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through the interminable ages of eternity. He will do as much good to his creatures as it is possible in the nature of things that he should do. His power and wisdom will always be under the influence of his permanent, immutable and universal goodness. He will never be less able, or less disposed to do good in time to come, than in time past. He has formed the best plan to do good for ever, and he is able to do all the good that he has determined to do from eternity. He has all his creatures under his eye and under his control, and will employ them all to promote the general good of the universe. God can no more cease to do good than he can cease to be good; and he can no more cease to be good than he can cease to exist. The good he has done bears no more proportion to the good he will do, than time bears proportion to eternity. He means to make all his goodness pass before the eyes of all his intelligent creatures. Angels and men will be as capable of enjoying holiness and happiness after the end of the world as they were before ; and God will be as able and as much disposed to make them holy and happy after that period as before; therefore, as long as his boundless power and goodness remain, we may be certain they will be incessantly and perpetually employed in augmenting the holiness and happiness of the blessed inhabitants of heaven. And who can conceive to what a height of felicity God can and will raise the objects of his complacency and delight, in future and eternal ages ? Thus it appears from the nature and permanency of divine goodness, that God must make the intelligent universe as holy and happy as their natures will admit, through every period of their interminable existence. This important and consoling truth is not supported by fine spun reasonings, but is demonstrated by the immutability of the existence and perfections of God.
I now proceed to the improvement of the subject, and observe,
1. The goodness of God is discoverable by the light of nature. It is a question which has been frequently and earnestly agitated, whether the goodness of God can be discovered by the works of God, without his word. But if God be not only good, but does good, then we may fairly conclude that bis goodness may be discovered by his works alone, without the aid of divine revelation. It is a common and infallible maxim, that actions speak louder than words. The goodness of men is more clearly and certainly discovered by their conduct than by their declarations. It is true that detached parts of their conduct may be ambiguous or doubtful, and their actions may appear better than they are; but this is because we cannot al. ways know from what motives they act. But taking the whole
of their conduct together, it affords the highest evidence we can have of their goodness, certainly much higher than any declarations they can make. But if it be true that God is good, and his goodness governs all his conduct, then his conduct is the highest possible evidence of his perfect goodness. His word is only an evidence of his goodness after his goodness has been demonstrated by his works. After we have demonstrated that God is good by his works, then we know that he speaks the truth in his word when he declares that he is good; but before we have demonstrated by his works that he is good, we cannot know that he speaks the truth when he tells us in his word that he is good. It is not only true that the goodness of God may be discovered by his works, but it is true that his goodness cannot be discovered in any other way, either in this world or in the world to come. For, if the evils in this world be an argument against his goodness, greater evils in another world will be stronger arguments against it. It is said by those who deny that the goodness of God can be discovered by his works in this world, that we do not know how he will treat mankind in a future state without the aid of the Bible; he may, notwithstanding his apparent goodness towards them in this life, annihilate them or make them perfectly miserable. But we cannot know the contrary to this merely by his word; for though he has promised to make some of them happy, yet we cannot know that he will fulfil his promise without knowing by his works that he is perfectly and immutably good. The works of God, therefore, afford us the first and most infallible evidence that God is good. Accordingly, the apostle asserts that all the nations of the earth may discover the goodness of God by his works, and are inexcusable if they do not. He says, “ because that which may be known of God is manifest in them ;” that is, the heathen, “ for God hath showed it unto them. 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; so that they are without excuse.” It is not for want of evidence in the works of God that the pagan world have not discovered the being and goodness of the only living and true God, but because of their moral depravity and their criminal stupidity arising from it. All men might discover the goodness of God which he is daily and constantly acting out before them, if they would critically and impartially attend to his works, which afford the highest possible evidence he can give them of his goodness, either in this life or the next.
2. If God always acts under the influence of pure, permanent, universal and perfect goodness, then all the objections
that ever have been made, or ever can be made, against any part of his conduct, are objections against his goodness, which must be altogether unreasonable and absurd. Our eyes must be evil, if we object against God because he is good. But if we object against any part of his conduct, we object against his goodness; for whatever he has done, he has been moved to do by his pure and perfect goodness. It is as certain that his whole conduct is good, as that his whole heart is good. So that we cannot object against a single instance of his conduct, without virtually objecting against his goodness. This will appear if we distinctly consider any objections we have ever formed against any part of his conduct.
If we object against his forming any or all of his purposes from eternity, we object against his goodness; for his goodness required him to form his purposes as soon as his perfections enabled him to form them, or as soon as he knew what was best for him to do. But his essential knowledge enabled him to know what was best for bim to do from eternity; and when he knew this, he could not consistently with his perfect knowledge and goodness delay forming all his purposes, because there could be no reason for his delaying; and to delay without reason must have been contrary to his perfect rectitude. He acted under the influence of his perfect goodness in forming his purposes from eternity, and in forming just such purposes as he did form. We cannot therefore object against his forming his purposes from eternity, nor against any purposes he did then form, without objecting against his goodness; for his whole conduct in forming his purposes was the genuine fruit of his unerring wisdom, guided by his pure, impartial, and universal benevolence, which ought to be loved and approved by every intelligent creature.
If we object against God's conduct in placing Adam as the public head of mankind, and suspending their moral character upon the condition of his perfect obedience, we object against his goodness, which moved him to place Adam and his posterity in such a critical and dangerous state. God might have determined that each individual of the human race should have peen placed as the angels were, without any public head whose single act should so deeply affect millions and millions of others. But his perfect goodness moved him to appoint Adam to be the public head of all his posterity, that by one man's disobedience many should be made sinners. And since divine goodness determined this important event we cannot have the least reason to object against it.
If we object against God's agency in governing the hearts and conduct of mankind in the manner he does, we object
against his goodness. For every act of his government is an act of pure goodness, which seeks the highest good of the universe. He could, if he pleased, make every one of mankind act entirely right, and prevent every one from acting wrong; and it is owing to his goodness that he does not govern the moral world in this manner. He could have prevented all natural and moral evil from coming into the world if he had pleased; and he could now banish all natural and moral evil from the world if he pleased. But his perfect and universal goodness moves him to overrule both natural and moral evil for the benefit of the universe ; and who can object against it without objecting against his goodness?
If we object against his saving one person and destroying another, according to his original purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus, we object against his goodness. For it was pure, perfect benevolence, which moved him to form all his purposes of special grace. If we only admit the perfect goodness of God, and believe that he always has acted, and always will act under the influence of it, it will be impossible for any of mankind, or for any other intelligent creatures, to see the least ground to object against a single instance of God's conduct in forming and executing his original and eternal purposes. The plain and important truth that God is perfectly and immutably good, and always acts under the influence of perfect goodness, solves all the apparent darkness and difficulties in both the natural and moral world, and completely removes the ground of every objection that ever has been, or ever can be made against the conduct of God in any of his works of creation, or providence, or redemption.
3. If God always acts under the influence of his pure, permanent, universal goodness, then no creature in the universe ever has had, or ever will have any just cause to murmur or complain under the dispensations of providence. Though mankind are born to trouble as the sparks fly upward, and though God does inflict many and great evils upon the children of men, yet he never afflicts willingly, or grieves them. It is only when affiction is necessary, or some good end may be answered by it. He treats all his creatures as well as it is morally possible for him to treat them; and with this, every one ought to be completely satisfied. All men have constant occasion to rejoice that the Lord reigneth, and that their times are in his holy and benevolent hands. This good men have believed, and they have acted accordingly. Who ever suffered greater, more complicated and more unexpected calamities than Job? But in the depth of his afflictions he said, “ The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” He VOL. IV.
viewed all his sufferings as coming from the wisdom and goodness of God, which repressed every murmuring thought, and produced cordial and unreserved submission. And the primitive christians lived in the lively faith of the perfect goodness of God in all the dealings of his providence towards them, which gave them entire satisfaction under all the evils they suffered. They could sincerely say of themselves, “ As dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.” The paternal goodness of God is a perpetual source of consolation to all his children, while they are passing through all the fiery trials which fall to their lot in this present evil world. When God's ancient people complained that his ways were not equal, he appeals to their own consciences to justify his conduct and condemn their own. “ Are not my ways equal? are not your ways unequal ?” God fills the earth with his goodness, and acts it out in every dispensation of his providence towards every individual of the human race, which ought to remove every murmur and complaint, fill every heart with gratitude and every mouth with praise. Hence says the apostle to every one, with great propriety, “ Rejoice in the Lord alway; and again I say, rejoice."
4. If God be universally and perfectly good, and always acts under the influence of his immutable and perfect goodness, then it is owing to the knowledge, and not to the ignorance of 'sinners, that they hate God. They are called haters of God, and are said to have a carnal mind which is enmity against God, and not subject to his law, neither indeed can be. Some ascribe all their enmity and opposition to God to their ignorance of his true character. They say no man can know the great and amiable character of God, and at the same time hate him. This would be true if their hearts were holy and benevolent; but their hearts are entirely selfish, and selfishness is diametrically opposite to pure, holy, perfect benevolence. And therefore the more they know of God, the more their hearts rise against him, and hate every part of his character, and every instance of his conduct, rightly understood. Could they see and realize the pure, benevolent motives of his conduct in all instances, they would perfectly hate and oppose all his designs and all his conduct
. Could the eyes of all the sinners in the world be opened at once, and they have a clear and full view of his motives in creating and governing all his creatures, they would all rise up in open rebellion against their Maker. This is exemplified by the feelings, and language, and conduct of those, whose eyes God does often open that they may see and
rlize his sovereign goodness and grace. They are the