sullen enmity was conquered for the enjoyment of our restoration; in creation, he subdued a nullity to make us creatures; in redemption, his goodness overcomes his omnipotent justice to restore us to felicity. A word from the mouth of Goodness inspired the dust of men’s bodies with a living soul; but the blood of his Son must be shed, and the laws of natural affection seems to be overturned, to lay the foundation of our renewed happiness. In the first, heaven did but speak, and the earth was formed; in the second, heaven itself must sink to earth, and be clothed with dusty earth, to reduce man’s dust to its original state.
2d. This goodness is greater than that manifested in creation, in regard of its cost. This was a more expensive goodness than what was laid out in creation. “The redemption of one soul is precious” (Psalm 49:8), much more costly than the whole fabric of the world, or as many worlds as the understandings of angels in their utmost extent can conceive to be created. For the effecting of this, God parts with his dearest treasure, and his Son eclipses his choicest glory. For this, God must be made man, Eternity must suffer death, the Lord of angels must weep in a cradle, and the Creator of the world must hang like a slave; he must be in a manger in Bethlehem, and die upon a cross on Calvary; unspotted righteousness must be made sin, and unblemished blessedness be made a curse. He was at no other expense than the breath of his mouth to form man; the fruits of the earth could have maintained innocent man without any other cost; but his broken nature cannot be healed without the invaluable medicine of the blood of God. View Christ in the womb and in the manger, in his weary steps and hungry bowels, in his prostrations in the garden, and in his clodded drops of bloody sweat; view his head pierced with a crown of thorns, and his face besmeared with the soldiers’ slabber; view him in his march to Calvary, and his elevation on the painful cross, with his head hanged down, and his side streaming blood; view him pelted with the scoffs of the governors, and the derisions of the rabble; and see, in all this, what cost Goodness was at for man’s redemption! In creation, his power made the sun to shine upon us, and, in redemption, his bowels sent a Son to die for us.
3d. This goodness of God in redemption is greater than that manifested in creation, in regard of man’s desert of the contrary. In the creation, as there was nothing without him to allure him to the expressions of his bounty, so there was nothing that did damp the inclinations of his goodness: the nothing from whence the world was drawn, could never merit, nor demerit a being, because it was nothing; as there was nothing to engage him, so there was nothing to disoblige him; as his favor could not be merited, so neither could his anger be deserved. But in this he finds ingratitude against the former marks of his goodness, and rebellion against the sweetness of his sovereignty,—crimes unworthy of the dews of goodness, and worthy of the sharpest strokes of vengeance; and therefore the Scripture advanceth the honor of it above the title of mere goodness, to that of “grace” (Rom. 1:2; Titus 2:11); because men were not only unworthy of a blessing, but worthy of a curse. An innocent nothing more deserves creation, than a culpable creature deserves an exemption from destruction. When man fell, and gave occasion to God to repent of his created work, his ravishing goodness surmounted the occasions he had of repenting, and the provocations he had to the destruction of his frame.
4th. It was a greater goodness than was expressed towards the angels.
1. A greater goodness than was expressed towards the standing angels. The Son of God did no more expose his life for the confirmation of those that stood, than for the restoration of those that fell; the death of Christ was not for the holy angels, but for simple man; they needed the grace of God to confirm them, but not the death of Christ to restore or preserve them; they had a beloved holiness to be established by the powerful grace of God, but not any abominable sin to be blotted out by the blood of God; they had no debt to pay but that of obedience; but we had both a debt of obedience to the precepts, and a debt of suffering to the penalty, after the fall. Whether the holy angels were confirmed by Christ, or no, is a question: some think they were, from Col. 1:20, where “things in heaven” are said to be “reconciled;” but some think, that place signifies no more than the reconciliation of things in heaven, if meant of the angels, to things on earth, with whom they were at enmity in the cause of their Sovereign; or the reconciliation of things in heaven to God, is meant the glorified saints, who were once in a state of sin, and whom the death of Christ upon the cross reached, though dead long before. But if angels were confirmed by Christ, it was by him not as a slain sacrifice, but as a sovereign Head of the whole creation, appointed by God to gather all things into one; which some think to be the intendment of Eph. 1:10, where all things, as well those in heaven, as those in earth, are said to be “gathered together in one, in Christ.” Where is a syllable in Scripture of his being crucified for angels, but only for sinners! Not for the confirmation of the one, but the reconciliation of the other; so that the goodness whereby God continued those blessed spirits in heaven, through the effusions of his grace, is a small thing to the restoring us to our forfeited happiness, through the streams of Divine blood. The preserving a man in life is a little thing, and a smaller benefit than the raising a man from death. The rescuing a man from an ignominious punishment, lays a greater obligation than barely to prevent him from committing a capital crime. The preserving a man standing upon the top of a steep hill, is more easy than to bring a crippled and phthisical man, from the bottom to the top. The continuance God gave to the angels, is not so signal a mark of his goodness as the deliverance he gave to us; since they were not sunk into sin, nor by any crime fallen into misery.
2. 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; that he should visit man, wallowing in death and blood, with the dayspring from on high, and never turn the Egyptian darkness of devils into cheerful day; when they sinned, Divine thunder dashed them into hell; when man sinned, Divine blood wafts the fallen creature from his misery: the angels wallow in their own blood forever, while Christ is made partaker of our blood, and wallows in his blood, that we might not forever corrupt in ours; they tumbled down from heaven, and Divine goodness would not vouchsafe to catch them; man tumbles down, and Divine goodness holds out a hand drenched in the blood of Him, that was from the foundations of the world, to lift us up (Heb. 2:16). He spared not those dignified spirits, when they revolted; and spared not punishing his Son for dusty man, when he offended; when he might as well forever have let man he in the chains wherein he had entangled himself, as them. We were as fit objects of justice as they, and they as fit objects of goodness as we; they were not more wretched by their fall than we; and the poverty of our nature rendered us more unable to recover ourselves, than the dignity of theirs did them; they were his Reuben, his first-born; they were his might, and the beginning of his strength; yet those elder sons he neglected, to prefer the younger; they were the prime and golden pieces of creation, not laden with gross matter, yet they lie under the ruins of their fall, while man, lead in comparison of them, is refined for another world. They seemed to be fitter objects of Divine goodness, in regard of the eminency of their nature above the human; one angel excelled in endowments of mind and spirit, vastness of understanding, greatness of power, all the sons of men; they were more capable to praise him, more capable to serve him; and because of the acuteness of their comprehension, more able to have a due estimate of such a redemption, had it been afforded them; yet that goodness which had created them so comely, would not lay itself out in restoring the beauty they had defaced. The promise was of bruising the serpent’s head for us, not of lifting up the serpent’s head with us; their nature was not assumed, nor any command given them to believe or repent; not one devil spared, not one apostate spirit recovered, not one of those eminent creatures restored; every one of them hath only a prospect of misery, without any glimpse of recovery; they were ruined under one sin, and we repaired under many. All His redeeming goodness was laid out upon man (Psalm 144:3); “What is man that thou takest knowledge of him; and the Son of man, that thou makest account of him?” Making account of him above angels; as they fell without any tempting them, so God would leave them to rise, without any assisting them. I know the schools trouble themselves to find out the reasons of this peculiarity of grace to man, and not to them; because the whole human nature fell, but only a part of the angelical; the one sinned by a seduction, and the other by a sullenness, without any tempter; every angel sinned by his own proper will, whereas Adam’s posterity sinned by the will of the first man, the common root of all. God would deprive the devil of any glory in the satisfaction of his envious desire to hinder man from attainment and possession of that happiness which himself had lost. The weakness of man below the angelical nature might excite the Divine mercy; and since all the things of the lower world were created for man, God would not lose the honor of his works, by losing the immediate end for which he framed them. And finally, because in the restoration of angels, there would have been only a restoration of one nature, that was not comprehensive of the nature of inferior things; but after all such conjectures, man must sit down, and acknowledge Divine goodness to be the only spring, without any other motive. Since Infinite Wisdom could have contrived a way for redemption for fallen angels, as well as for fallen man, and restored both the one and the other; why might not Christ have assumed their nature as well as ours, into the unity of the Divine person, and suffered the wrath of God in their nature for them, as well as in his human soul for us? It is as conceivable that two natures might have been assumed by the Son of God, as well as three souls be in man distinct, as some think there are.
3. To enhance this goodness yet higher; it was a greater goodness to us, than was for a time manifested to Christ himself. To demonstrate his goodness to man, in preventing his eternal ruin, he would for a while withhold his goodness from his Son, by exposing his life as the price of our ransom; not only subjecting him to the derisions of enemies, desertions of friends, and malice of devils, but to the inexpressible bitterness of his own wrath in his soul, as made an offering for sin. The particle so (John 3:16), seems to intimate this supremacy of goodness; He “so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son.” He so loved the world, that he seemed for a time not to love his Son in comparison of it, or equal with it. The person to whom a gift is given is, in that regard, accounted more valuable than the gift or present made to him: thus God valued our redemption above the worldly happiness of the Redeemer, and sentenceth him to an humiliation on earth, in order to our exaltation in heaven; he was desirous to hear him groaning, and see him bleeding, that we might not groan under his frowns, and bleed under his wrath; he spared not him, that he might spare us; refused not to strike him, that he might be well pleased with us; drenched his sword in the blood of his Son, that it might not forever be wet with ours, but that his goodness might forever triumph in our salvation; he was willing to have his Son made man, and die, rather than man should perish, who had delighted to ruin himself; he seemed to degrade him for a time from what he was. But since he could not be united to any but to an intellectual creature, he could not be united to any viler and more sordid creature than the earthly nature of man: and when this Son, in our nature, prayed that the cup might pass from him, Goodness would not suffer it, to show how it valued the manifestation of itself, in the salvation of man, above the preservation of the life of so dear a person.
In particular, wherein this goodness appears:—
1st. The first resolution to redeem, and the means appointed for redemption, could have no other inducement but Divine goodness. We cannot too highly value the merit of Christ; but we must not so much extend the merit of Christ, as to draw a value to eclipse the goodness of God; though we owe our redemption and the fruits of it to the death of Christ, yet we owe not the first resolutions of redemption, and assumption of our nature, the means of redemption, to the merit of Christ. Divine goodness only, without the association of any merit, not only of man, but of the Redeemer himself, beat the first purpose of our recovery; he was singled out, and predestinated to be our Redeemer, before he took our nature to merit our redemption. “God sent his Son,” is a frequent expression in the Gospel of St. John (John 3:34; 5:24; 17:3). To what end did God send Christ, but to redeem? The purpose of redemption, therefore, preceded the pitching upon Christ as the means and procuring cause of it, i. e. of our actual redemption , but not of the redeeming purpose; the end is always in intention before the means. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son;” the love of God to the world was first in intention, and the order of nature, before the will of giving his Son to the world. His intention of saving was before the mission of a Saviour; so that this affection rose, not from the merit of Christ, but the merit of Christ was directed by this affection. It was the effect of it, not the cause. Nor was the union of our nature with his merited by him; all his meritorious acts were performed in our nature; the nature, therefore, wherein he performed it, was not merited; that grace which was not, could not merit what it was; he could not merit that humanity, which must be assumed before he could merit anything for us, because all merit for us must be offered in the nature which had offended. It is true “Christ gave himself,” but by the order of Divine goodness; he that begat him, pitched upon him, and called him to this great work (Heb. 5:5); he is therefore called “the Lamb of God,” as being set apart by God to be a propitiating and appeasing sacrifice. He is the “Wisdom of God,” since from the Father he reveals the counsel and order of redemption. In this regard he calls God “his God” in the prophet (Isa. 49:4), and in the evangelist (John 20:17); though he was big with affection for the accomplishment, yet he came not to do his “own will,” but the will of Divine goodness; his own will it was, too, but not principally, as being the first wheel in motion, but subordinate to the eternal will of Divine bounty. It was by the will of God that he came, and by his will he drank the dreggy cup of bitterness. Divine justice laid “upon him the iniquity of us all,” but Divine goodness intended it for our rescue; Divine goodness singled him out, and set him apart; Divine goodness invited him to it; Divine goodness commanded him to effect it, and put a law into his heart, to bias him in the performing of it; Divine goodness sent him, and Divine goodness moved justice to bruise him; and, after his sacrifice, Divine goodness accepted him, and caressed him for it. So earnest was it for our redemption, as to give out special and irreversible orders: death was commanded to be endured by him for us, and life commanded to be imparted by him to us (John 10:16, 18). If God had not been the mover, but had received the proposal from another, he might have heard it, but was not bound to grant it; his sovereign authority, was not under any obligation to receive another’s sponsion for the miserable criminal. As Christ is the head of man, so “God is the head of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:3); he did nothing but by his directions, as he was not a Mediator, but by the constitution of Divine goodness. As a “liberal man deviseth liberal things” (Isa. 2:8), so did a bountiful God devise a bountiful act, wherein his kindness and love as a Saviour appeared: he was possessed with the resolutions to manifest his goodness in Christ, “in the beginning of his way” (Prov. 8:22, 23), before he descended to the act of creation. This intention of goodness preceded his making that creature man, who, he foresaw, would fall, and, by his fall, disjoint and entangle the whole frame of the world, without such a provision.
2d. In God’s giving Christ to be our Redeemer, he gave the highest gift that it was possible for Divine goodness to bestow. As there is not a greater God than himself to be conceived, so there is not a greater gift for this great God to present to his creatures: never did God go farther, in any of his excellent perfections, than this. It is such a dole that cannot be transcended with a choicer; he is, as it were, come to the last mite of his treasure; and though he could create millions of worlds for us, he cannot give a greater Son to us. He could abound in the expressions of his power, in new creations of worlds, which have not yet been seen, and in the lustre of his wisdom in more stately structures; but if he should frame as many worlds as there are mites of dust and matter in this, and make every one of them as bright and glorious as the sun, though his power and wisdom would be more signalized, yet his goodness could not, since he hath not a choicer gift to bless those brighter worlds withal, than he hath conferred upon this: nor can immense goodness contrive a richer means to conduct those worlds to happiness, than he hath both invented for this world, and presented it with. It cannot be imagined, that it can extend itself farther than to give a gift equal with himself; a gift as dear to him as himself. His wisdom, had it studied millions of eternities (excuse the expression, since eternity admits of no millions, it being an interminable duration) , it could have found out no more to give; this goodness could have bestowed no more, and our necessity could not have required a greater offering for our relief. When God intended, in redemption, the manifestation of his highest goodness, it could not be without the donation of the choicest gift; as, when he would insure our comfort, he swears “by himself,” because he cannot swear “by a greater” (Heb. 6:13): so, when we would insure our happiness, he gives us his Son, because he cannot give a greater, being equal with himself. Had the Father given himself in person, he had given one first in order, but not greater in essence and glorious perfections: it could have been no more than the life of God, and should then have been laid down for us; and so it was now, since the human nature did not subsist but in his Divine person.
1. It is a greater gift than worlds, or all things purchased by him. What was this gift but “the image of his person, and the brightness of his glory” (Heb. 1:3)? What was this gift but one as rich as eternal blessedness could make him? What was this gift, but one that possessed the fulness of earth, and the more immense riches of heaven? It is a more valuable present, than if he presented us with thousands of worlds of angels and inferior creatures, because his person is incomparably greater, not only than all conceivable, but inconceivable, creations; we are more obliged to him for it, than if he had made us angels of the highest rank in heaven, because it is a gift of more value than the whole angelical nature, because he is an infinite person, and therefore infinitely transcends whatsoever is finite, though of the highest dignity. The wounds of an Almighty God for us are a greater testimony of goodness, than if we had all the other riches of heaven and earth. This perfection had not appeared in such an astonishing grandeur, had it pardoned us without so rich a satisfaction; that had been pardon to our sin, not a God of our nature. “God so loved the world” that he ardoned it, had not sounded so great and so good, as God so love the world, that he “gave his only-begotten Son.” Est aliquid in Christo formosius Servatore. There is something in Christ more excellent and comely than the office of a Saviour; the greatness of his person is more excellent, than the salvation procured by his death: it was a greater gift than was bestowed upon innocent Adam, or the holy angels. In the creation, his goodness gave us creatures for our use: in our redemption, his goodness gives us what was dearest to him for our service, our Sovereign in office to benefit us, as well as in a royalty to govern us.
2. It was a greater gift, because it was his own Son, not an angel. It had been a mighty goodness to have given one of the lofty seraphims; a greater goodness to have given the whole corporation of those glorious spirits for us, those children of the Most High: but he gave that Son, whom he commands “all the angels to worship” Heb. 1:6), and all men to adore, and pay the “lowest homage to” (Psalm 2:12); that Son that is to be honored by us, as we “honor the Father” (John 5:23); that Son which was his “delight” (Prov. 8:30); his delights in the Hebrew, wherein all the delights of the Father were gathered in one, as well as of the whole creation; and not simply a Son, but an only-begotten Son, upon which Christ lays the stress with an emphasis (1 John 3:16). He had but one Son in heaven or earth, one Son from an unviewable eternity, and that one Son he gave for a degenerate world; this son he consecrated for “evermore a Priest” (Heb. 7:28). “The word of the oath makes the Son;” the peculiarity of his Sonship heightens the goodness of the Donor. It was no meaner a person that he gave to empty himself of his glory, to fulfil an obedience for us, that we might be rendered happy partakers of the Divine nature. Those that know the natural affection of a father to a son, must judge the affection of God the Father to the Son infinitely greater, than the affection of an earthly father to the son of his bowels. It must be an unparalleled goodness, to give up a Son that he loved with so ardent an affection, for the redemption of rebels: abandon a glorious Son to a dishonorable death, for the security of those that had violated the laws of righteousness, and endeavored to pull the sovereign crown from his head. Besides, being an only Son, all those affections centered in him, which in parents would have been divided among a multitude of children: so, then, as it was a testimony of the highest faith and obedience in “Abraham to offer up his only-begotten son to God” (Heb. 11:17); so it was the triumph of Divine goodness, to give so great, so dear a person, for so little a thing as man; and for such a piece of nothing and vanity, as a sinful world.
3. And this Son given to rescue us by his death. It was a gift to us; for our sakes he descended from his throne, and dwelt on earth; for our sakes he was “made flesh,” and infirm flesh; for our sakes he was “made a curse,” and scorched in the furnace of his Father’s wrath; for our sakes he went naked, armed only with his own strength, into the lists of that combat with the devils, that led us captive. Had he given him to be a leader for the conquest of some earthly enemies, it had been a great goodness to display his banners, and bring us under his conduct; but he sent him to lay down his life in the bitterest and most inglorious manner, and exposed him to a cursed death for our redemption from that dreadful curse, which would have broken us to pieces, and irreparably have crushed us. He gave him to us, to suffer for us as a man, and redeem us as a God; to be a sacrifice to expiate our sin by translating the punishment upon himself, which was merited by us. Thus was he made low to exalt us, and debased to advance us, “made poor to enrich us” (2 Cor. 8:9); and eclipsed to brighten our sullied natures, and wounded, that he might be a physician for our languishments. He was ordered to taste the bitter cup of death, that we might drink of the rivers of immortal life and pleasures: to submit to the frailties of the human nature, that we might possess the glories of the divine: he was ordered to be a sufferer, that we might be no longer captives; and to pass through the fire of Divine wrath, that he might purge our nature from the dross it had contracted. Thus was the righteous given for sin, the innocent for criminals, the glory of heaven for the dregs of earth, and the immense riches of a Deity expended to restock man.
4. And a Son that was exalted for what he had done for us by the order of Divine goodness. The exaltation of Christ was no less a signal mark of his miraculous goodness to us, than of his affection to him: since he was obedient by Divine goodness to die for us, his advancement was for his obedience to those orders. The name given to him “above every name” (Phil. 2:8, 9), was a repeated triumph of this perfection; since his passion was not for himself, he was wholly innocent, but for us who were criminal.
His advancement was not only for himself as Redeemer, but for us as redeemed: Divine goodness centered in him, both in his cross and in his crown; for it was for the “purging our sins, he sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3): and the whole blessed society of principalities and powers in heaven admire this goodness of God, and ascribe to him “honor, glory, and power” for advancing the “Lamb slain” (Rev. 5:11–13). Divine goodness did not only give him to us, but gave him power, riches , strength, and honor, for manifesting this goodness to us, and opening the passages for its fuller conveyances to the sons of men. Had not God had thoughts of a perpetual goodness, he would not have settled him so near him, to manage our cause, and testified so much affection to him on our behalf. This goodness gave him to be debased for us, and ordered him to be enthroned for us: as it gave him to us bleeding, so it would give him to us triumphing; that as we have a share by grace in the merits of his humiliation, We might partake also of the glories of his coronation; that, from first to last, we may behold nothing but the triumphs of Divine goodness to fallen man.
5. In bestowing this gift on us, Divine goodness gives whole God to us. Whatsoever is great and excellent in the Godhead, the Father gives us, by giving us his Son: the Creator gives himself to us in his Son Christ. In giving creatures to us, he gives the riches of earth; in giving himslf to us, he gives the riches of heaven, which surmount all understanding: it is in this gift he becomes our God, and passeth over the title of all that he is for our use and benefit, that every attribute in the Divine nature may be claimed by us; not to be imparted to us whereby we may be deified, but employed for our welfare, whereby we may be blessed. He gave himself in creation to us in the image of his holiness; but, in redemption, he gave himself in the image of his person: he would not only communicate the goodness without him, but bestow upon us the infinite goodness of his own nature; that that which was his own end and happiness might be our end and happiness, viz. himself. By giving his Son, he hath given himself; and in both gifts he hath given all things to us. The Creator of all things is eminently all things: “He hath given all things into the hands of his Son” (John 3:35); and, by consequence, given all things into the hands of his redeemed creatures, by giving them Him to whom he gave all things; whatsoever we were invested in by creation, whatsoever we were deprived of by corruption, and more, he hath deposited in safe hands for our enjoyment: and what can Divine goodness do more for us? What further can it give unto us, than what it hath given, and in that gift designed for us?
3d. This goodness is enhanced by considering the state of man in the first transgression, and since.
1. Man’s first transgression. If we should rip up every vein of that first sin, should we find any want of wickedness to excite a just indignation? What was there but ingratitude to Divine bounty, and rebellion against Divine sovereignty? The royalty of God was attempted; the supremacy of Divine knowledge above man’s own knowledge envied; the riches of goodness, whereby he lived and breathed, slighted. There is a discontent with God upon an unreasonable sentiment, that God had denied a knowledge to him which was his right and due, when there should have been an humble acknowledgment of that unmerited goodness, which had not only given him a being above other creatures, but placed him the governor and lord of those that were inferior to him. What alienation of his understanding was there from knowing God, and of his will from loving him! A debauch of all his faculties; a spiritual adultery, in preferring, not only one of God’s creatures, but one of his desperate enemies, before him; thinking him a wiser counsellor than Infinite Wisdom, and imagining him possessed with kinder affections to him than that God who had newly created him. Thus he joins in league with hell against heaven, with a fallen spirit against his bountiful Benefactor, and enters into society with rebels that just before commenced a war against his and their common Sovereign: he did not only falter in, but cast off, the obedience due to his Creator; endeavored to purloin his glory, and actually murdered all those that were virtually in his loins. “Sin entered into the world” by him, “and death by sin, and passed upon all men” (Rom. 5:12), taking them off from their subjection to God, to be slaves to the damned spirits, and heirs of their misery: and, after all this, he adds a foul imputation on God, taxing him as the author of his sin, and thereby stains the beauty of his holiness. But, notwithstanding all this, God stops not up the flood-gates of his goodness, nor doth he entertain fiery resolutions against man, but brings forth a healing promise; and sends not an angel upon commission to reveal it to him, but preaches it himself to this forlorn and rebellious creature (Gen. 3:15).
2. Could there be anything in this fallen creature to allure God to the expression of his goodness? Was there any good action in all his carriage that could plead for a re-admission of him to his former state? Was there one good quality left, that could be an orator to persuade Divine goodness to such a gracious procedure? Was there any moral goodness in man, after this debauch, that might be an object of Divine love? What was there in him, that was not rather a provocation than an allurement? Could you expect that any perfection in God should find a motive in this ungrateful apostate to open a mouth for him, and be an advocate to support him, and bring him off from a just tribunal? or, after Divine goodness bad begun to pity and plead for man, is it not wonderful that it should not discontinue the plea, after it found man’s excuse to be as black as his crime (Gen. 3:12), and his carriage, upon his examination, to be as disobliging as his first revolt? It might well be expected, that all the perfections in the Divine nature would have entered into an association eternally to treat this rebel according to his deserts. What attractives were there in a silly worm, much less in such complete wickedness, inexcusable enmity, infamous rebellion, to design a Redeemer for him, and such a person as the Son of God to a fleshy body, an eclipse of glory, and an ignominious cross? The meanness of man was further from alluring God to it, than the dignity of angels.
3. Was there not a world of demerit in man, to animate grace as well as wrath against him? We were so far from deserving the opening any streams of goodness, that we had merited floods of devouring wrath. What were all men but enemies to God in a high manner? Every offence was infinite, as being committed against a being of infinite dignity; it was a stroke at the very being of God, a resistance of all his attributes; it would degrade him from the height and perfection of his nature; it would not, by its good will, suffer God to be God. If he that hates his brother is a murderer of his brother (1 John 3:15), he that hates his Creator is a murderer of the Deity, and every “carnal mind is enmity to God” (Rom. 8:7): every sin envies him his authority, by breaking his precept; and envies him his goodness, by defacing the marks of it: every sin comprehends in it more than men or angels can conceive: that God who only hath the clear apprehensions of his own dignity, hath the sole clear apprehensions of sin’s malignity. All men were thus by nature: those that sinned before the coming of the Redeemer had been in a state of sin; those that were to come after him would be in a state of sin by their birth, and be criminals as soon as ever they were creatures. All men, as well the glorified, as those in the flesh at the coming of the Redeemer, and those that were to be born after, were considered in a state of sin by God, when he bruised the Redeemer for them; all were filthy and unworthy of the eye of God; all had employed the faculties of their souls, and the members of their bodies, which they enjoyed by his goodness, against the interest of his glory. Every rational creature had made himself a slave to those creatures over whom he had been appointed a lord, subjected himself as a servant to his inferior, and strutted as a superior against his liberal Sovereign, and by every sin rendered himself more a child of Satan, and enemy of God, and more worthy of the curses of the law, and the torments of hell. Was it not, now, a mighty goodness that would surmount those high mountains of demerit, and elevate such creatures by the depression of his Son? Had we been possessed of the highest holiness, a reward had been the natural effect of goodness. It was not possible that God should be unkind to a righteous and innocent creature; his grace would have crowned that which had been so agreeable to him. He had been a denier of himself, had he numbered innocent creatures in the rank of the miserable; but to be kind to an enemy, to run counter to the vastness of demerit in man, was a superlative goodness, a goodness triumphing above all the provocations of men, and pleas of justice: it was an abounding goodness of grace; “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Rom. 5:20), ὑπερεπερίσσευσεν; it swelled above the heights of sin, and triumphed more than all his other attributes.
4. Man was reduced to the lowest condition. Our crimes had brought us to the lowest calamity; we were brought to the dust, and prepared for hell. Adam had not the boldness to request, and therefore we may judge he had not the least hopes of pardon; he was sunk under wrath, and could have expected no better an entertainment than the tempter, whose solicitations he submitted to. We had cast the diadem from our heads, and lost all our original excellency; we were lost to our own happiness, and lost to our Creator’s service, when he was so kind as to send his Son to seek us (Matt. 18:11), and so liberal as to expend his blood for our cure and preservation. How great was that goodness that would not abandon us in our miscry, but remit our crimes, and rescue our persons, and ransom our souls by so great a price from the rights of justice, and horrors of hell, we were so fitted for?
5. Every age multiplied provocations; every age of the world proved more degenerate. The traditions, which were purer and more lively among Adam’s immediate posterity, were more dark among his further descendants; idolatry, whereof we have no marks in the old world before the deluge, was frequent afterwards in every nation: not only the knowledge of the true God was lost, but the natural reverential thoughts of a Deity were expelled. Hence gods were dubbed according to men’s humors; and not only human passions, but brutish vices, ascribed to them: as by the fall we were become less than men, so we would fancy God no better than a beast, since beasts were worshipped as gods (Rom. 1:21); yea, fancied God no better than a devil, since that destroyer was worshipped instead of the Creator, and a homage paid to the powers of hell that had ruined them, which was due to the goodness of that Benefactor, who had made them and preserved them in the world. The vilest creatures were deified; reason was debased below common sense; and men adored one end of a “log,” while they “warmed themselves with the other” (Isa. 44:14, 16, 17); as if that which was ordained for the kitchen were a fit representation for God in the temple. Thus were the natural notions of a Deity depraved; the whole world drenched in idolatry; and though the Jews were free from that gross abuse of God, yet they were sunk also into loathsome superstitions, when the goodness of God brought in his designed Redeemer and redemption into the world.
6. The impotence of man enhanceth this goodness. Our own eye did scarce pity us, and it was impossible for our own hands to relieve us; we were insensible of our misery, in love with our death; we courted our chains, and the noise of our fettering lusts were our music, “serving divers lusts and pleasures” (Tit. 3:3). Our lusts were our pleasures; Satan’s yoke was as delightful to us to bear, as to him to impose: instead of being his opposers in his attempts against us, we were his voluntary seconds, and every whit as willing to embrace, as he was to propose, his ruining temptations. As no man can recover himself from death, so no man can recover himself from wrath; he is as unable to redeem, as to create himself; he might as soon have stripped himself of his being, as put an end to his misery; his captivity would have been endless, and his chains remediless, for anything he could do to knock them off; and deliver himself; he was too much in love with the sink of sin, to leave wallowing in it, and under too powerful a hand, to cease frying in the flames of wrath. As the law could not be obeyed by man, after a corrupt principle had entered into him, so neither could justice be satisfied by him after his transgression. The sinner was indebted, but bankrupt; as he was unable to pay a mite of that obedience he owed to the precept, because of his enmity, so he was unable to satisfy what he owed to the penalty, because of his feebleness: he was as much without love to observe the one, as “without strength” to bear the other: he could not, because of his “enmity, be subject to the law” (Rom. 8:7), or compensate for his sin, because he was “without strength” (Rom. 5:6). His strength to offend was great; but to deliver himself a mere nothing. Repentance was not a thing known by man after the fall, till he had hopes of redemption; and if he had known and exercised it, what compensation are the tears of a malefactor for an injury done to the crown, and attempting the life of his prince? How great was Divine goodness, not only to pity men in this state, but to provide a strong Redeemer for them! “O Lord, my strength, and my Redeemer!” said the Psalmist (Psalm 19:14): when he found out a Redeemer for our misery, he found out a strength for our impotency. To conclude this: behold the “goodness of God,” when we had thus unhandsomely dealt with him; had nothing to allure his goodness, multitudes of provocations to incense him, were reduced to a condition as low as could be, fit to be the matter of his scoffs, and the sport of Divine justice, and so weak that we could not repair our own ruins; then did he open a fountain of fresh goodness in the death of his Son, and sent forth such delightful streams, as in our original creation we could never have tasted; not only overcame the resentments of a provoked justice, but magnified itself by our lowness, and strengthened itself by our weakness. His goodness had before created an innocent, but here it saves a malefactor; and sends his Son to die for us, as if the Holy of holies were the criminal, and the rebel the innocent. It had been a pompous goodness to have given him as a king; but a goodness of greater grandeur to expose him as a sacrifice for slaves and enemies. Had Adam remained innocent, and proved thankful for what he had received, it had been great goodness to have brought him to glory; but to bring filthy and rebellious Adam to it, surmounts, by inexpressible degrees, that sort of goodness he had experimented before; since it was not from a light evil, a tolerable curse unawares brought upon us, but from the yoke we had willinglysubmitted to, from the power of darkness we had courted, and the furnace of wrath we had kindled for ourselves. What are we dead dogs, that he should behold us with so gracious an eye? This goodness is thus enhanced, if you consider the state of man in his first transgression, and after.
4th. This goodness further appears in the high advancement of our nature, after it had so highly offended. By creation, we had an affinity with animals in our bodies, with angels in our spirits, with God in his image; but not with God in our nature, till the incarnation of the Redeemer. Adam, by creation, was the son of God (Luke 3:38), but his nature was not one with the person of God: he was his son, as created by him, but had no affinity to him by virtue of union with him: but now man doth not only see his nature in multitudes of men on earth, but, by an astonishing goodness, beholds his nature united to the Deity in heaven: that as he was the son of God by creation, he is now the brother of God by redemption; for with such a title doth that Person, who was the Son of God as well as the Son of man, honor his disciples (John 20:17): and because he is of the same nature with them, he “is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Heb.
2:11). Our nature, which was infinitely distant from, and below the Deity, now makes one person with the Son of God. What man sinfully aspired to, God hath graciously granted, and more: man aspired to a likeness in knowledge, and God hath granted him an affinity in union. It had been astonishing goodness to angelize our natures; but in redemption Divine goodness hath acted higher, in a sort to deify our natures. In creation, our nature was exalted above other creatures on earth; in our redemption, our nature is exalted above all the host of heaven: we were higher than the beasts, as creatures, but “lower than the angels” (Psalm 8:5); but, by the incarnation of the Son of God, our nature is elevated many steps above them.
After it had sunk itself by corruption below the bestial nature, and as low as the diabolical, the “fulness of the Godhead dwells in our nature bodily” (Col. 2:9), but never in the angels, angelically. The Son of God descended to dignify our nature, by assuming it; and ascended with our nature to have it crowned above those standing monuments of Divine power and goodness (Eph. 1:20, 21). That Person that descended in our nature into the grave, and in the same nature was raised up again, is, in that same nature, set at the right hand of God in heaven, “far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named.” Our refined clay, by an indissoluble union with this Divine Person, is honored to sit forever upon a throne above all the tribes of seraphims and cherubims; and the Person that wears it, is the head of the good angels, and the conqueror of the bad; the one are put under his feet, and the other commanded to adore him, “that purged our sins in our nature” (Heb. 1:3, 6): that Divine Person in our nature receives adoration from the angels; but the nature of man is not ordered to pay any homage and adorations to the angels. How could Divine goodness, to man, more magnify itself? As we could not have a lower descent than we had by sin, how could we have a higher ascent than by a substantial participation of a divine life, in our nature, in the unity of a Divine Person? Our earthly nature is joined to a heavenly Person; our undone nature united to “one equal with God” (Phil. 2:6). It may truly be said, that man is God, which is infinitely more glorious for us, than if it could be said, man is an angel. If it were goodness to advance our innocent nature above other creatures, the advancement of our degenerate nature above angels deserves a higher title than mere goodness. It is a more gracious act, than if all men had been transformed into the pure spiritual nature of the loftiest cherubims.
5th. This goodness is manifest in the covenant of grace made with us, whereby we are freed from the rigor of that of works. God might have insisted upon the terms of the old covenant, and required of man the improvement of his original stock; but God hath condescended to lower terms, and offered man more gracious methods, and mitigated the rigor of the first, by the sweetness of the second.
1. It is goodness, that he should condescend to make another covenant with man. To stipulate with innocent and righteous Adam for his obedience, was a stoop of his sovereignty; though he gave the precept as a sovereign Lord, yet in his covenanting, he seems to descend to some kind of equality with that dust and ashes with whom the treated. Absolute sovereigns do not usually covenant with their people , but exact obedience and duty, without binding themselves to bestow a reward; and if they intend any, they reserve the purpose in their own breasts, without treating their subjects with a solemn declaration of it.
There was no obligation on God to enter into the first covenant, much less, after the violation of the first, to the settlement of a new. If God seemed in some sort to equal himself to man in the first, he seemed to descend below himself in treating with a rebel upon more condescending terms in the second. If his covenant with innocent Adam was a stoop of his sovereignty, this with rebellious Adam seems to be a stripping himself of his majesty in favor of his goodness; as if his happiness depended upon us, and not ours upon him. It is a humiliation of himself to behold the things in heaven, the glorious angels, as well as things on earth, mortal men (Psalm 113:6); much more to bind himself in gracious bonds to the glorious angels; and much more if to rebel man. In the first covenant there was much of sovereignty as well as goodness; in the second there is less of sovereignty, and more of grace: in the first there was a righteous man for a holy God; in the second a polluted creature for a pure and provoked God: in the first he holds his seeptre in his hand, to rule his subjects; in the second he seems to lay by his sceptre, to court and espouse a beggar (Hosea 2:18–20): in the first he is a Lord; in the second a husband; and binds himself upon gracious conditions to become a debtor. How should this goodness fill us with an humble astonishment, as it did Abraham, when he “fell on his face,” when he heard God speaking of making a covenant with him! (Gen. 17:2, 3). And if God speaking to Israel out of the fire, and making them to hear his voice out of heaven, that he might instruct them, was a consideration whereby Moses would heighten their admiration of Divine goodness, and engage their affectionate obedience to him (Deut. 4:32, 36, 40), how much more admirable is it for God to speak so kindly to us trough the pacifying blood of the covenant, that silenced the terrors of the old, and settled the tenderness of the new!
2. His goodness is seen in the nature and tenor of the new covenant. There are in this richer streams of love and pity. The language of one was, Die, if thou sin; that of the other, Live, if thou believest: the old covenant was founded upon the obedience of man; the new one is not founded upon the inconstancy of man’s will, but the firmness of Divine love, and the valuable merit of Christ. The head of the first covenant was human and mutable; the Head of the second is divine and immutable. The curse due to us by the breach of the first, is taken off by the indulgence of the second: we are by it snatched from the jaws of the law, to be wrapped up in the bosom of grace (Rom. 8:1). “For you are not under the law, but under grace” (Rom. 6:14); from the curse and condemnation of the law, to the sweetness and forgiveness of grace. Christ bore the one, being “made a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13), that we might enjoy the sweetness of the other; by this we are brought from Mount Sinai, the mount of terror, to Mount Sion, the mount of sacrifice, the type of the great Sacrifice (Heb. 12:18, 22). That covenant brought in death upon one offence, this covenant offers life after many offences (Rom. 5:16, 17): that involves us in a curse, and this enricheth us with a blessing; the breaches of that expelled us out of Paradise, and the embracing of this admits us into heaven. This covenant demands, and admits of that repentance whereof there was no mention in the first; that demanded obedience, not repentance upon a failure; and though the exercise of it had been never so deep in the fallen creature, nothing of the law’s severity had been remitted by any virtue of it. Again, the first covenant demanded exact righteousness, but conveyed no cleansing virtue, upon the contracting any filth. The first demands a continuance in the righteousness conferred in creation; the second imprints a gracious heart in regeneration. “I will pour clean water upon you; I will put a new spirit within you,” was the voice of the second covenant, not of the first. Again, as to pardon Adam’s covenant was to punish him, not to pardon him, if he fell; that threatened death upon transgression, this remits it; that was an act of Divine sovereignty, declaring the will of God; this is an act of Divine grace, passing an act of oblivion on the crimes of the creature: that, as it demanded no repentance apon a failure, so it promised no mercy upon guilt; that convene our sin, and condemned us for it; this clears our guilt, and comforts us under it. The first covenant related us to God as a Judge; every transgression against it forfeited his indulgence as a Father: the second delivers us from God as a condemning Judge, to bring us under his wing, as an affectionate Father; in the one there was a dreadful frown to scare us; in the other, a healing wing to cover and relieve us. Again, in regard of righteousness: that demanded our performance of a righteousness in and by ourselves, and our own strength; this demands our acceptance of a righteousness higher than ever the standing angels had; the righteousness of the first covenant was the righteousness of a man, the righteousness of the second is the righteousness of a God (2 Cor. 5:21).
Again, in regard of that obedience it demands: it exacts not of us, as a necessary condition, the perfection of obedience, but the sincerity of obedience; an uprightness in our intention, not an unspottedness in our action; an integrity in our aims, and an industry in our compliance with divine precepts: “Walk before me, and be thou perfect” (Gen. 17:1); i. e. sincere. What is hearty in our actions, is accepted; and what is defective, is overlooked, and not charged upon us, because of the obedience and righteousness of our Surety. The first covenant rejected all our services after sin; the services of a person under the sentence of death, are but dead services: this accepts our imperfect services, after faith in it; that administered no strength to obey, but supposed it; this supposeth our inability to obey, and confers some strength for it: “I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes” (Ezek. 36:27). Again, in regard of the promises: the old covenant had good, but the new hath “better promises” (Heb. 8:6), of justification after guilt and sanctification after filth, and glorification at last of the whole man. In the first, there was provision against guilt, but none for the removal of it: provision against filth, but none for the cleansing of it; promise of happiness implied, but not so great a one as that “life and immortality” in heaven, “brought to light by the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10). Why said to be “brought to light by the gospel?” because it was not only buried, upon the fall of man under the curses of the law, but it was not so obvious to the conceptions of man in his innocent state. Life indeed was implied to be promised upon his standing, but not so glorious an immortality disclosed, to be reserved for him, if he stood: as it is a covenant of better promises, so a covenant of sweeter comforts; comforts more choice, and comforts more durable; an “everlasting consolation, and a good hope” are the fruits of “grace,” i. e. the covenant of grace (2 Thess. 2:16). In the whole there is such a love disclosed, as cannot be expressed; the apostle leaves it to every man’s mind to conceive it, if he could, “What manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God” (1 John 3:1). It instates us in such a manner of the love of God as he bears to his Son, the image of his person (John 17:23): “That the world may know that thou hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.”
3. This goodness appears in the choice gift of himself which he hath made over in this covenant (Gen. 17:7). You know how it runs in Scripture: “I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jer. 32:38): a propriety in the Deity is made over by it. As he gave the blood of his Son to seal the covenant, so he gave himself as the blessing of the covenant; “He is not ashamed to be called their God” (Heb. 11:16). Though he be environed with millions of angels, and presides over them in an inexpressible glory, he is not ashamed of his condescensions to man, and to pass over himself as the propriety of his people, as well as to take them to be his. It is a diminution of the sense of the place, to understand it of God, as Creator; what reason was there for God to be ashamed of the expressions of his power, wisdom, goodness, in the works of his hands? But we might have reason to think there might be some ground in God to be ashamed of making himself over in a deed of gift to a mean worm and filthy rebel; this might seem a disparagement to his majesty; but God is not ashamed of a title so mean, as the God of his despised people; a title below those others, of the “Lord of hosts, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders, riding on the wings of the wind, walking in the circuits of heaven.” He is no more ashamed of this title of being our God, than he is of those other that sound more glorious; he would rather have his greatness veil to his goodness, than his goodness be confined by his majesty; he is not only our God, but our God as he is the God of Christ: he is not ashamed to be our propriety, and Christ is not ashamed to own his people in a partnership with him in this propriety (John 20:17): “I ascend to my God, and your God.” This of God’s being our God, is the quintessence of the covenant, the soul of all the promises: in this he hath promised whatsoever is infinite in him, whatsoever is the glory and ornament of his nature , for our use; not a part of him, or one single perfection, but the whole vigor and strength of all. As he is not a God without infinite wisdom, and infinite power, and infinite goodness, and infinite blessedness, &c., so he passes over, in this covenant, all that which presents him as the most adorable Being to his creatures; he will be to them as great, as wise, as powerful, as good as he is in himself; and the assuring us, in this covenant, to be our God, imports also that he will do as much for us, as we would do for ourselves, were we furnished with the same goodness, power, and wisdom: in being our God, he testifies it is all one, as if we had the same perfections in our own power to employ for our use; for he being possessed with them, it is as much as if we ourselves were possessed with them, for our own advantage, according to the rules of wisdom, and the several conditions we pass through tbr his glory. But this must be taken with a relation to that wisdom, which he observes in his proceedings with us as creatures, and according to the several conditions we pass through for his glory. Thus God’s being ours is more than if all heaven and earth were ours besides; it is more than if we were fully our own, and at our own dispose; it makes “all things that God hath ours” (1 Cor. 3:22); and therefore, not only all things he hath created, but all things that he can create; not only all things that he hath contrived, but all things that he can contrive: for in being ours, his power is ours, his possible power as well as his active power; his power, whereby he can effect more than he hath done, and his wisdom, whereby he can contrive more than he hath done; so that if there were need of employing his power to create many worlds for our good, he would not stick at it; for if he did, he would not be our God, in the extent of his nature, as the promise intimates. What a rich goodness, and a fulness of bounty, is there in this short expression, as full as the expression of a God can make it, to be intelligible, to such creatures as we are!
4. This goodness is further manifest in the confirmation of the covenant. His goodness did not only condescend to make it for our happiness, after we had made ourselves miserable, but further condescended to ratify it in the solemnest manner for our assurance, to overrule all the despondencies unbelief could raise up in our souls. The reason why he confirmed it by an oath, was to show the immutability of his glorious counsel, not to tie himself to keep it, for his word and promise is in itself as immutable as his oath; they were “two immutable things, his word and his oath,” one as unchangeable as the other; but for the strength of our consolation, that it might have no reason to shake and totter (Heb. 6:17, 18): he would condescend as low as was possible for a God to do for the satisfaction of the dejected creature. When the first covenant was broken, and it was impossible for man to fulfil the terms of it, and mount to happiness thereby, he makes another; and, as if we had reason to distrust him in the first, he solemnly ratifies it in a higher manner than he had done the other, and swears by himself that he will be true to it, not so much out of an election of himself, as the object of the oath (Heb. 6:13): “Because he could not swear by a greater, he swears by himself;” whereby the apostle clearly intimates, that Divine goodness was raised to such a height for us, that if there had been anything else more sacred than himself, or that could have punished him if he had broken it, that he would have sworn by, to silence any diffidence in us, and confirm us in the reality of his intentions. Now if it were a mighty mark of goodness for God to stoop to a covenanting with us, it was more for a sovereign to bind himself so solemnly to be our debtor in a promise, as well as he was our sovereign in the precept, and stoop so low in it to satisfy the distrust of that creature, that deserved for ever to he soaking in his own ruins, for not believing his bare word. What absolute prince would ever stoop so low as to article with rebellious subjects, whom he could in a moment set his foot upon and crush; much less countenance a causeless distrust of his goodness by the addition of his oath, and thereby bind his own hands, which were unconfined before, and free to do what he pleased with them?
5. This goodness of God is remarkable also in the condition of this covenant which is faith. This was the easiest condition, in its own nature, that could be imagined; no difficulty in it but what proceeds from the pride of man’s nature, and the obstinacy of his will. It was not impossible in itself; it was not the old condition of perfect obedience. It had been mighty goodness to set us up again upon our old stock, and restore us to the tenor and condition of the covenant of works, or to have required the burdensome ceremonies of the law. Nor is it an exact knowledge he requires of us; all men’s understandings being of a different size, they had not been capable of this. It was the most reasonable condition, in regard of the excellency of the things proposed, and the effects following upon it; nay, it was necessary. It had been a want of goodness to himself and his own honor; he had cast that off, had he not insisted on this condition of faith, it being the lowest he could condescend to with a salvo for his glory. And it was a goodness to us; it is nothing else he requires, but a willingness to accept what he hath contrived and acted for us: and no man can be happy against his will; without this belief, at least, man could never voluntarily have arrived to his happiness. The goodness of God is evidenced in that.
[1st.] It is an easy condition, not impossible. 1. It was not the condition of the old covenant. The condition of that was an entire obedience to every precept with a man’s whole strength, and without any flaw or crack. But the condition of the evangelical covenant is a sincere, though weak, faith; He hath suited this covenant to the misery of man’s fallen condition; he considers our weakness, and that we are but dust, and therefore exacts not of us an entire, but a sincere, obedience. Had God sent Christ to expiate the crime of Adam, restore him to his paradise estate, and repair in man the ruined image of holiness, and after this to have renewed the covenant of works for the future, and settled the same condition in exacting a complete obedience for the time to come; Divine goodness had been above any accusation, and had deserved our highest admiration in the pardon of former transgressions, and giving out to us our first stock. But Divine goodness took larger strides: he had tried our first condition, and found his mutable creature quickly to violate it: had he demanded the same now, it is likely it had met with the same issue as before, in man’s disobedience and fall; we should have been as men, as Adam (Hos. 6:7), “transgressing the covenant;” and then we must have lain groaning under our disease, and wallowing in our blood, unless Christ had come to die for the expiation of our new crimes; for every transgression had been a violation of that covenant, and a forfeiture of our right to the benefits of it. If we had broke it but in one tittle, we had rendered ourselves incapable to fulfil it for the future; that one transgression had stood as a bar against the pleas of after-obedience. But God hath wholly laid that condition aside as to us, and settled that of faith, more easy to be performed, and to be renewed by us. It is infinite grace in him, that he will accept of faith in us, instead of that perfect obedience he required of us in the covenant of works. 2. It is easy, not like the burdensome ceremonies appointed under the law. He exacts not now the legal obedience, expensive sacrifices, troublesome purifications, and abstinences, that “;yoke of bondage” (Gal. 5:1) which they were “not able to bear” (Acts 15:10). He treats us not as servants, or children, in their nonage, under the elements of the world, nor requires those innumerable bodily exercises that he exacted of them: he demands not “a thousand of lambs,” and “rivers of oil;” but he requires a sincere confession and repentance, in order to our absolution; an “unfeigned faith,” in order to our blessedness, and elevation to a glorious life. He requires only that we should believe what he saith, and have so good an opinion of his goodness and veracity, as to persuade ourselves of the reality of his intentions, confide in his word, and rely upon his promise, cordially embrace his crucified Son, whom he hath set forth as the means of our happiness, and have a sincere respect to all the discoveries of his will. What can be more easy than this?
Though some in the days of the apostles, and others since have endeavored to introduce a multitude of legal burdens, as if they envied God the expressions of his goodness, or thought him guilty of too much remissness, in taking off the yoke, and treating man too favorably. 3. Nor is it a clear knowledge of every revelation, that is the condition of this covenant. God in his kindness to man hath made revelations of himself, but his goodness is manifested in obliging us to believe him, not fully to understand him. He hath made them, by sufficient testimonies, as clear to our faith, as they are incomprehensible to our reason: he hath revealed a Trinity of Persons, in their distinct offices, in the business of redemption, without which revelation of a Trinity we could not have a right notion and scheme of redeeming grace. But since the clearness of men’s understanding is sullied by the fall, and hath lost its wings to fly up to a knowledge of such sublime things as that of the Trinity, and other mysteries of the Christian religion, God hath manifested his goodness in not obliging us to understand them but to believe them; and hath given us reason enough to believe it to be his revelation, (both from the nature of the revelation itself, and the way and manner of propagating it, which is wholly divine, exceeding all the methods of human art,) though he hath not extended our understandings to a capacity to now them, and render a reason of every mystery. He did not require of every Israelite, or of any of them that were stung by the fiery serpents, that they should understand, or be able to discourse of the nature and qualities of that brass of which the serpent upon the pole was made, or what art that serpent was formed, or in what manner the sight of it did operate in them for their cure; it was enough that they did believe the institution and precept of God, and that their own cure was assured by it: it was enough if they cast their eyes upon it according to the direction. The understandings of men are of several sizes and elevations, one higher than another: if the condition of this covenant had been a greatness of knowledge, the most acute men had only enjoyed the benefits of it. But it is “faith,” which is as easy to be performed by the ignorant and simple, as by the strongest and most towering mind: it is that which is within the compass of every man’s understanding. God did not require that every one within the verge of the covenant should be able to discourse of it to the reasons of men; he required not that every man should be a philosopher, or an orator, but a believer. What could be more easy than to lift up the eye to the brazen serpent, to be cured of a fiery sting? What could be more facile than a glance, which is done without any pain, and in a moment? It is a condition may be performed by the weakest as well as the strongest: could those that were bitten in the most vital part cast up their eyes, though at the last gasp, they would arise to health by the expulsion of the venom.
[2d.] As it is easy, so it is reasonable. Repent and believe, is that which is required by Christ and the apostles for the enjoyment of the kingdom of heaven. It is very reasonable that things so great and glorious, so beneficial to men, and revealed to them by so sound an authority, and an unerring truth, should be believed. The excellency of the thing disclosed could admit of no lower a condition than to be believed and embraced. There is a sort of faith, that is a natural condition in everything: all religion in the world, though never so false, depends upon a sort of it; for unless there be a belief of future things, there would never be a hope of good, or a fear of evil, the two great hinges upon which religion moves. In all kinds of learning, many things must be believed before a progress can be made. Belief of one another is necessary in all acts of human life; without which human society would be unlinked and dissolved. What is that faith that God requires of us in this covenant, but a willingness of soul to take God for our God, Christ for our Mediator, and the procurer of our happiness (Rev. 22:17)? What prince could require less upon any promise he makes his subjects, than to be believed as true, and depended on as good; that they should accept his pardon, and other gracious offers, and be sincere in their allegiance to him, avoiding all things that may offend him, and pursuing all things that may please him? Thus God, by so small and reasonable a condition as faith, lets in the fruits of Christ’s death into our soul, and wraps us up in the fruition of all the privileges purchased by it. So much he hath condescended in his goodness, that upon so slight a condition we may plead his promise, and humbly challenge, by virtue of the covenant, those good things he hath promised in his word. It is so reasonable a condition, that if God did not require it in the covenant of grace, the creature were obliged to perform it: for the publishing any truth from God, naturally calls for credit to be given it by the creature, and an entertainment of it in practice. Could you offer a more reasonable condition yourselves, had it been left to your choice? Should a prince proclaim a pardon to a profligate wretch, would not all the word cry shame of him, if he did not believe it upon the highest assurances? and if ingenuity did not make him sorry for his crimes, and careful in the duty of a subject, surely the world would cry shame of such a person.
[3d.] It is a necessary condition. 1. Necessary for the honor of God. A prince is disparaged if his authority in his law, and if his graciousness in his promises, be not accepted and believed. What physician would undertake a cure, if his precepts may not be credited? It is the first thing in the order of nature, that the revelation of God should be believed, that the reality of his intentions in inviting man to the acceptance of those methods he hath prescribed for their attaining their chief happiness, should be acknowledged. It is a debasing notion of God, that he should give a happiness, purchased by Divine blood, to a person that hath no value for it, nor any abhorrency of those sins that occasioned so great a suffering, nor any will to avoid them: should he not vilify himself, to bestow a heaven upon that man that will not believe the offers of it, nor walk in those ways that lead to it? that walks so, as if he would declare there was no truth in his word, nor holiness in his nature? Would not God by such an act verify a truth in the language of their practice, viz. that he were both false and impure, careless of his word, and negligent of his holiness? As God was so desirous to ensure the consolation of believers, that if there had been a greater Being than himself to attest, and for him to be responsible to, for the confirmation of his promise, he would willingly have submitted to him, and have made him the umpire, “He swore by himself, because he could not swear by a greater” (Heb. 6:19); by the same reason, had it stood with the majesty and wisdom of God to stoop to lower conditions in this covenant, for the reducing of man to his duty and happiness, he would have done it; but his goodness could not take lower steps, with the preservation of the rights of his majesty, and the honor of his wisdom. Would you have had him wholly submitted to the obstinate will of a rebellious creature, and be ruled only by his terms? Would you have had him received men to happiness, after they had heightened their crimes by a contempt of his grace, as well as of his creating goodness, and have made them blessed under the guilt of their crimes without an acknowledgment? Should he glorify one that will not believe what he hath revealed, nor repent of what himself hath committed; and so save a man after a repeated unthankfulness to the most immense grace that ever was, or can be, discovered and offered, without a detestation of his ingratitude, and a voluntary acceptance of his offers? It is necessary, for the honor of God, that man should accept of his terms, and not give laws to him to whom he is obnoxious as a guilty person, as well as subject as a creature. Again, it was very equitable and necessary for the honor of God, that since man fell by an unbelief of his precept and threatening, he should not rise again without a belief of his promise, and casting himself upon his truth in that: since he had vilified the honor of his truth in the threatening; since man in his fall would lean to his own understanding against God, it is fit that, in his recovery, the highest powers of his soul, his understanding and will, should be subjected to him in an entire resignation. Now, whereas knowledge seems to have a power over its object, faith is a full submission to that which is the object of it. Since man intended a glorying in himself, the evangelical covenant directs its whole battery against it, that men may “glory in nothing but Divine goodness” (1 Cor. 1:29–31). Had man performed exact obedience by his own strength, he had had something in himself as the matter of his glory. And though, after the fall, grace had made itself illustrious in setting him up upon a new stock, yet had the same condition of exact obedience been settled in the same manner, man would have had something to glory in, which is struck off wholly by faith; whereby man in every act must go out of himself for a supply, to that Mediator which Divine goodness and grace hath appointed. 2. It is necessary for the happiness of man. That can be no contenting condition wherein the will of man doth not concur. he that is forced to the most delicious diet, or to wear the bravest apparel, or to be stored with abundance of treasure, cannot be happy in those things without an esteem of them, and delight in them: if they be nauseous to him, the indisposition of his mind is a dead fly in those boxes of precious ointment. Now, faith being a sincere willingness to accept of Christ, and to come to God by him, and repentance being a detestation of that which made man’s separation from God, it is impossible he could be voluntarily happy without it: man cannot attain and enjoy a true happiness without an operation of his understanding about the object proposed, and the means appointed to enjoy it. There must be a knowledge of what is offered, and of the way of it, and such a knowledge as may determine the will to affect that end, and embrace those means; which the will can never do, till the understanding be fully persuaded of the truth of the offerer, and the goodness of the proposal itself, and the conveniency of the means for the attaining of it. It is necessary, in the nature of the thing, that what is revealed should be believed to be a Divine revelation. God must be judged true in the promising justification and sanctification, the means of happiness; and if any man desires to be partaker of those promises, he must desire to be sanctified; and how can he desire that which is the matter of those, promises, if he wallow in his own lusts, and desire to do so, a thing repugnant to the promise itself?
Would you have God force man to be happy against his will? Is it not very reasonable he should demand the consent of his reasonable creature to that blessedness he offers him? The new covenant is a “marriage covenant” (Hos. 2:16, 19, 20), which implies a consent on our parts, as well as a consent on God’s part that is no marriage that hath not the consent of both parties. Now faith is our actual consent, and repentance and sincere obedience are the testimonies of the truth and reality of this consent.
6th. Divine goodness is eminent in his methods of treating with men to embrace this covenant. They are methods of gentleness and sweetness: it is a wooing goodness, and a bewailing goodness; his expressions are with strong motions of affection: he carrieth not on the gospel by force of arms: he doth not solely menace men into it, as worldly conquerors have done; he doth not, as Mahomet, plunder men’s estates, and wound their bodies, to imprint a religion on their souls: he doth not erect gibbets, and kindle faggots, to scare men to an entering into covenant with him. What multitudes might he have raised by his power, as well as others! What legions of angels might he have rendezvoused from heaven, to have beaten men into a profession of the gospel! Nor doth he only interpose his sovereign authority in the precept of faith, but useth rational expostulations, to move men voluntarily to comply with his proposals (Isa. 1:18), “Come now, and let us reason together,” saith the Lord. He seems to call heaven and earth to be judge, whether he had been wanting in any reasonable ways of goodness, to overcome the perversity of the creature; (Isa. 1:2), “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth, I have nourished and brought up children.” What various encouragements doth he use agreeable to the nature of men, endeavoring to persuade them with all tenderness, not to despise their own mercies, and be enemies to their own happiness! He would allure us by his beauty, and win us by his mercy. He uses the arms of his own excellency and our necessity to prevail upon us, and this after the highest provocations. When Adam had trampled upon his creating goodness, it was not crushed; and when man had cast it from him, it took the higher rebound: when the rebel’s provocation was fresh in his mind, he sought him out with a promise in his hand, though Adam fled from him out of enmity as well as fear (Gen. 3.). And when the Jews had outraged his Son, whom he loved from eternity, and made the Lord of heaven and earth bow down his head like a slave on the cross, yet in that place, where the most horrible wickedness had been committed, must the gospel be preached: the law must go forth out of that Sion, and the apostles must not stir from thence till they had received the promise of the Spirit, and published the word of grace in that ungrateful city, whose inhabitants yet swelled with indignation against the Lord of Life, and the doctrine he had preached among them (Luke 24:47; Acts 1:4, 5). He would overlook their indignities out of tenderness to their souls, and expose the apostles to the peril of their lives, rather than expose his enemies to the fury of the devil.
1. How affectionately doth he invite men! What multitudes of alluring promises and pressing exhortations are there everywhere sprinkled in the Scripture, and in such a passionate manner, as if God were solely concerned in our good, without a glance on his own glory! How tenderly doth he woo flinty hearts, and express more pity to them than they do to themselves! With what affection do his bowels rise up to his lips in his speech in the prophet, Isa. 51:4: “Hearken to me, O my people, and give ear unto me, O my nation!” “My people,” “my nation!”—melting expressions of a tender God soliciting a rebellious people to make their retreat to him. He never emptied his hand of his bounty, nor divested his lips of those charitable expressions. He sent Noah to move the wicked of the old world to an embracing of his goodness, and frequent prophets to the provoking Jews; and as the world continued, and grew up to a taller stature in sin, he stoops more in the manner of his expressions. Never was the world at a higher pitch of idolatry than at the first publishing the gospel; yet, when we should have expected him to be a punishing, he is a beseeching God. The apostle fears not to use the expression for the glory of livine goodness; “We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us” (2 Cor. 5:20). The beseeching voice of God is in the voice of the ministry, as the voice of the prince is in that of the herald: it is as if Divine goodness did kneel down to a sinner with ringed hands and blubbered cheeks, entreating him not to force him to re-assume a tribunal of justice in the nature of a Judge, since he would treat with man upon a throne of grace in the nature of a Father; yea, he seems to put himself into the posture of the criminal, that the offending creature might not feel the punishment due to a rebel. It is not the condescension, but the interest, of a traitor to creep upon his knees in sackcloth to his sovereign, to beg his life; but it is a miraculous goodness in the sovereign to creep in the lowest posture to the rebel, to importune him, not only for an amity to him, but a love for his own life and happiness: this He doth, not only in his general proclamations, but in his particular wooings, those inward courtings of his Spirits, soliciting them with more diligence (if they would observe it) to their happiness, than the devil tempts them to the ways of their misery: as he was first in Christ, reconciling the world, when the world looked not after him, so he is first in his Spirit, wooing the world to accept of that reconciliation, when the world will not listen to him. How often doth he flash up the light of nature and the light of the word in men’s hearts, to move them not to he down in sparks of their own kindling, but to aspire to a better happiness, and prepare them to be subject to a higher mercy, if they would improve his present entreaties to such an end! And what are his threatenings designed for, but to move the wheel of our fears, that the wheel of our desire and love might be set on motion for the embracing his promise? They are not so much the thunders of his justice, as the loud rhetoric of his good will, to prevent men’s misery under the vials of wrath: it is his kindness to scare men by threatenings, that justice might not strike them with the sword: it is not the destruction, but the preserving reformation, that he aims at: he hath no pleasure in the death of the wicked; this he confirms by his oath. His threatenings are gracious expostulations with them: “Why will ye die, O house of Israel” (Ezek. 33:11)? They are like the noise a favorable officer makes in the street, to warn the criminal he comes to seize upon, to make his escape: he never used his justice to crush men, till he had used his kindness to allure them. All the dreadful descriptions of a future wrath, as well as the lively descriptions of the happiness of another world, are designed to persuade men; the honey of his goodness is in the bowels of those roaring lions: such pains doth Goodness take with men, to make them candidates for heaven.
2. How readily doth he receive men when they do return! We have David’s experience for it (Psalm 32:5); “I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.
.” A sincere look from the creature draws out his arms, and opens his bosom; he is ready with his physic to heal us, upon a resolution to acquaint him with our disease, and by his medicines prevents the putting our resolution into a petition. The Psalmist adds a “ ” to it, as a special note of thankfulness for Divine goodness. He doth not only stand ready to receive our petitions while we are speaking, but answers us before we call (Isa. 65:24); listening to the motions of our heart, as well as to the supplications of our lips. He is the true Father, that hath a quicker pace in meeting, than the prodigal hath in returning; who would not have his embraces and caresses interrupted by his confession (Luke 15:20–22); the confession follows, doth not precede, the Father’s compassion. How doth he rejoice in having an opportunity to express his grace, when he hath prevailed with a reel to throw down his arms, and lie at his feet; and this because “he delights in mercy” (Micah 7:18)! He delights in the expressions of it from himself, and the acceptance of it by his creature.
3. How meltingly doth he bewail man’s wilful refusal of his goodness! It is a mighty goodness to offer grace to a rebel; a mighty goodness to give it him after he hath a while stood off from the terms; an astonishing goodness to regret and lament his wilful perdition. He seems to utter those words in a sigh, “O that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my way” (Psalm 81:13)! It is true, God hath not human passions, but his affections cannot be expressed otherwise in a way intelligible to us; the excellency of his nature is above the passions of men; but such expressions of himself manifest to us the sincerity of his goodness: and that, were he capable of our passions, he would express himself in such a manner as we do: and we find incarnate Goodness bewailing with tears and sighs the ruin of Jerusalem (Luke 19:42). By the same reason that when a sinner returns there is joy in heaven, upon his obstinacy there is sorrow in earth. The one is, as if a prince should clothe all his court in triumphant scarlet, upon a rebel’s repentance; and the other, as if a prince put himself and his court in mourning for a rebel’s obstinate refusal of a pardon, when he lies at his mercy. Are not now these affectionate invitations, and deep bewailings of their perversity, high testimonies of Divine goodness? Do not the unwearied repetitions of gracious encouragements deserve a higher name than that of mere goodness? What can be a stronger evidence of the sincerity of it, than the sound of his saving voice in our enjoyments, the motion of his Spirit in our hearts, and his grief for the neglect of all? These are not testimonies of any want of goodness in his nature to answer us, or unwillingness to express it to his creature. Hath he any mind to deceive us, that thus intreats us? The majesty of his nature is too great for such shifts; or, if it were not, the despicableness of our condition would render him above the using any. Who would charge that physician with want of kindness, that freely offers his sovereign medicine, importunes men, by the love they have to their health, to take it, and is dissolved into tears and sorrow when he finds it rejected by their peevish and conceited humor?
7th. Divine goodness is eminent in the sacraments he hath affixed to this covenant, especially the Lord’s supper. As he gave himself in his Son, so he gives his Son in the sacrament; he doth not only give him as a sacrifice upon the cross for the expiation of our crimes, but as a feast upon the table for the nourishment of our souls: in the one he was given to be offered; in this he gives him to be partaken of, with all the fruits of his death; under the image of the sacramental signs, every believer doth eat the flesh, and drink the blood of the great Mediator of the covenant. The words of Christ, “This is my body, and this is my blood,” are true to the end of the world (Matt. 26:26, 28). This is the most delicious viand of heaven, the most exquisite dainty food God can feed us with: the delight of the Deity, the admiration of angels; a feast with God is great, but a feast on God is greater. Under those signs that body is presented; that which was conceived by the Spirit, inhabited by the Godhead, bruised by the Father to be our food, as well as our propitiation, is presented to us on the table. That blood which satisfied justice, washed away our guilt on the cross, and pleads for our persons at the throne of grace; that blood which silenced the curse, pacified heaven, and purged earth, is given to us for our refreshment. This is the bread sent from heaven, the true manna; the cup is “the cup of blessing,” and, therefore, a cup of goodness (1 Cor. 10:15). It is true, bread doth not cease to be bread, nor the wine cease to be wine; neither of them lose their substance, but both acquire a sanctification, by the relation they have to that which they represent, and give a nourishment to that faith that receives them. In those God offers us a remedy for the sting of sin, and troubles of conscience; he gives us not the blood of a mere man, or the blood of an incarnate angel, but of God blessed forever; a blood that can secure us against the wrath of heaven, and the tumults of our consciences; a blood that can wash away our sins, and beautify our souls; a blood that hath more strength than our filth, and more prevalency than our accuser; a blood that secures us against the terrors of death, and purifies us for the blessedness of heaven. The goodness of God complies with our senses, and condescends to our weakness; he instructs us by the eye, as well as by the ear; he lets us see, and taste , and feel him, as well as hear him; he veils his glory under earthly elements, and informs our understanding in the mysteries of salvation by signs familiar to our senses; and because we cannot with our bodily eyes behold him in his glory, he presents him to the eyes of our minds in elements, to affect our understandings in the representations of his death. The body of Christ crucified is more visible to our spiritual sense, than the invisible Deity could be visible in his flesh upon earth; and the power of his body and blood is as well experimented in our souls, as the power of his Divinity was seen by the Jews in his miraculous actions in his body in the world. It is the goodness of God, to mind us frequently of the great things Christ hath purchased; that as himself would not let them be out of his mind, to communicate them to us, so he would give us means to preserve them in our minds, to adore him for them, and request them of him; whereby he doth evidence his own solicitousness, that we should not be deprived by our own forgetfulness of that grace Christ hath purchase for us; it was to remember the Redeemer, “and show his death till he came” (1 Cor. 11:25, 26).
1. His goodness is seen in the end of it, which is a sealing the covenant of grace. The common nature and end of sacraments is to seal the covenant they belong to, and the truths of the promises of it. The legal sacraments of circumcision and the passover sealed the legal promises and the covenant in the Judicial administration of it; and the evangelical sacraments seal the evangelical promises, as a ring confirms a contract of marriage, and a seal the articles of a compact; by the same reason, circumcision is called a “seal of the righteousness of faith” (Rom. 4:11); other sacraments may have the same title; God doth attest, that he will remain firm in his promise, and the receiver attests he will remain firm in his faith. In all reciprocal covenants, there are mutual engagements, and that which serves for a seal on the part of the one, serves for a seal also on the part of the other; God obligeth himself to the performance of the promise, and man engageth himself to the performance of his duty. The thing confirmed by this sacrament is the perpetuity of this covenant in the blood of Christ, whence it is called “the New Testament,” or covenant “in the blood of Christ” (Luke 22:20). In every repetition of it, God, by presenting, confirms his resolution to us, of sticking to this covenant for the merit of Christ’s blood; and the receiver, by eating the body and drinking the blood, engageth himself to keep close to the condition of faith, expecting a full salvation and a blessed immortality upon the merit of the same blood alone. This sacrament could not be called the “New Testament, or Covenant,” if it had not some relation to the covenant; and what it can be but this, I do not understand. The covenant itself was confirmed “by the death of Christ” (Heb. 9:15), and thereby made unchangeable both in the benefits to us, and the condition required of us; but he seals it to our sense in a sacrament, to give us strong consolation; or, rather, the articles of the covenant of redemption between the Father and the Son, agreed on from eternity, were accomplished on Christ’s part by his death, on the Father’s part by his resurrection; Christ performed what he promised in the one, and God acknowledgeth the validity of it, and performs what he had promised in the other. The covenant of grace, founded upon this covenant of redemption, is sealed in the sacrament; God owns his standing to the terms of it, as sealed by the blood of the Mediator, by presenting him to us under those signs, and gives us a right upon faith to the enjoyment of the fruits of it. As the right of a house is made over by the delivery of the key, and the right of land translated by the delivery of a turf; whereby he gives us assurance of his reality, and a strong support to our confidence in him; not that there is any virtue and power of sealing in the elements themselves, no more than there is in a turf to give an enfeoffment in a parcel of land; but as the power of one is derived from the order of the law, so the confirming power of the sacrament is derived from the institution of God; as the oil wherewith kings were annointed, did not of itself confer upon them that royal dignity, but it was a sign of their investiture into office, ordered by Divine institution. We can with no reason imagine, that God intended them as naked signs or pictures, to please our eyes with the image of them, to represent their own figures to our eyes, but to confirm something to our understanding by the efficacy of the Spirit accompanying them: they convey to the believing receiver what they represent, as the great seal of a prince, fixed to the parchment, doth the pardon of a rebel as well as its own figure. Christ’s death, and the grace of the covenant is not only signified, but the fruits and merit of that death communicated also. Thus doth Divine goodness evidence itself, not only in making a gracious covenant with us, but fixing seals to it; not to strengthen his own obligation, which stood stronger than the foundations of heaven and earth, upon the credit of his word, but to strengthen our weakness, and support our security, by something which might appear more formal and solemn than a bare word. By this, the Divine goodness provides against our spiritual faintings, and shows us by real signs as well as verbal declarations, that the covenant sealed by the blood of Christ, is unalterable; and thereby would fortify and mount our hopes to degrees in some measure suitable to the kindness of the covenant, and the dignity of the Redeemer’s blood. And it is yet a further degree of this goodness, that he hath appointed us so often to celebrate it, whereby he shows how careful he is to keep up our tottering faith, and preserve us constant in our obedience; obliging himself to the performance of his promise, and obliging us to the payment of our duty.
2. His goodness is seen in the sacrament in giving us in it an union and communion with Christ. There is not only a commemoration of Christ dying, but a communication of Christ living. The apostle strongly asserts it by way of interrogation (1 Cor. 10:16), “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? the bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” In the cup there is a communication of the blood of Christ, a conveyance of a right to the merits of his death, and the blessedness of his life: we are not less by this made one body with Christ than we are by baptism (1 Cor. 12:13): and “put on Christ” living in this, as well as in baptism (Gal. 3:27); that as his taking our infirm flesh was a real incarnation, so the giving us his flesh to eat is a mystical incarnation in believers, whereby they become one body with him as crucified, and one body with him as risen; for if Christ himself be received by faith in the word (Col. 2:6), he is no less received by faith in the sacrament. When the Holy Ghost is said to be received, the graces or gifts of the Holy Ghost are received; so when Christ is received, the fruits of his death are really partaken of. The Israelites that ate of the sacrifices, did “partake of the altar” (1 Cor. 10:18), i. e. had a communion with the God of Israel, to whom they had been sacrificed; and those that “ate of the sacrifices” offered to idols, had a “fellowship with devils,” to whom those sacrifices were offered (ver. 20). Those that partake of the sacraments in a due manner, have a communion with that God to whom it was sacrificed, and a communion with that body which was sacrificed to God; not that the substance of that body and blood is wrapped up in the elements, or that the bread and wine are transformed into the body and blood of Christ, but as they represent him, and by virtue of the institution are, in estimation himself, his own body and blood; by the same reason as he is called “Christ our passover,” he may be called “Christ our supper” (1 Cor. 5:7): for as they are so reckoned to an unworthy receiver, as if they were the real body and blood of Christ, because by his not discerning the Lord’s body in it, or making light of it as common bread, he is judged “guilty of the body and blood of Christ,” guilty of treating him in as base a manner as the Jews did when they crowned him with thorns (1 Cor. 11:27, 29): by the same reason they must be reckoned to a worthy receiver, as the very body and blood of Christ so that as the unworthy receiver “eats and drinks damnation,” the worthy receiver “eats and drinks” salvation. It would be an empty mystery, and unworthy of an institution by Divine goodness, if there were not some communion with Christ in it: there would be some kind of deceit in the precept, “Take, eat, and drink, this is my body and blood,” if there were not a conveyance of spiritual vital influences to our souls: for the natural end of eating and drinking is the nourishment and increase of the body, and preservation of life, by that which we eat and drink. The infinite wise, gracious, and true God, would never give us empty figures without accomplishing that which is signified by them, and suitable to them. How great is this goodness of God! he would have his Son in us, one with us, straitly joined to us , as if we were his proper flesh and blood: in the incarnation Divine goodness united him to our nature; in the sacrament, it doth in a sort unite him with his purchased privileges to our persons; we have not a communion with a part or a member of his body, or a drop of his blood, but with his whole body and blood, represented in every part of the elements. The angels in the heaven enjoy not so great a privilege; they have the honor to be under him as their Head, but not that of having him for their food; they behold him, but they do not taste him. And, certainly, that goodness that hath condescended so much to our weakness, would impart it to us in a very glorious manner, were we capable of it. But, because a man cannot behold the light of the sun in its full splendor by reason of the infirmities of his eyes, he must behold it by the help of a glass, and such a communication through a colored and opaque glass, is as real from the sun itself, though not so glorious, but more shrouded and obscure; it is the same light that shines through that medium, as spreads itself gloriously in the open air, though the one be masked, and the other open-faced. To conclude this, by the way, we may take notice of the neglect of this ordinance: if it be a token of Divine goodness to appoint it, it is no sign of our estimation of Divine goodness to neglect it. He that values the kindness of his friend, will accept of his invitation, if there be not some strong impediments in the way, or so much familiarity with him that his refusal upon a light occasion would not be unkindly taken. But though God put on the disposition of a friend to us, yet he looseth not the authority of a sovereign; and the humble familiarity he invites us to, doth not diminish the condition and duty of a subject. A sovereign prince would not take it well, if a favorite should refuse the offered honor of his table. The viands of God are not to be slighted. Can we live better upon our poor pittance than upon his dainties? Did not Divine goodness condescend in it to the weakness of our faith, and shall we conceit our faith stronger than God thinks it? If he thought fit by those seals to make a deed of gift to us, shall we be so unmannerly to him, and such enemies to the security he offers us over and above his word, as not to accept it? Are we unwilling to have our souls inflamed with love, our hearts filled with comfort, and armed against the attempts of our enemies? It is true, there is a guilt of the body and blood of Christ contracted by a slightness in the manner of attending; is it not also contracted by a refusal and neglect?
What is the language of it? If it speaks not the death of Christ in vain; it speaks the institution of this ordinance as a remembrance of his death, to be a vanity, and no mark of Divine goodness. Let us, therefore, put such a value upon Divine goodness in this affair, as to be willing to receive the conveyances of his love, and fresh engagements of our duty; the one is due from us to the kindness of our friend, and the other belongs to our duty as his subjects.
vi. By this redemption God restores us to a more excellent condition than Adam had in innocence. Christ was sent by Divine goodness, not only to restore the life Adam’s sin had stripped us of, but to give it more abundantly than Adam’s standing could have conveyed it to us (John 10:10), “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” More abundantly for strength, more abundantly for duration, a life abounding with greater felicity and glory: the substance of those better promises of the new covenant than what attended the old. There are fuller streams of grace by Christ than flowed to Adam, or could flow from Adam. As Christ never restored any to health and strength while he was in the world, but he gave them a greater measure of both than they had before; so there is the same kindness, no question, manifested in our spiritual condition. Adam’s life might have preserved us, but Adam’s death could not have rescued either himself or his posterity; but, in our redemption, we have a Redeemer, who hath “died to expiate our sins,” and so crowned with life to save, and forever preserve our persons (Rom. 5:10), “Because I live, ye shall live also:” so that by redeeming goodness the life of a believer is as perpetual as the life of the Redeemer Christ (John 14:19). Adam, though innocent, was under the danger of perishing; a believer, though culpable, is above the fears of mutability. Adam had a holiness in his nature, but capable of being lost; by Christ believers have a holiness bestowed, not capable of being rifled, but which will remain till it be at last fully perfected: though they have a power to change in their nature, yet they are above an actual final change by the indulgence of Divine grace. Adam stood by himself; believers stand in a root, impossible to be shaken or corrupted: by this means the “promise is sure to all the seed” (Rom. 4:16). Christ is a stronger person than Adam, who can never break covenant with God, and the truth of God will never break covenant with him. We are united to a more excellent Head than Adam: instead of a root merely human, we have a root Divine as well as human. In him we had the righteousness of a creature merely human; in this we have a righteousness divine, the righteousness of God-man; the stock is no longer in our own hands, but in the hands of One that cannot embezzle it, or forfeit it: Divine goodness hath deposited it strongly for our security. The stamp we receive, by the Divine goodness, from the second Adam, is more noble than that we should have received from the first, had he remained in his created state Adam was formed of the dust of the earth, and the new man is formed by the incorruptible seed of the word; and at the resurrection, the body of man shall be endued with better qualities than Adam had at creation: they shall be like that glorious Body which is in heaven, in union with the person of the “Son of God” (Phil. 3:21). Adam, at the best, had but an earthly body, but the Lord from heaven hath a “heavenly body,” the image of which shall be borne by the redeemed ones, as they have borne the image of the earthly (1 Cor. 15:47–49). Adam had the society of beasts; redeemed ones expect, by Divine goodness in redemption, a commerce with angels; as they are reconciled to them by his death, they shall certainly come to converse with them at the consummation of their happiness; as they are made of one family, so they will have a peculiar intimacy: Adam had a paradise, and redeemed ones a heaven provided for them; a happier place with a richer furniture. It is much to give so complete a paradise to innocent Adam; but more to give heaven to an ungrateful Adam, and his rebellious posterity: it had been abundant goodness to have restored us to the same condition in that paradise from whence we were ejected; but a superabundant goodness to bestow upon us a better habitation in heaven, which we could never have expected. How great is that goodness, when by sin we were fallen to be worse than nothing, that He should raise us to be more than what we were; that restored us, not to the first step of our creation; but to many degrees of elevation beyond it! not only restores us, but prefers us; not only striking off our chains, to set us free, but clothing us with a robe of righteousness, to render us honorable; not only quenching our hell, but preparing a heaven; not re-garnishing an earthly, but providing a richer palace: his goodness was so great, that, after it had rescued us, it would not content itself with the old furniture, but makes all new for us in another world; a new wine to drink; a new heaven to dwell in; a more magnificent structure for our habitation: thus hath Goodness prepared for us a straiter union, a stronger life, a purer righteousness, an unshaken standing, and a fuller glory; all more excellent than was within the compass of innocent Adam’s possession.
vii. This goodness in redemption extends itself to the lower creation. It takes in, not only man, but the whole creation, except the fallen angels, and gives a participation of it to insensible creatures; upon the account of this redemption the sun, and all kind of creatures, were preserved, which otherwise had sunk into destruction upon the sin of man, and ceased from their being, as man had utterly ceased from his happiness (Col. 1:17): “By him all things consist.” The fall of man brought, not only a misery upon himself, but a vanity upon the creature; the earth groaned under a curse for his sake. They were all created for the glory of God, and the support of man in the performance of his duty, who was obliged to use them for the honor of Him that created them both. Had man been true to his obligations, and used the creatures for that end to which they were dedicated by the Creator; as God would have then rejoiced in his works, so his works would have rejoiced in the honor of answering so excellent an end: but when man lost his integrity, the creatures lost their perfection; the honor of them was stained when they were debased to serve the lusts of a traitor, instead of supporting the duty of a subject, and employed in the defence of the vices of men against the precepts and authority of their common Sovereign. This was a vilifying the creature, as it would be a vilifying the sword of a prince, which is, for the maintenance of justice, to be used for the murder of an innocent; and a dishonoring a royal mansion, to make it a storehouse for a dunghill. Had those things the benefit of sense, they would groan under this disgrace, and rise up in indignation against them that offered them this affront, and turned them from their proper end. When sin entered, the heavens that were made to shine upon man, and the earth that was made to bear and nourish an innocent creature, were now subjected to serve a rebellious creature; and as man turned against God, so he made those instruments against God, to serve his enmity, luxury, sensuality. Hence the creatures are said to groan (Rom. 8:22); “The whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now.” They would really groan, had they understanding to be sensible of the outrage done them. “The whole creation.”—It is the pang of universal nature, the agony of the whole creation, to be alienated from the original use for which they were intended, and be disjointed from their end to serve the disloyalty of a rebel. The drunkard’s cup, and the glutton’s table, the adulterer’s bed, and the proud man’s purple, would groan against the abuser of them. But when all the fruits of redemption sball be completed, the goodness of God shall pour itself upon the creatures, deliver them from the “bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21); they shall be reduced to their true end, and returned in their original harmony. As the creation doth passionately groan under its vanity, so it doth “earnestly expect and wait for its deliverance at the time of the manifestation of the sons of God” (ver. 19). The manifestation of the sons of God is the attainment of the liberty of the creature. They shall be freed from the vanity under which they are enslaved; as it entered by sin, it shall vanish upon the total removal of sin. What use they were designed for in paradise they will have afterwards, except that of the nourishment of men, who shall be as “angels, neither eating nor drinking:” the glory of God shall be seen and contemplated in them. It can hardly be thought that God made the world to be little a moment after he had reared it, sullied by the sin of man, and turned from its original end, without thoughts of a restoration of it to its true end, as well as man to his lost happiness. The world was made for man: man hath not yet enjoyed the creature in the first intention of them; sin made an interruption in that fruition. As redemption restores man to his true end, so it restores the creatures to their true use. The restoration of the world to its beauty and order was the design of the Divine goodness in the coming of Christ, as it is intimated in Isa. 11:6–9; as he “came not to destroy the law, but to fulfil it,” so he came not to destroy the creatures, but to repair them: to restore to God the honor and pleasure of the creation, and restore to the creatures their felicity in restoring their order: the fall corrupted it, and the full redemption of men restores it. The last time is called, not a time of destruction, but a “time of restitution,” and that “of all things” (Acts 3:21) of universal nature, the main part of the creation at least. All those things which were the effects of sin will be abolished; the removal of the cause beats down the effect. The disorder and unruliness of the creature, arising from the venom of man’s transgression, all the fierceness of one creature against another shall vanish. The world shall be nothing but an universal smile; nature shall put on triumphant vestments: there shall be no affrighting thunders, choking mists, venomous vapors, or poisonous plants. It would not else be a restitution of all things. They are now subject to be wasted by judgments for the sin of their possessor, but the perfection of man’s redemptions shall free them from every misery. They have an advancement at the present, for they are under a more glorious Head, as being the possession of Christ, the heavenly Adam, much superior to the first: as it is the glory of a person to be a servant to a prince, rather than a peasant. And afterwards, they shall be elevated to a better state, sharing in man’s happiness, as well as they did in his misery: as servants are interested in the good fortune of their master, and bettered by his advance in his prince’s favor. As man in his first creation was mutable and liable to sin, so the creatures were liable to vanity; but as man by grace shall be freed from the mutability, so shall the creatures be freed from the fears of an invasion, by the vanity that sullied them before. The condition of the servants shall be suited to that of their Lord, for whom they were designed: hence, all creatures are called upon to rejoice upon the perfection of salvation, and the appearance of Christ’s royal authority in the world. If they were to be destroyed, there would be no ground to invite them to triumph (Psalm 96:11, 12; 118:7, 8). Thus doth Divine goodness spread its kind arms over the whole creation.
Thirdly. The third thing is the goodness of God in his Government. That goodness that despised not their creation, doth not despise their conduct. The same goodness that was the head that framed them, is the helm that guides them; his goodness hovers over the whole frame, either to prevent any wild disorders unsuitable to his creating end, or to conduct them to those ends which might illustrate his wisdom and goodness to his creatures. His goodness doth no less incline him to provide for them, than to frame them. It is the natural inclination of man to love what is purely the birth of his own strength or skill. He is fond of preserving his own inventions, as well as laborious in inventing them. It is the glory of a man to preserve them, as well as to produce them. God loves everything which he hath made, which love could not be without a continued diffusiveness to them suitable to the end for which he made them. It would be a vain goodness, if it did not interest itself in managing the world, as well as erecting it: without his government everything in the world would jostle against one another: the beauty of it would be more defaced, it would be an unruly mass, a confused chaos rather than a Κόσμος, a comely world. If Divine goodness respected it when it was nothing, it would much more respect it when it was something, by the sole virtue of his power and good-will to it, without any motive from anything else than himself, because there was nothing else but himself. But since he sees his own stamp in things without himself in the creature, which is a kind of motive or moving object to Divine goodness to preserve it, when there was nothing without himself that could be any motive to Him to create it: as when God hath created a creature, and it falls into misery, that misery of the creature, though it doth not necessitate his mercy, yet meeting with such an affection as mercy in his nature, is a moving object to excite it; as the repentance of Nineveh drew forth the exercise of his pity and preserving goodness. Certainly, since God is good, he is bountiful; and if bountiful, he is provident. He would seem to envy and malign his creatures, if he did not provide for them, while he intends to use them: but infinite goodness cannot be effected with envy; for all envy implies a want of that good in ourselves, which we regard with so evil an eye in another. But God, being infinitely blessed, hath not the want of any good that can be a rise to such an uncomely disposition. The Jews thought that Divine goodness extended only to them in an immediate and particular care, and left all other nations and things to the guidance of angels. But the Psalmist (Psalm 107, a psalm calculated for the celebration of this perfection, in the continued course of his providence throughout all ages of the world) ascribes to Divine goodness immediately all the advantages men meet with. He helps them in their actions, presides over their motions, inspects their several conditions, labors day and night in a perpetual care of them. The whole life of the world is linked together by Divine goodness. Everything is ordered by him in the place where he hath set it, without which the world would be stripped of that excellency it hath by creation.
1st. This goodness is evident in the care he hath of all creatures. There is a peculiar goodness to his people; but this takes not anway his general goodness to the world: though a master of a family hath a choicer affection to those that have an affinity to him in nature, and stand in a nearer relation, as his wife, children, servants; yet he hath a regard to his cattle, and other creatures he nourisheth in his house. All things are not only before his eyes; but in his bosom; he is the nurse of all creatures, supplying their wants, and sustaining them from that nothing they tend to. The “earth is full of his riches” (Psalm 104:24); not a creek or cranny but partakes of it. Abundant goodness daily hovers over it, as well as hatched it. The whole world swims in the rich bounty of the Creator, as the fish do in the largeness of the sea, and birds in the spaciousness of the air. The goodness of God is the river that waters the whole earth. As a lifeless picture casts its eye upon every one in the room, so doth a living God upon everything in the world. And as the sun illuminates all things which are capable of partaking of its light, and diffuseth its beams to all things which are capable of receiving them, so doth God spread his wings over the whole creation, and neglects nothing, wherein he sees a mark of his first creating goodness.
1. His goodness is seen, in preserving all things. “O Lord, thou preservest man and beast” (Psalm 36:6). Not only man, but beasts, and beasts as well as men; man, as the most excellent creature, and beasts as being serviceable to man, and instruments of his worldly happiness. He continues the species of all things, concurs with them in their distinct offices, and quickens the womb of nature. He visits man every day, and makes him feel the effects of his providence, in giving him “fruitful seasons, and filling his heart with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17), as witnesses of his liberality and kindness to man. “The earth is visited and watered by the river of God. He settles the furrows of the earth, and makes it soft with showers,” that the corn may be nourished in its womb, and spring up to maturity. “He crowns the year with his goodness, and his paths drop fatness. The little hills rejoice on every side; the pastures are clothed with flocks, and the valleys are covered over with corn,” as the Psalmist elegantly says (Psalm 65:9, 10; 107:35, 36). He waters the ground by his showers, and preserves the little seed from the rapine of animals. “He draws not out the evil arrows of famine,” as the expression is (Ezek. 5:16). Every day shines with new beams of his Divine goodness. The vastness of this city, and the multitudes of living souls in it, is an astonishing argument. What streams of nourishing necessaries are daily conveyed to it! Every mouth hath bread to sustain it; and among all the number of poor in the bowels and skirts of it, how rare is it to hear of any starved to death for want of it! Every day he “spreads a table” for us, and that with varieties, and “fills our cups” (Psalm 23:5). He shortens not his hand, nor withdraws his bounty: the increase of one year by his blessing, restores what was spent by the former. He is the “strength of our life” (Psalm 27:1), continuing the vigor of our limbs, and the health of our bodies; secures us from “terrors by night, and the arrows of diseases that fly by day” (Psalm 91:5); “sets a hedge about our estates” (Job 1:10), and defends them against the attempts of violence; preserves our houses from flames that might consume them, and our persons from the dangers that lie in wait for them; watcheth over us “in our goings out, and our comings in” (Psalm 121:8), and way-lays a thousand dangers we know not of: and employs the most glorious creatures in heaven in the service of mean “men upon earth” (Psalm 91:11): not by a faint order, but a pressing charge over them, to “keep them in all his ways.” Those that are his immediate servants before his throne, he sends to minister to them that were once his rebels. By an angel he conducted the affairs of Abraham (Gen. 24:7): and by an angel secured the life of Ishmael (Gen.
21:17): glorious angels for mean man, holy angels for impure man, powerful angels for weak man. How in the midst of great dangers, doth his sudden light dissipate our great darkness, and create a deliverance out of nothing! How often is he found a present help in time of trouble! When all other assistance seems to stand at a distance, he flies to us beyond our expectations, and raises us up on the sudden from the pit of our dejectedness, as well as that of our danger, exceeding our wishes, and shooting beyond our desires as well as our deserts. How often, in the time of confusion, doth he preserve an indefensible place from the attacks of enemies, like a bark in the midst of a tempestuous sea! the rage falls upon other places round about them, and, by a secret efficacy of Divine goodness, is not able to touch them. He hath peculiar preservations for his Israel in Egypt, and his Lots in Sodom, his Daniels in the lions’ dens, and his children in a fiery furnace. He hath a tenderness for all, but a peculiar affection to those that are in covenant with him.
2. The goodness of God is seen in taking care of the animals and inanimate things. Divine goodness embraceth in its arms the lowest worm as well as the loftiest cherubim: he provides food for the “crying ravens” (Psalm 147:9), and a prey for the appetite of the “hungry lion” (Psalm 104:21): “He opens his hand, and fills with good those innumerable creeping things, both small and great beasts; they are all waiters upon him, and all are satisfied by their bountiful Master” (Psalm 104:25–28). They are better provided for by the hand of heaven, than the best favorite is by an earthly prince: for “they are filled with good.” He hath made channels in the wildest deserts, for the watering of beasts, and trees for the nests and “habitation of birds” (Psalm 104:10, 12, 17). As a Lawgiver to the Jews, he took care that the poor beast should not be abused by the cruelty of man: he provided for the ease of the laboring beast in that command of the Sabhath, wherein he provided for his own service: the cattle was to do “no work” on it (Exod. 20:10). He ordered that the mouth of the ox should not be muzzled while it trod out the corn (Deut.25:4, it being the manner of those countries to separate the corn from the stalk by that means, as we do in this by thrashing), regarding it as a part of cruelty to deprive the poor beast of tasting, and satisfying itself with that which he was so officious by his labor to prepare for the use of man. And when any met with a nest of young birds, though they might take the young to their use, they were forbidden to seize upon the dam, that she might not lose the objects of her affection and her own liberty in one day (Deut. 22:6).
And see how God enforceth this precept with a threatening of a shortness of life, if they transgressed it (Deut. 22:7)! “Thou shalt let the dam go, that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days.” He would revenge the cruelty to dumb creatures with the shortness of the oppressor’s life: nor would he have cruelty used to creatures that were separated for his worship: he therefore provides that a cow, or an ewe, and their young ones, should “not be killed for sacrifice in one day” (Lev. 22:28). All which precepts, say the Jews, are to teach men mercifulness to their beasts; so much doth Divine goodness bow down itself, to take notice of those mean creatures, which men have so little regard to, but for their own advantage; yea, he is so good, that he would have worship declined for a time in favor of a distressed beast; the “helping a sheep, or an ox, or an ass, out of a pit,” was indulged them even “on the Sabhath-day,” a day God had peculiarly sanctified and ordered for his service (Matt. 12:11; Luke 14:5): in this case he seems to remit for a time the rights of the Deity for the rescue of a mere animal. His goodness extends not only to those kind of creatures that have life, but to the insensible ones; he clothes the grass, and “arrays the lilies of the field” with a greater glory than Solomon had upon his throne (Matt. 6:28, 29); and such care he had of those trees which bore fruit for the maintenance of man or beast, that he forbids any injury to be offered to them, and bars the rapine and violence, which by soldiers used to be practised (Deut. 20:19), though it were to promote the conquest of their enemy. How mueh goodness is it, that he should think of so small a thing as man! How much more that he should concern himself in things that seem so petty as beasts and trees! Persons seated in a sovereign throne, think it a debasing of their dignity to regard little things: but God, who is infinitely greater in majesty above the mightiest potentate, and the highest angel, yet is so infinitely good, as to employ his divine thoughts about the meanest things. He who possesses the praises of angels, leaves not off the care of the meanest creatures: and that majesty that dwells in a pure heaven, and an inconceivable light, stoops to provide for the ease of those creatures that he and lodge in the dirt and dung of the earth. How should we be careful not to use those unmercifully, which God takes such care of in his law, and not to distrust that goodness, that opens his hand so liberally to creatures of another rank!
3. The goodness of God is seen in taking care of the meanest rational creatures; as servants and criminals. He provided for the liberty of slaves, and would not have their chains continue longer than the seventh year, unless they would voluntarily continue under the power of their masters; and that upon pain of his displeasure, and the withdrawing his blessing (Deut. 15:18). And though, by the laws of many nations, masters had an absolute power of life and death over their servants, yet God provided that no member should be lamed, not an eye, no, nor a tooth, struck out, but the master was to pay for his folly and fury the price of the “liberty of his servant” (Exod. 21:26, 27): he would not suffer the abused servant to be any longer under the power of that man that had not humanity to use him as one of the same kindred and blood with himself. And though those servants might be never so wicked, yet, when unjustly afflicted, God would interest himself as their guardian in their protection and delivery. And when a poor slave had been provoked, by the severity of his master’s fury, to turn fugitive from him, he was, by Divine order, not to be delivered up again to his master’s fury, but dwell in that city, and with that person, to whom he had “fled for refuge” (Deut. 23:15, 16). And when public justice was to be admininistered upon the lesser sort of criminals, the goodness of God ordered the “number of blows” not to exceed forty, and left not the fury of man to measure out the punishment to excess (Deut. 25:3). And in any just quarrel against a provoking and injuring enemy, he ordered them not to ravage with the sword till they had summoned a rendition of the place (Deut. 20:10). And as great a care he took of the poor, that they should have the gleanings both of the vineyard and field (Lev. 19:10; 23:22), and not be forced to pay “usury for the money lent them” (Exod. 22:25).
4. His goodness is seen in taking care of the wickedest persons. “The earth is full of his goodness” (Psalm 37:5). The wicked as well as the good enjoy it; they that dare lift up their hands against heaven in the posture of rebels, as well as those that lift up their eyes in the condition of suppliants. To do good to a criminal, far surmounts that goodness that flows down upon an innocent object: now God is not only good to those that have some degrees of goodness, but to those that have the greatest degrees of wickedness, to men that turn his liberality into affronts of him, and have scarce an appetite to anything but the violation of his authority and goodness. Though, upon the fall of Adam, we have lost the pleasant habitation of paradise, and the creatures made for our use are fallen from their original excellency and sweetness; yet he hath not left the world utterly incommodious for us, but yet stores it with things not only for the preservation, but delight of those that make their whole lives invectives against this good God. Manna fell from heaven for the rebellious as well as for the obedient Israelites. Cain as well as Abel, and Esau as well as Jacob, had the influences of his sun, and the benefits of his showers. The world is yet a kind of paradise to the veriest beasts among mankind; the earth affords its riches, the heavens its showers, and the sun its light, to those that injure and blaspheme him: “He makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:45). The wiekedest breathe in his air, walk upon his earth, and drink of his water, as well as the best. The sun looks with as pleasant and bright an eye upon a rebellious Absalom, as a righteous David; the earth yields its plants and medicines to one as well as to the other; it is seldom that He deprives any of the faculties of their souls, or any members of their bodies. God distributes his blessings where he might shoot his thunders; and darts his light on those who deserve an eternal darkness; and presents the good things of the earth to those that merit the miseries of hell; for “the earth, and the fulness thereof, is the Lord’s” (Psalm 24:1); everything in it is his in propriety, ours in trust; it is his corn, his wine (Hos. 2:8); he never divested himself of the propriety, though he grants us the use; and by those good things he supports multitudes of wicked men, not one or two, but the whole shoal of them in the world; for he is “the Saviour of all men,” i. e. is the preserver of all men (1 Tim. 4:10). And as he created them, when he foresaw they would be wicked; so he provides for them, when he beholds them in their ungodliness. The ingratitude of men stops not the current of his bounty, nor tires his liberal hand; howsoever unprofitable and injurious men are to him, he is liberal to them; and his goodness is the more admirable, by how much the more the unthankfulness of men is provoking: he sometimes affords to the worst a greater portion of these earthly goods; they often swim in wealth, when others pine away, their lives in poverty. And the silk-worm yields its bowels to make purple for tyrants, while the oppressed scarce have from the sheep wool enough to cover their nakedness; and though he furnish men with those good things, upon no other account than what princes do, when they nourish criminals in a prison till the time of their execution, it is a mark of his goodness. Is it not the kindness of a prince to treat his rebels deliciously? to give them the liberty of the prison, and the enjoyments of the delights of the place, rather than to load their legs with fetters, and lodge them in a dark and loathsome dungeon, till he orders them, for their crime, to be conducted to the scaffold or gibbet? Since God is thus kind to the vilest men, whose meanness, by reason of sin, is beyond that of any other creature, as to shoot such rays of goodness upon them; how inexpressible would be the expressions of his goodness, if the Divine image were as pure and bright upon them as it was upon innocent Adam!
2d. 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.
1. This goodness appears in prescribing rules for it. The moral law consists but of ten precepts, and there are more of them ordered for the support of human society, than for the adoration and honor of himself (Exod. 20:1, 2); four for the rights of God, and six for the rights of man, and his security in his authority, relations, life, goods, and reputation; superiors not to be dishonored, life not to be invaded, chastity not to be stained, goods not to be filched, good name not to be cracked by false witness, nor anything belonging to our neighbor to be coveted; and in the whole Scripture, not only that which was calculated for the Jews, but compiled for the whole world; he hath fixed rules for the ordering all relations, magistrates, and subjects; parents and children; husbands and wives; masters and servants; rich and poor, find their distinct qualifications and duties. There would be a paradisiacal state, if men had a goodness to observe what God hath had a goodness to order for the strengthening the sinews of human society; the world would not groan under oppressing tyrants, nor princes tremble under discontented subjects, or mighty rebels; children would not be provoked to anger by the unreasonableness of their parents, nor parents sink under grief by the rebellion of their children; masters would not tyrannize over the meanest of their servants, nor servants invade the authority of their masters.
2. The goodness of God in the preserving human society, is seen in setting a magistracy to preserve it. Magistracy is from God in its original; the charter was drawn up in paradise; civil subordination must have been had man remained in innocence; but the charter was more explicitly renewed and enlarged at the restoration of the world after the deluge, and given out to man under the broad seal of heaven; “Whoso sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed” (Gen. 9:6). The command of shedding the blood of a murderer was a part of his goodness, to secure the lives of those that bore his image. Magistrates are “the shields of the earth,” but they “belong to God” (Psalm 47:9). They are fruits of his goodness in their original, and authority; were there no magistracy, there would be no government, no security to any man under his own vine and fig tree; the world would be a den of wild beasts preying upon one another; every one would do what seems good in his eyes; the loss of government is a judgment God brings upon a nation when men become “as the fishes of the sea,” to devour one another, because they “have no ruler over them” (Hab. 1:14). Private dissensions will break out into public disorders and combustions.
3. The goodness of God in the preservation of human society, is seen in the restraints of the passions of men. He sets bounds to the passions of men as well as to the rollings of the sea; “He stilleth the noise of the waves, and the tumults of the people” (Psalm 65:7). Though God hath erected a magistracy to stop the breaking out of those floods of licentiousness, which swell in the hearts of men; yet, if God should not hold stiff reins on the necks of those tumultuous and foaming passions, the world would be a place of unruly confusion, and hell triumph upon earth; a crazy state would be quickly broke in pieces by boisterous nature. The tumults of a people could no more be quelled by the force of man, than the rage of the sea by a puff of breath; without Divine goodness, neither the wisdom nor watchfulness of the magistrates, nor the industry of officers, could preserve a state. The laws of men would be too slight to curb the lusts of men, if the goodness of God did not restrain them by a secret hand, and interweave their temporal security with observance of those laws. The sons of Belial did murmur when Saul was chosen king; and that they did no more was the goodness of God, for the preservation of human society. If God did not restrain the impetuousness of men’s lusts, they would be the entire ruin of human society; their lusts would render them as bad as beasts, and change the world into a savage wilderness.
4. The goodness of God is seen in the preservation of human society, in giving various inclinations to men for public advantage. If all men had an inclination to one science or art, they would all stand idle spectators of one another; but God hath bestowed various dispositions and gifts upon men, for the promoting the common good, that they may not only be useful to themselves, but to society. He will have none idle, none unuseful, but every one acting in a due place, according to their measures, for the good of others.
5. The goodness of God is seen in the witness he bears against those sins that disturb human society. In those cases he is pleased to interest himself in a more signal manner, to cool those that make it their business to overturn the order he hath established for the good of the earth. He doth not so often in this world punish those faults committed immediately against his own honor, as those that put the world into a hurry and confusion: as a good governor is more merciful to crimes against himself, than those against his community. It is observed that the most turbulent seditious persons in a state come to most violent ends, as Corah, Adonijah, Zimri: Ahithopel draws Absalom’s sword against David and Israel, and the next is , he twists a halter for himself: Absalom heads a party against his father, and God, by a goodness to Israel, hangs him up, and prevents not its safety by David’s indulgence, and a future rebellion, had life been spared by the fondness of his father. His providence is more evident in discovering disturbers, and the causes that move them, in defeating their enterprises, and digging the contrivers out of their caverns and lurking holes: in such cases, God doth so act, and use such methods, that he silenceth any creature from challenging any partnership with him in the discovery. He doth more severely in this world correct those actions that unlink the mutual assistance between man and man, and the charitable and kind correspondence he would have kept up. The sins for which the “wrath of God comes upon the children of disobedience” (Col. 3:5, 6) in this world are of this sort; and when princes will be oppressing the people, God will be “pouring contempt on the princes, and set the poor on high from affliction” (Psalm 107:40, 41). An evidence of God’s care and kindness in the preserving human society, is those strange discoveries of murders, though never so clandestine and subtilly committed, more than of any other crime among men: Divine care never appears more than in bringing those hidden and injurious works of darkness to light, and a due punishment.
6. His goodness is seen in ordering mutual offices to one another against the current of men’s passions. Upon this account he ordered, in his laws for the government of the Israelites, that a man should reduce the wandering beast of his enemy to the hand of his rightful proprietor, though he were a provoking enemy; and also “help the poor beast that belonged to one that hated him, when he saw him sink under his burden” (Exod. 23:4, 5). When mutual assistance was necessary, he would not have men considered as enemies, or considered as wicked, but as of the same blood with ourselves, that we might be serviceable to one another for the preservation of life and goods.
7. His goodness is seen in remitting something of his own right, for the preserving a due dependence and subjection. He declines the right he had to the vows of a minor, or one under the power of another, waving what he might challenge by the voluntary obligation of his creature, to keep up the due order between parents and children, husbands and wives, superiors and inferiors; those that were under the power of another, as a child under his parents, or a wife under her husband, if they had [vowed a vow unto the Lord,] which concerned his honor and worship, it was void without the approbation of that person under whose charge they were (Num. 30:3, 4, &c.). Though God was the Lord of every man’s goods, and men but his stewards; and though he might have taken to himself what another had offered by a vow , since whatsoever could be offered was God’s own, though it was not the parties’ own who offered it; yet God would not have himself adored by his creature to the prejudice of the necessary ties of human society; he lays aside what he might challenge by his sovereign dominion, that tbere might not be any breach of that regular order which was necessary for the preservation of the world. If Divine goodness did not thus order things, he would not do the part of a Rector of the world; the beauty of the world would be much defaced, it would be a confused mass of men and women, or rather, beasts and bedlams. Order renders every city, every nation, yea, the whole earth, beautiful: this is an effect of Divine goodness.
3d. His goodness is evident in encouraging anything of moral goodness in the world. Though moral goodness cannot claim an eternal reward, yet it hath been many times rewarded with a temporal happiness; he hath often siganlly rewarded acts of honesty, justice, and fidelity, and punished the contrary by his judgments, to deter man from such an unworthy practice, and encourage others to what was comely, and of a general good report in the world. Ahab’s humiliation put a demurrer to God’s judgments intended against him; and some ascribe the great victories and success of the Romans to that justice which was observed among themselves. Baruch was but an amanuensis to the Prophet Jeremy to write his prophecy, and very despondent of his own welfare (Jer. 45:13); God upon that account provides for his safety, and rewards the industry of his service with the security of his person; he was not a statesman, to declare against the corrupt counsels of them that sat at the helm, nor a prophet, to declare against their profane practices, but the prophet’s scribe; and as he writes in God’s service the prophecies revealed to the prophet, God writes his name in the roll of those that were designed for preservation in that deluge of judgments which were to come upon that nation. Epicurus complained of the administration of God, that the virtuous moralist had not sufficient smiles of Divine favor, nor the swinish sensualist frowns of Divine indignation. But what if they have not always that confluence of outward wealth and pleasures, but remain in the common level? yet they have the happiness and satisfaction of a clear reputation, the esteem of men, and the secret applauses of their very enemies, besides the inward ravishments upon an exercise of virtue, and the commendatory subscription of their own hearts, a dainty the vicious man knows not of; they have an inward applause from God as a reward of Divine goodness, instead of those racks of conscience upon which the profane are sometimes stretched. He will not let the worst men do him any service (though they never intended in the act of service him, but themselves) without giving them their wages: he will not let them hit him in the teeth as if he were beholden to them. If Nebuchadnezzar be the instrument of God’s judgments against Tyrus and Israel, he will not only give him that rich city, but a richer country, Egypt, the granary for her neighbors, a wages above his work. In this is Divine goodness eminent, since, in the most moral actions, as there is something beautiful, so there is something mixed, hateful to the infinitely exact holiness of the Divine nature; yet he will not let that which is pleasing to him go unrewarded, and defeat the expectations of men, as men do with those they employ, when, for one flaw in an action, they deny them the reward due for the other part. God encouraged and kept up morality in the cities of the Gentiles for the entertainment of a further goodness in the doctrine of the gospel when it should be published among them.
4th. Divine goodness is eminent in providing a Scripture as a rule to guide us, and continuing it in the world. If man be a rational creature, governable by a law, can it be imagined there should be no revelation of that law to him? Man, by the light of reason, must needs confess himself to be in another condition than he was by creation, when he came first out of the hands of God; and can it be thought, that God should keep up the world under so many sins against the light of nature, and bestow so many providential influences, to invite men to return to him, and aequaint no men in the world with the means of that return? Would he exact an obedience of men, as their consciences witness he doth, and furnish them with no rules to guide them in the darkness they cannot but acknowledge that they have contracted? No; Divine goodness hath otherwise provided: this Bible we have is his word and rule. Had it been a falsity and imposture, would that goodness, that watches over the world, have continued it so long? That goodness that overthrew the burdensome rites of Moses, and expelled the foolish idolatry of the Pagans, would have discovered the imposture of this, had it not been a transcript of his own will. Whatever mistakes he suffers to remain in the world, what goodness had there been to suffer this anciently amongst the Jews, and afterwards to open it to the whole worlds, to abuse men in religion and worship, which so nearly concerned himself and his own honor, that the world should be deceived by the devil without a remedy in the morning of its appearance? It hath been honored and admired by some heathens, when they have cast their eyes upon it, and their natural light made them behold some footsteps of a Divinity in it. If this, therefore, be not a Divine prescript, let any that deny it, bring as good arguments for any book else, as can be brought for this. Now, the publishing this is an argument of Divine goodness: it is designed to win the affections of beggarly man, to be espoused to a God of eternal blessedness and immense riches. It speaks words in season: no doubts but it resolves; no spiritual distemper but it cures; no condition but it hath a comfort to suit it. It is a garden which the hand of Divine bounty hath planted for us; in it be condescends to shadow himself in those expressions that render him in some manner intelligible to us. Had God wrote in a loftiness of style suitable to the greatness of his majesty, his writing had been as little understood by us, as the brightness of his glory can be beheld by us. But he draws phrases from our affairs, to express his mind to us; he incarnates himself in his word to our minds, before his Son was incarnate in the flesh to the eyes of men: he ascribes to himself eyes, ears, hands, that we might have, from the consideration of ourselves, and the whole human nature, a conception of his perfections: he assumes to himself the members of our bodies, to direct our understandings in the knowledge of his Deity; this is his goodness.
Again, though the Scripture was written upon several occasions, yet in the dictating of it, the goodness of God cast his eye upon the last ages of the world (1 Cor. 10:11): “They are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” It was given to the Israelites, but Divine goodness intended it for the future Gentiles. The old writings of the prophets were thus designed, much more the later writings of the apostles. Thus did Divine goodness think of us, and prepare his records for us, before we were in the world: these he hath written plain for our instruction, and wrapped up in them what is necessary for our salvation: it is clear to inform our understanding, and rich to comfort us in our misery; it is a light to guide us, and a cordial to refresh us; it is a lamp to our feet, and a medicine for our diseases; a purifier of our filth, and a restorer of us in our faintings. He hath by his goodness sealed the truth of it, by his efficacy on multitudes of men: he hath made it the “word of regeneration” (James 1:18). Men, wilder and more monstrous than beasts, have been tamed and changed by the power of it: it hath raised multitudes of dead men from a grave fuller of horror than any earthly one. Again, Goodness was in all ages sending his letters of advice and counsel from heaven, till the canon of the Scripture was closed; sometimes he wrote to chide a froward people, sometimes to cheer up an oppressed and disconsolate people, according to the state wherein they were; as we may observe by the several seasons wherein parts of Scripture were written. It was His goodness that he first revealed anything of his will after the fall; it was a further degree of goodness, that he would add more cubits to its stature; before he would lay aside his pencil, it grew up to that bulk wherein we have it. And his goodness is further seen in the preserving it; he hath triumphed over the powers that opposed it, and showed himself good to the instruments that propagated it: he hath maintained it against the blasts of hell, and spread it in all languages against the obstructions of men and devils. The sun of his word is by his kindness preserved in our horizon, as well as the sun in the heavens. How admirable is Divine goodness! He hath sent his Son to die for us, and his written word to instruct us, and his Spirit to edge it for an entrance into our souls: he hath opened the womb of the earth to nourish us, and sent down the records of heaven to direct us in our pilgrimage: he hath provided the earth for our habitation, while we are travellers, and sent his word to acquaint us with a felicity at the end of our journey, and the way to attain in another world what we want in this, viz. a happy immortality.
5th. His goodness in his government is evident, in conversions of men. though this work be wrought by his power, yet his power was first solicited by his goodness. It was his rich goodness that he would employ his power to pierce the scales of a heart as hard as those of the “leviathan.” It was this that opened the ears of men to hear him, and draws them from the hurry of worldly cares, and the charms of sensual pleasures, and, which is the top of all, the impostures and cheats of their own hearts. It is this that sends a spark of his wrath into men’s consciences, to put them to a stand in sin, that he might not send down a shower of brimstone eternally to consume their persons. This it was that first showed you the excellency of the Redeemer, and brought you to taste the sweetness of his blood, and find your security in the agonies of his death. It is his goodness to call one man and not another, to turn Paul in his course, and lay hold of no other of his companions. It is his goodness to call any, when he is not bound to call one.
1. It is his goodness to pitch upon mean and despicable men in the eye of the world; to call this poor publican, and overlook that proud Pharisee, this man that sits upon a dunghill, and neglect him that glisters in his purple. His majesty is not enticed by the lofty titles of men, nor, which is more worth, by the learning and knowledge of men. “Not many wise, not many mighty,” not many doctors, not many lords, though some of them; but his goodness condescends to the “base things” of the world, and things which are “despised” (1 Cor. 1:26–28). “The poor receive the gospel” (Matt. 11:5), when those that are more acute, and furnished with a more apprehensive reason, are not touched by it.
2. The worst men. He seizeth sometimes upon men most soiled, and neglects others that seem more clean and less polluted. He turns men in their course in sin, that, by their infernal practices, have seemed to have gone to school to hell, and to have sucked in the sole instructions of the devil. He lays hold upon some when they are most under actual demerit, and snatches them as fire-brands out of the fire, as upon Paul when fullest of rage against him; and shoots a beam of grace, where nothing could be justly expected but a thunderbolt of wrath. It is his goodness to visit any, when they he putrefying in their loathsome lusts; to draw near to them who have been guilty of the greatest contempt of God, and the light of nature; the murdering Manassehs, the persecuting Sauls, the Christ-crucifying Jews,—persons in whom lusts had had a peaceable possession and empire for many years.
3. His goodness appears in converting men possessed with the greatest enmity against him, while he was dealing with them. All were in such a state, and framing contrivances against him, when Divine goodness knocked at the door (Col. 1:21). He looked after us when our backs were turned upon him, and sought us when we slighted him, and were a “gainsaying people” (Rom. 10:21); when we had shaken off his convictions, and contended with our Maker, and mustered up the powers of nature against the alarms of conscience; struggled like wild bulls in a net, and blunted those darts that stuck in our souls. Not a man that is turned to him, but had lifted up the heel against his gospel grace, as well as made light of his creating goodness. Yet it hath employed itself about such ungrateful wretches, to polish those knotty and rugged pieces for heaven; and so invincibly, that he would not have his goodness defeated by the fierceness and rebellion of the flesh. Though the thing was more difficult in itself (if anything may be said to have a difficulty to omnipotency) than to make a stone live, or to turn a straw into a marble pillar. The malice of the flesh makes a man more unfit for the one, than the nature of the straw unfits it for the other.
4. His goodness appears in turning men, when they were pleased with their own misery, and unable to deliver themselves; when they preferred a hell before him, and were in love with their own vileness; when his call was our torment, and his neglect of us had been accounted our felicity. Was it not a mighty goodness to keep the light close to our eyes, when we endeavored to blow it out; and the corrosive near to our hearts, when we endeavored to tear it off, being more fond of our disease than the remedy? We should have been scalded to death with the Sodomite, had not God laid his good hand upon us, and drawn us from the approaching ruin we affected, and were loath to be freed from. And had we been displeased with our state, yet we had been as unable spiritually to raise ourselves from sin to grace, as to raise ourselves naturally from nothing to being. In this state we were when his goodness triumphed over us; when he put a hook into our nostrils, to turn us in order to our salvation; and drew us out of the pit which we had digged, when he might have left us to sink under the rigors of his justice we had merited. Now this goodness in conversion is greater than that in creation; as in creation there is nothing to oppose him, so there was nothing to disoblige him; creation was terminated to the good of a mutable nature, and conversion tends to a supernatural good. God pronounced all creatures good at first, and man among the rest, but did not pronounce any of them, or man himself, his “portion,” his “inheritance,” his “segullah,” his “house,” his “diadem.” He speaks slightly of all those things which he made, the noblest heavens, as well as the lowest earth, in comparison of a true convert: “All those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been: but to this man will I look, to him that is of a contrite spirit” (Isa. 66:1, 2). It is more goodness to give the espousing grace of the covenant, than the completing glory of heaven; as it is more for a prince to marry a beggar, than only to bring her to live deliciously in his courts. All other benefits are of a meaner strain, if compared with this; there is little less of goodness in imparting the holiness of his nature, than imputing the righteousness of his Son.
6th. The Divine goodness doth appear in answering prayers. He delights to be familiarly acquainted with his people, and to hear them call upon him. He indulgeth them a free access to him, and delights in every address of an “upright man” (Prov. 15:8). The wonderful efficacy of prayer depends not upon the nature of our petitions or the temper of our soul, but the goodness of God to whom we address. Christ establisheth it upon this bottom: when he exhorts to ask in his name, he tells them the spring of all their grants is the Father’s love: “I say not, I will pray the Father for you, for the Father himself loves you” (John 16:26, 27). And since it is of itself incredible, that a Majesty, exalted above the cherubims, should stoop so low as to give a miserable and rebellious creature admittance to him, and afford him a gracious hearing, and a quick supply, Christ ushers in the promise of answering prayer with a note of great assurance: “I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you” (Luke 11:9, 10). I, that know the mind of my Father, and his good disposition, assure you your prayer shall not be in vain. Perhaps you will not be so ready of yourselves to imagine so great a liberality; but take it upon my word, it is true, and so you will find it. And his bounty travels, as it were, in birth, to give the greatest blessings, upon our asking, rather than the smallest: “your heavenly Father shall give his Holy Spirit to them that ask him” (ver. 13): which in Matt. 7:11, is called, “good things.” Of all the good and rich things Divine goodness hath in his treasury, he delights to give the best upon asking, because God doth act so as to manifest the greatness of his bounty and magnificence to men; and, therefore, is delighted when men, by their petitioning him, own such a liberal disposition in him, and put him upon the manifesting it. He would rather you should ask the greatest things heaven can afford, than the trifles of this world; because his bounty is not discovered in meaner gifts: he loves to have an opportunity to manifest his affection above the liberality and tenderness of worldly fathers. He doth more wait to give in a way of grace, than we to beg; and, “therefore, will the Lord wait, that be may be gracious unto you” (Isa. 30:18). He stands expecting your suits, and employs his wisdom in pitching upon the fittest seasons, when the manifestation of his goodness may be most gracious in itself, and the mercy you want most welcome to you; as it follows, “for the Lord is a God of judgment.” He chooseth the time wherein his doles may be most acceptable to his suppliants; “In an acceptable time have I heard thee” (Isa. 49:8). He often opens his hand while we are opening our lips, and his blessings meet our petitions at the first setting out upon their journey to heaven: “While they are yet speaking, I will hear” (Isa. 65:24). How often do we hear a secret voice within us, while we are praying, saying, “Your prayer is granted;” as well as hear a voice behind us, while we are erring, saying, “This is the way, walk in it!” And his liberality exceeds often our desires, as well as our deserts; and gives out more than we had the wisdom or confidence to ask. The apostle intimates it in that doxology, “Unto Him who is able to do abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20). This power would not have been so strong an argument of comfort, if it were never put in practice: he is more liberal than his creatures are craving. Abraham petitioned for the life of Ishmael, and God promiseth him the “birth of Isaac” (Gen.
17:18, 19). Isaac asks for a “child,” and God gives him “two” (Gen.25:21, 22). Jacob desires “food” to eat, and “raiment” to put on; God confines not his bounty within the narrow limits of his petition, but instead of a “staff,” wherewith he passed Jordan, makes him repass it with “two bands” (Gen. 28:20). David asked life of God, and he gave him “life,” and a “crown” to boot (Psalm 21:2–5). The Israelites would have been contented with a free life in Egypt; they only cried to have their chains struck off; God gave them that, and adopts them to be his “peculiar people,” and raises them into a famous state. It is a wonder that God should condescend so much, that he should hear prayers so weak, so cold, so wandering, and gather up our sincere petitions from the dung of our distractions and diffidence. David vents his astonishment at it; “Blessed be God, for he hath shown me marvellous kindness. I said in my haste, I am cut off from before thine eyes: nevertheless, thou heardest the voice of my supplication” (Psalm 31:21, 22). How do we wonder at the goodness of a petty man, in granting our desires; how much more should we at the humility and goodness of the most sovereign Majesty of heaven and earth!
7th. The goodness of God is seen in bearing with the infirmities of his people, and accepting imperfect obedience. Though Asa had many blots in his escutcheon, yet they are overlooked, and this note set upon record by Divine goodness, that his heart was perfeet towards the Lord all his days; “But the high places were not removed: nevertheless, Asa’s heart was perfect with the Lord all his days” (1 Kings 15:14). He takes notice of a sincere, though chequered obedience, to reward it, which could claim nothing but a slight from him, if he were extreme to mark what is done amiss. When there is not an opportunity to work, but only to will, he accepts the will, as if it had passed into work and act. He sees no iniquity in Jacob (Num. 23:21), i. e. He sees it not so as to cast off a respect to their persons, and the acceptance of their services: his omniscience knows their sins, but his goodness doth not reject their persons. He is of so good a disposition, that he delights in a weak obedience of his servants, not in the imperfection, but in the obedience (Psalm 37:23); “He delights in the way of a good man,” though he sometimes slips in it: he accepts a poor man’s pigeon, as well as a rich man’s ox: he hath a bottle for the tears, and a book for the “services of the upright,” as well as for the most perfect obedience of angels (Psalm 56:8): he preserves their tears, as if they were a rich and generous wine, as the vine-dresser doth the expressions of the grape.
8th. The goodness of God is seen in afflictions and persecutions. If it be “good for us to be afflicted,” for which we have the psalmist’s vote (Psalm 119:71:), then goodness in God is the principal cause and orderer of the afflictions. It is his goodness to snatch away that whence we fetch supports for our security, and encouragements for our insolence against him: he takes away the thing which we have some value for, but such as his infinite wisdom sees inconsistent with our true happiness. It is no ill-will in the physician to take away the hurtful matter the patient loves, and prescribe bitter potions, to advance that health which the other impaired; nor any mark of unkindness in a friend, to wrest a sword out of a madman’s hand, wherewith he was about to stab himself, though it were beset with the most orient pearls.
To prevent what is evil, is to do us the greatest good. It is a kindness to prevent a man from falling down a precipice, though it be with a violent blow, that lays him flat upon the ground at some distance from the edge of it. By afflictions he often snaps asunder those chains which fettered us, and quells those passions which ravaged us: he sharpens our faith, and quickens our prayers; he brings us in the secret chamber of our own heart, which we had little mind before to visit by a self-examination. It is such a goodness that he will vouchsafe to correct man in order to his eternal happiness, that Job makes it one part of his astonishment (Job 7:17); “What is man, that thou shouldest magnify him? that thou shouldest set thy heart upon him? and that thou shouldest visit him every morning, and try him every moment?” His strokes are often the magnifyings and exaltings of man. He sets his heart upon man, while he inflicts the smart of his rod: he shows thereby, what a high account he makes of him, and what a special affection he bears to him. When he might treat us with more severity after the breach of his covenant, and make his jealousy flame out against us in furious methods, he will not destroy his relation to us, and leave us to our own inclinations, but deal with us as a father with his children; and when he takes this course with us, it is when it cannot be avoided without our ruin: his goodness would not suffer him to do it, if our badness did not force him to it (Jer. 9:7), “I will melt them and try them, for how shall I do for the daughter of my people?” What other course can I take but this, according to the nature of man? The goldsmith hath no other way to separate the dross from the metal, but by melting it down. And when the impurities of his people necessitate him to this proceeding, “he sits as a refiner” (Matt. 3:3): he watches for the purifying the silver, not for his own profit as the goldsmith, but out of a care of them, and good will to them; as himself speaks (Isa. 48:10), “I have refined thee, but not with silver;” or, as some read it, “not for silver.” As when he scatters his people abroad for their sin, he will not leave them without his presence for their “sanctuary” (Ezek. 11:16): he would by his presence with them supply the place of ordinances, or be an ark to them in the midst of the deluge: his hand that struck them, is never without a goodness to comfort them and pity them. When Jacob was to go into Egypt, which was to prove a furnace of affliction to his offspring, God promises to go down with him, and to “bring him up again” (Gen. 46:4): a promise not only made to Jacob in his person, but to Jacob in his posterity. He returned not out of Egypt in his person, but as the father of a numerous posterity. He that would go down with their root, and afterwards bring up the branches, was certainly with them in all their oppressions: “I will go down with thee.” “Down,” saith one; what a word is that for a Deity! into Egypt, idolatrous Egypt; what a place is that for his holiness!
Yet O, the goodness of God! He never thinks himself low enough to do his people good, nor any place too bad for his society with them. So when he had sent away into captivity the people of Israel by the hand of the Assyrian, his bowels yearn after them in their affliction (Isa. 52:4, 5); the Assyrian “oppressed them without cause,” i. e. without a just cause in the conqueror to inflict so great an evil upon them, but not without cause from God, whom they had provoked. “Now, therefore, what have I here, saith the Lord?” What do I here? I will not stay behind them. What do I longer here? for I will redeem again those jewels the enemy hath carried away. That chapter is a prophecy of redemption: God shows himself so good to his people in their persecutions, that he gives them occasion to glorify him in the very fires, as the Divine order is (Isa. 24:15), “Wherefore glorify the Lord in the fires.”
9th. The goodness of God is seen in temptations. In those he takes occasion to show his care and watchfulness, as a father uses the distress of a child as an opportunity for manifesting the tenderness of his affection. God is at the beginning and end of every temptation; he measures out both the quality and quantity: he exposeth them not to temptation beyond the ability he had already granted them, or will at the time, or afterwards multiply in them. He hath promised his people that “the gate of hell shall not prevail against them” (1 Cor. 10:13): that “in all things” they shall be “more than conquerors through Him that loved them.” that the most raging malice of hell shall not wrest them out of his hands. His goodness is not less in performing than it was in promising and as the care of his providence extends to the least as well as the greatest, so the watchfulness of his goodness extends to us in the least as well as in the greatest temptations.
1. The goodness of God appears in shortening temptations. None of them can go beyond their “appointed times” (Dan. 11:35): the strong blast Satan breathes cannot blow, nor the waves he raises rage one minute beyond the time God allows them; when they have done their work, and come to the period of their time, God speaks the word, and the wind and sea of hell must obey him, and retire into their dens. The more violent temptations are, the shorter time doth God allot to them. The assaults Christ had at the time of his death were of the most pressing and urging nature: the powers of darkness were all in arms against him; the reproaches and scorns put upon him, questioning his sonship, were very sharp; yet a little before his suffering he calls it but an hour (Luke 22:53), “This is your hour, and the power of darkness.” A short time that men and devils were combined against him; and the time of temptation that is to come upon all the world for their trial, is called but an “hour” (Rev. 3:10). In all such attempts, the greatness of the rage is a certain prognostic of the shortness of the season (Rev. 12:12).
2. The goodness of God appears in strengthening his geople under temptations. If he doth not restrain the arm of Satan from striking, he gives us a sword to manage the combat, and a shield to bear off the blow (Eph. 6:16, 17). If he obscures his goodness in one part, he clears and brightens it in another: he either binds the strong man that he shall not stir, or gives us armor to render us victorious. If we fall, it is not for want of provision from him, but for want of our “putting on the armor of God” (Eph. 6:11, 13). When we have not a strength by nature, he gives it us by grace: he often quells those passions within which would join hands with, and second the temptation without. He either qualifies the temptation suitably to the force we have, or else supplies us with a new strength to mate the temptation he intends to let loose against us; he knows we are but dust, and his goodness will not have us unequally matched. The Jews that in Antiochus’ time were under great temptation to apostasy by reason of the violence of their persecutions, were, “out of weakness, made strong” for the combat (Heb. 11:34). The Spirit came more strongly upon Sampson when the Philistines most furiously and confidently assaulted him. His Spirit is sent to strengthen his people before the devil is permitted to tempt them (Matt. 4:2; “Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit.” Then; When? When the Spirit had in an extraordinary manner descended upon him (Matt. 3:16), “then,” and not before. As the angels appeared to Christ, after his temptation, to minister to him, so they appeared to him before his passion, the time of the strongest powers of darkness, to strengthen him for it: he is so good, that when he knows our potsherd strength too weak, he furnisheth our recruits from his own omnipotence (Eph. 6:10); “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” He doth, as it were, breathe in something of is own almightiness, to assist us in our wrestling against principalities and powers, and make us capable to sustain the violent storms of the enemies.
3. The goodness of God is seen in temptations, in giving great comforts in or after them. The Israelites had a more immediate provision of manna from heaven when they were in the wilderness. We read not that the Father spake audibly to the Son, and gave him so loud a testimony, that he was his “beloved Son, in whom he was well pleased,” till he was upon the brink of strong temptations (Matt. 3:17): nor sent angels to minister immediately to his person, till after his success (Matt. 4:11). Job never had such evidences of Divine love till after he had felt the sharp strokes of Satan’s malice; he had heard of God before, by the “hearing of the ear,” but afterwards is admitted into greater familiarity (Job 42:5): he had more choice appearances, clearer illuminations, and more lively instructions. And, though his people fall into temptation, yet, after their rising, they have more signal marks of his favor than others have, or themselves, before they fell. Peter had been the butt of Satan’s rage, in tempting him to deny Christ, and he had shamefully complied with the temptation; yet, to him particularly, must the first news of the Redeemer’s resurrection be carried, by God’s order, in the mouth of an angel (Mark 16:7); “Go your ways, tell his disciples, and Peter.” We have the greatest communion with God after a victory; the most refreshing truths after the devil hath done his worst. God is ready to furnish us with strength in a combat, and cordials after it.
4. The goodness of God is seen in temptations, in discovering and advancing inward grace by this means. The issue of a temptation of a Christian is often like that of Christ’s, the manifesting a greater vigor of the Divine nature, in affections to God, and enmity to sin. Spices perfume not the air with their scent till they are invaded by the fire: the truth of grace is evidenced by them. The assault of an enemy revives, and actuates that strength and courage which is in a man, perhaps unknown to himself, as well as others, till he meets with an adversary: many seem good, not that they are so in themselves, but for want of a temptation: this many times verifies a virtue, which was owned upon trust before, and discovers that we had more grace than we thought we had. The solicitations of Joseph’s mistress cleared up his chastity: we are many times under temptation, as a candle under the snuffer; it seems to be out, but presently burns the clearer. Afflictions are like those clouds which look black, and eclipse the sun from the earth, but yet, when they drop, refresh that ground they seem to threaten, and multiply the gram on the earth, to serve for our food; and so our troubles, while they wet us to the skin, wash much of that dust from our graces which in a clearer day had been blown upon us. Too much rest corrupts; exercise teacheth us to manage our weapons: the spiritual armor would grow rusty, without opportunity to furbish it up; faith receives a new heart by every combat, and by every victory; like a fire, it spreads itself further, and gathers strength by the blowing of the wind. While the gardener commands his servant to shake the tree, he intends to fasten its roots, and settle it firmer in its place; and is this an ill-will to the plant?
5. His goodness is seen in temptations, in preventing sin which we were likely to fall into. Paul’s thorn in the flesh was to prevent the pride of his spirit, and let out the windiness of his heart (2 Cor. 12:7), lest it should be exalted above measure. The goodness of God makes the devil a polisher, while he intends to be a destroyer. The devil never works, but suitably to some corruption lurking in us: Divine goodness makes his fiery darts a means to discover, and so to prevent the treachery of that perfidious inmate in our hearts; humility is a greater benefit than a putrefying pride; if God brings us into a wilderness to be tempted of the evil, it is to bring down our loftiness, to starve our carnal confidence, and expel our rusting “security” (Deut. 8:2); we many times fly under a temptation to God, from whom we sat too loose before. Is it not goodness to use those means that may drive us into his own arms? It is not a want of goodness to soap the garment, in order to take away the spots; we have reason to bless God for the assaults from hell, as well as pure mercies from heaven; and it is a sin to overlook the one as well as the other, since Divine goodness shines in both.
8. The goodness of God is seen in temptations, in fitting us more for his service. Those whom God intends to make choice instruments in his service, are first seasoned with strong temptations, as timber reserved for the strong beams of a building is first exposed to sun and wind, to make it more compact for its proper use. By this men are brought to answer the end of their creation, the service of God, which is their proper goodness. Peter was, after his foil by a temptation, more courageous in his Master’s cause than before, and the more fitted to strengthen his brethren.
Thus the goodness of God appears in all parts of his government.
V. I shall now come to the Use. First, Of instruction.
1. If God be so good, how unworthy is the contempt or abuse of his goodness! (1.) The contempt and abuse of Divine goodness is frequent and common; it began in the first ages of the world, and commenced a few moments after the creation; it hath not to this day diminished its affronts; Adam began the dance, and his posterity have followed him; the injury was directed against this, when he entertained the seducer’s notion of God’s being an envious Deity, in not indulging such a knowledge as he might have afforded him (Gen. 3:5): “God doth know, that you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” The charge of envy is utterly inconsistent with pure goodness. What was the language of this notion, so easily entertained by Adam, but that the tempter was better than God, and the nature of God as base and sordid as the nature of a devil! Satan paints God with his own colors, represents him as envious and malicious as himself; Adam admires, and believes the picture to be true, and hangs it up as a beloved one in the closet of his heart. The devil still drives on the same game, fills men’s hearts with the same sentiments, and by the same means he murdered our first parents, he redoubles the stabs to his posterity. Every violation of the Divine law is a contempt of God’s goodness, as well as his sovereignty, because his laws are the products both of the one and the other. Goodness animates them, while sovereignty enjoys them: God hath commanded nothing but what doth conduce to our happiness. All disobedience implies, that his law is a snare to entrap us, and make us miserable, and not an act of kindness, to render us happy, which is a disparagement to this perfection, as if he had commanded what would promote our misery, and prohibited what would conduce to our blessedness: to go far from him, and walk after vanity, is to charge him with our iniquity, and unrighteousness, baseness, and cruelty, in his commands: God implies it by his speech (Jer. 2:5), “What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me, and walked after vanity?” as if, like a tyrant, he had consulted cruelty in the composure of them, and designed to feast himself with the blood and misery of his creatures. Every sin is, in its own nature, a denial of God to be the chiefest good and happiness, and implies that it is no great matter to lose him: it is a forsaking him as the Fountain of Life, and a preferring a “cracked and empty cistern” as the chief happiness before him (Jer. 2:13). Though sin is not so evil as God is good, yet it is the greatest evil, and stands in opposition to God as the greatest good. Sin disorders the frame of the world; it endeavored to frustrate all the communications of Divine goodness in creation, and to stop up the way of any further streams of it to his creatures.
(2.) The abuse and contempt of the Divine goodness is base and disingenious. It is the highest wickedness, because God is the highest goodness, pure goodness that cannot have anything in him worthy of our contempt. Let men injure God under what notion they will, they injure his goodness; because all his attributes are summed up in this one, and all, as it were, deified by it. For whatsoever power or wisdom he might have, if he were destitute of this he were not God: the contempt of his goodness implies him to be the greatest evil, and worst of beings. Badness, not goodness, is the proper object of contempt: as respect is a propension of mind to something that is good, so contempt is an alienation of the mind from something as evil, either simply or supposedly evil in its nature, or base or unworthy in its action towards that person that contemns it. As men desire nothing but what they apprehend to be good, so they slight nothing but what they apprehend to be evil: since nothing, therefore, is more contemned by us than God, nothing more spurned at by us than God, it will follow that we regard him as the most loathsome and despicable being, which is the greatest baseness. And our contempt of him is worse than that of the devils; they injure him under the inevitable strokes of his justice, and we slight him when we are surrounded with the expressions of his bounty; they abuse him under vials of wrath, and we under a plenteous liberality: they malice him, because he inflicts on them what is hurtful; and we despise him , because he commands what is profitable, holy, and honorable, in its own nature, though not in our esteem. They are not under those high obligations as we; they abuse his creating, and we his redeeming goodness: he never sent his Son to shed a drop of blood for their recovery; they can expect nothing but the torment of their persons, and the destruction of their works; but we abuse that goodness that would rescue us since we are miserable, as well as that righteousness which created us innocent. How base is it to use him so ill, that is not once or twice, but a daily, hourly Benefactor to us; whose rain drops upon the earth for our food, and whose sun shines upon the earth for our pleasure as well as profit such a Benefactor as is the true Proprietor of what we have, and thinks nothing too good for them that think everything too much for his service! How unworthy is it to be guilty of such base carriage towards him, whose benefits we cannot want, nor live without! How disingenious both to God and ourselves, to “despise the riches of his goodness, that are designed to lead us to repentance” (Rom. 2:4), and by that to happiness! And more heinous are the sins of renewed men upon this account, because they are against his “goodness” not only offered to them, but tasted by them; not only against the notion of goodness, but the experience of goodness, and the relished sweetness of choicest bounty.
(3). God takes this contempt of his goodness heinously. He never upbraids men with anything in the Scripture, but with the abuse of the good things he hath vouchsafed them, and the unmindfulness of the obligations arising from them. This he bears with the greatest regret and indignation. Thus he upbraids Eli with the preference of him to the priesthood above other families (1 Sam. 2:28): and David with his exaltation to the crown of Israel (2 Sam. 12:7–9), when they abused those honors to carelessness and licentiousness. All sins offend God, but sins against his goodness do more disparage him; and, therefore, his fury is the greater, by how much the more liberally his benefits have been dispensed. It was for abuse of Divine goodness, as soon as it was tasted, that some angels were hurled from their blessed habitation and more happy nature: it was for this Adam lost his present enjoyments, and future happiness, for the abuse of God’s goodness in creation. For the abuse of God’s goodness the old world fell under the fury of the flood; and for the contempt of the Divine goodness in redemption, Jerusalem, once the darling city of the infinite Monarch of the world, was made an Aceldema, a field of blood. For this cause it is, that candlesticks have been removed, great lights put out, nations overturned, and ignorance hath triumphed in places bright before with the beams of heaven. God would have little care of his own goodness, if he always prostituted the fruits of it to our contempt. Why should we expect he should always continue that to us which he sees we will never use to his service? When the Israelites would dedicate the gifts of God to the service of Baal, then he would return, and take away his corn, and his wine, and make them know by the loss, that those things were his in dominion, which they abused, as if they had been sovereign lords of them (Hos. 2:8, 9). Benefits are entailed upon us no longer than we obey (Josh. 24:20): “If you forsake the Lord, he will do you hurt, after he hath done you good.” While we obey, his bounty shall shower upon us: and when we revolt, his justice shall consume us. Present mercies abused, are no bulwarks against independent judgments. God hath curses as well as blessings; and they shall light more heavy when his blessings have been more weighty: justice is never so severe as when it comes to right goodness, and revenge its quarrel for the injuries received.
A convenient inquiry may be here, How God’s goodness is contemned or abused?
1st. By a forgetfulness of his benefits. We enjoy the mercies, and forget the Donor; we take what he gives, and pay not the tribute he deserves; the “Israelites forgot God their Saviour, which had done great things in Egypt” (Psalm 106:21). We send God’s mercies where we would have God send our sins, into the land of forgetfulness, and write his benefits where himself will write the names of the wicked, in the dust, which every wind defaceth: the remembrance soon wears out of our minds, and we are so far from remembering what we had before, that we scarce think of that hand that gives, the very instant wherein his benefits drop upon us. Adam basely forgot his Benefactor, presently after he had been made capable to remember him, and reflect upon him; the first remark we hear of him, is of his forgetfulness, not a syllable of his thankfulness. We forget those souls he hath lodged in us, to acknowledge his favors to our bodies; we forget that image wherewith he beautified us, and that Christ he exposed as a criminal to death for our rescue, which is such an act of goodness as cannot be expressed by the eloquence of the tongue, or conceived by the acuteness of the mind. Those things which are so common, that they cannot be invisible to our eyes, are unregarded by our minds; our sense prompts our understanding, and our understanding is deaf to the plain dictates of our sense. We forget his goodness in the sun, while it warms us, and his showers while they enrich us; in the corn, while it nourisheth us, and the wine while it refresheth us; “She did not know that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil” (Hos. 2:8): she that might have read my hand in every bit of bread, and every drop of drink, did not consider this. It is an injustice to forget the benefits we receive from man; it is a crime of a higher nature to forget those dispensed to us by the hand of God, who gives us those things that all the world cannot furnish us with, without him. The inhabitants of Troas will condemn us, who worshipped mice, in a grateful remembrance of the victory they bad made easy for them, by gnawing their enemies’ bow-strings. They were mindful of the courtesy of animals, though unintended by those creatures; and we are regardless of the fore-meditated bounty of God. It is in God’s judgment a brutishness beyond that of a stupid ox, or a duller ass; “The ox knows his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel doth not know, my people do not consider” (Isa. 1:3). The ox knows his owner that pastures him, and the ass his master that feeds him; but man is not so good as to be like to them, but so bad as to be inferior to them: he forgets Him that sustains him, and spurns at him, instead of valuing him for the benefits conferred by him. How horrible is it, that God should lose more by his bounty, than he would do by his parsimony! If we had blessings more sparingly, we should remember him more gratefully. If be had sent us a bit of bread in a distress by a miracle, as he did to Elijah by the ravens, it would have stuck longer in our memories; but the sense of daily favors soonest wears out of our minds , which are as great miracles as any in their own nature, and the products of the same power; but the wonder they should beget in us, is obscured by their frequency.
2d. The goodness of God is contemned by an impatient murmuring. Our repinings proceed from an inconsideration of God’s free liberality, and an ungrateful temper of spirit. Most men are guilty of this. It is implied in the commendation of Job under his pressures (Job 1:22): “In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly,” as if it were a character peculiar to him, whereby he verified the eulogy God had given of him before (ver. 8), that there was “none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man.” What is implied by the expression? but that scarce a man is to be found without unjust complaints of God, and charging him under their crosses with cruelty; when in the greatest they have much more reason to bless him for his bounty in the remainder. Good men have not been innocent. Baruch complains of God for adding grief to his sorrow, not furnishing him with those “great things” he expected (Jer. 45:3, 4); whereas, he had matter of thankfulness in God’s gift of his life as a prey. But his master chargeth God in a higher strain: “O Lord, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived: I am in derision daily” (Jer. 20:7).
When he met with reproach instead of success in the execution of his function, he quarrels with God, as if he had a mind to cheat him into a mischief, when he had more reason to bless him for the honor of being employed in his service. Because we have not what we expect, we slight his goodness in what we enjoy. If he cross us in one thing, be might have made us successless in more: if he take away some things, he might as well have taken away all. The unmerited remainder, though never so little, deserves our acknowledgements more than the deserved loss can justify our repining. And for that which is snatched from us, there is more cause to be thankful, that we have enjoyed it so long, than to murmur that we possess it no longer. Adam’s sin implies a repining: he imagined God had been short in his goodness, in not giving him a knowledge he foolishly conceived himself capable of, and would venture a forfeiture of what already had been bountifully bestowed upon him. Man thought God had envied him, and ever since man studies to be even with God; and envies him the free disposal of his own doles: all murmuring, either in our own cause or others, charges God with a want of goodness, because there is a want of that which he foolishly thinks would make himself or others happy. The language of this sin is, that man thinks himself better than God; and if it were in his power, would express a more plentiful goodness than his Maker. As man is apt to think himself “more pure than God” (Job 4:17), so of a kinder nature also than an infinite goodness. The Israelites are a wonderful example of this contempt of Divine goodness; they had been spectators of the greatest miracles, and partakers of the choicest deliverance: he had solicited their redemption from captivity; and when words would not do, he came to blows for them, musters up his judgments against their enemies, and, at last, as the Lord of hosts and God of battles, totally defeats their pursuers, and drowns them and their proud hopes of victory in the Red Sea. Little account was made of all this by the redeemed ones; “they lightly esteemed the rock of their salvation,” and launch into greater unworthiness, instead of being thankful for the breaking their yoke: they are angry with him, that he had done so much for them: they repented that ever they had complied with him, for their own deliverance, and had a regret that they had been brought out of Egypt: they were angry that they were freemen, and that their chains had been knocked off: they were more desirous to return to the oppression of their Egyptian tyrants, than have God for their governor and caterer, and be fed with his manna. “It was well with us in Egypt: Why came we forth out of Egypt?” which is called a “despising the Lord” (Num. 9:18, 20). They were so far from rejoicing in the expectation of the future benefits promised them, that they murmured that they had not enjoyed less; they were so sottish, as to be desirous to put themselves into the irons whence God had delivered them: they would seek a remedy in that Egypt, which had been the prison of their nation, and under the successors of that Pharaoh, who had been the invader of their liberties; they would snatch Moses from the place where the Lord, by an extraordinary providence, hath established him; they would stone those that minded them of the goodness of God to them, and thereupon of their crime and their duty (Num. 16:3, 9–11); they rose against their benefactors, and “murmured against God,” that had strengthened the hands of their deliverers; they “despised the manna” he had sent them, and “despised the pleasant land” he intended them (Psalm 106:24): all which was a high contempt of God and his unparalleled goodness and care of them. All murmuring is an accusation of Divine goodness.
3d. By unbelief and impenitency. What is the reason we come not to Him when he calls us; but some secret imagination that he is of an ill nature, means not as he speaks, but intends to mock us, instead of welcoming us? When we neglect his call, spurn at his bowels, slight the riches of his grace; as it is a disparagement to his wisdom to despise his counsel, so it is to his goodness to slight his offers, as though you could make better provision for yourselves than he is able or willing to do. It disgraceth that which is designed to the praise of the glory of his grace, and renders God cruel to his own Son, as being an unnecessary shedder of his blood. As the devil by his temptation of Adam, envied God the glory of his creating goodness, so unbelief envies God the glory of his redeeming grace: it is a bidding defiance to him, and challenging him to muster up the legions of his judgments, rather than have sent his Son to suffer for us, or his Spirit to solicit us. Since the sending his Son was the greatest act of goodness that God could express, the refusal of him must be the highest reproach of that liberality God designed to commend to the world in so rare a gift: the ingratitude in this refusal must be as high in the rank of sins, as the person slighted is in the rank of beings, or rank of gifts. Christ is a gift (Rom. 5:16), the royalest gift, an unparalleled gift, springing from inconceivable treasures of goodness (John 3:16). What is our turning our backs upon this gift but a low opinion of it? as though the richest jewel of heaven were not so valuable as a swinish pleasure on earth, and deserved to be treated at no other rate than if mere offals had been presented to us. The plain language of it is, that there were no gracious intentions for our welfare in this present; and that he is not as good, in the mission of his Son, as he would induce us to imagine.
Impenitence is also an abuse of this goodness, either by presumption, as if God would entertain rebels that bid defiance against him with the same respect that he doth his prostrate and weeping suppliants; that he will have the same regard to the swine as to the children, and lodge them in the same habitation; or it speaks a suspicion of God as a deceitful Master, one of a pretended, not a real goodness, that makes promises to mock men, and invitations to delude them: that he is an implacable tyrant, rather than a good Father; a rigid, not a kind Being, delightful only to mark our faults, and overlook our services.
4th. The goodness of God is contemned by a distrust of his providence. As all trust in him supposeth him good, so all distrust of him supposeth him evil; either without goodness to exert his power, or without power to display his goodness. Job seems to have a spice of this in his complaint (Job 30:20), “I cry unto thee, and thou dost not hear me; I stand up, and thou regardest me not.” It is a fume of the serpent’s venom, first breathed into man, to suspect him of cruelty, severity, regardlessness, even under the daily evidences of his good disposition: and it is ordinary not to believe him when he speaks, nor credit him when he acts; to question the goodness of his precepts, and misinterpret the kindness of his providence; as if they were designed for the supports of a tyranny, and the deceit of the miserable. Thus the Israelites thought their miraculous deliverance from Egypt, and the placing them in security in the wilderness, was intended only to pound them up for a slaughter (Num. 14:3): thus they defiled the lustre of Divine goodness which they had so highly experimented, and placed not that confidence in him which was due to so frequent a Benefactor, and thereby crucified the rich kindness of God, as Genebrard translates the word “limited” (Psalm 78:41). It is also a jealousy of Divine goodness, when we seek to deliver ourselves from our straits by unlawful ways, as though God had not kindness enough to deliver us without committing evil. What! did God make a world, and all creatures in it, to think of them no more, not to concern himself in their affairs? If he be good, he is diffusive, and delights to communicate himself; and what subjects should there be for it, but those that seek him, and implore his assistance? It is an indignity to Divine bounty to have such mean thoughts of it, that it should be of a nature contrary to that of his works, which, the better they are, the more diffusive they are. Doth a man distrust that the sun will not shine any more , or the earth not bring forth its fruit? Doth he distrust the goodness of an approved medicine for the expelling his distemper? If we distrust those things, should we not render ourselves ridiculous and sottish? and if we distrust the Creator of those things, do we not make ourselves contemners of his goodness? If his caring for us be a principal argument to move us to cast our care upon him, as it is 1 Pet. 5:7, “Casting your care upon him, for he cares for you;” then, if we cast not our care upon him, it is a denial of his gracious care of us, as if he regarded not what becomes of us.
5th. We do contemn or abuse his goodness by omissions of duty. These sometimes spring from injurious conceits of God, which end in desperate resolutions. It was the crime of a good prophet in his passion (2 Kings 6:33): “This evil is of the Lord, why should I wait on the Lord any longer?” God designs nothing but mischief to us, and we will seek him no longer. And the complaint of those in Malachi (Mal. 3:14) is of the same nature; “Ye have said, It is vain to serve God; and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinances?” We have all this while served a hard Master, not a Benefactor, and have not been answered with advantages proportionable to our services; we have met with a hand too niggardly to dispense that reward which is due to the largeness of our offerings. When men will not lift up their eyes to heaven, and solicit nothing but the contrivance of their own brain, and the industry of their own heads, they disown Divine goodness, and approve themselves as their own gods, and the spring of their own prosperity. Those that run not to God in their necessity, to crave his support, deny either the arm of his power, or the disposition of his will, to sustain and deliver them: they must have very mean sentiments, or none at all, of this perfection, or think him either too empty to fill them, or too churlish to relieve them; that he is of a narrow and contracted temper, and that they may sooner expect to be made better and happier by anything else than by him: and as we contemn his goodness by a total omission of those duties which respect our own advantage and supply, as prayer; so we contemn him as the chiefest good, by an omission of the due manner of any act of worship which is designed purely for the acknowledgment of him. As every omission of the material part of a duty is a denial of his sovereignty as commanding it, so every omission of the manner of it, not performing it with due esteem and valuation of him, a surrender of all the powers of our soul to him, is a denial of him as the most amiable object. But certainly to omit those addresses to God which his precept enjoins, and his excellency deserves, speaks this language, that they can be well enough, and do well enough, without God, and stand in no need of his goodness to maintain them. The neglect or refusal in a malefactor to supplicate for his pardon, is a wrong to, and contempt of, the prince’s goodness: either implying that he hath not a goodness in his nature worthy of an address, or that he scorns to be obliged to him for any exercise of it.
6th. The goodness of God is contemned, or abused, in relying upon our services to procure God’s good will to us. As, when we stand in need either of some particular mercy, or special assistance; when pressures are heavy, and we have little hopes of ease in an ordinary way; when the devotions in course have not prevailed for what we want; we engage ourselves by extraordinary vows and promises to God, hereby to open that goodness which seems to be locked up from us. Sometimes, indeed, vows may proceed from a sole desire to engage ourselves to God, from a sense of the levity and inconstancy of our spirits; binding ourselves to God by something more sacred and inviolable than a common resolution. But many times the vowing the building of a temple, endowing a hospital, giving so much in alms if God will free them from a fit of sickness, and spin out the thread of their lives a little longer (as hath been frequent among the Romanists), arises from an opinion of laziness and a selfishness in the Divine goodness; that it must be squeezed out by some solemn promises of returns to him, before it will exercise itself to take their parts. Popular vows are often the effects of an ignorance of the free and bubbling nature of this perfection of the generousness and royalty of Divine goodness: as if God were of a mean and mechanic temper, not to part with anything unless he were in some measure paid for it; and of so bad a nature as not to give passage to any kindness to his creature without a bribe. It implies also that he is of an ignorant as well as contracted goodness; that he hath so little understanding, and so much weakness of judgment, as to be taken with such trifles, and ceremonial courtships, and little promises; and meditated only low designs, in imparting his bounty: it is