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it may be for our advantage to view each of them separately; and though there should be some degree of sameness, or repetition, in our so doing, I trust it will not be a vain or tiresome repetition. I shall therefore take a view of the goodness of God, as it respects creatures; the mercy of God, as it regards sinners ; and the love of God, as it relates to believers. Now, by the goodness of God, we mean,
That disposition of the divine Being which always inclines him to render his creatures happy, as far as is consistent with his other perfections.
The goodness of God is generally distinguished into Absolute and Relative. By absolute goodness is meant that essential property of his nature which he had in himself from eternity, before any creatures were formed, and without regard to creatures. His relative goodness is that perfection exercised towards his creatures ; it is his generous disposition to do them good, and make them happy. Both are included in that Scripture (Psalm cxix. 68), Thou art good and doest good. God is infinitely, eternally, unchangeably good in himself; so that it
may truly said, There is none good but one, that is God (Mark X. 18): none good in comparison of him ; none good originally, absolutely, perfectly, immutably, like him. But it is his goodness as imparted, as communicating good to his various and innumerable creatures, which we are now to contemplate. For this purpose he made the world, and placed therein a variety of creatures, which might be capable of receiving his goodness in a variety of ways, according to the distinct capacities of their several natures ; but especially man, a rational creature, capable of knowing his benefactor, and of glorifying him for his bounty. It is the goodness of God to man, chiefly, that we shall now consider.
1. Observe then, in the first place, the goodness of God to man in the formation of his body, in the powers of his mind, and in that state of holiness and happiness wherein he was originally placed.
The human body is indeed “ fearfully and wonderfully made;" it cannot be surveyed without astonishment ; every limb, every sense, every faculty, bears the clearest marks of the beneficent hand which produced it! The outward form of man is evidently far superior to that of the brutes. The delicacy of his composition, his erect posture, his beautiful countenance, his capacities of action and of enjoyment, give him a vast pre-eminence above all other creatures on earth ; and his supremacy over them, is admitted almost by them all-50 that with little difficulty they are brought to spend their lives in his service.
But it is in the powers of his mind ;-in his possession of a thinking, reasoning, immortal principle, that we perceive his chief superiority. The brutes have some advantages above us, in their speed and in the quickness of their senses; but the inspiration of the Almighty has given us understanding, and taught us more than the beasts of the field.” Every one who reftects on his own powers, his pero ception, his imagination, his judgment, his memory, must be sensible of their high value. These are sources of unspeakable enjoyment, usefulness, and happiness; affording a gratification, always at hand, and infinitely superior to the grosser pleasures of sense, which are often dearly purchased, which soon cloy, and, if irregularly indulged, are sure to destroy
It is a wonderful privilege granted to man, that he is capable of knowing his God; and, while all other creatures are merely passive subjects of his goodness, man can reflect upon the bounty of his Maker-can • taste and see that he is good,” and give to him the glory due to his name. God has also made us immortal. Other creatures have but scanty sources of pleasure; they enjoy them but for a short season ; they die and perish : but man is
born to live for ever. He is to be the inhabitant of another world; his days are to run parallel with those of God himself; and, if saved by grace, his happiness will be inconceivably great, and never, never terminate.
Look back also, and reflect on the goodness of God to man in his original state. He made man “ in his own likeness, in his own image,” that is, in the image of his own wisdom, purity, and holiness, by which he was qualified to glorify his Maker on earth, and to enjoy superior bliss in his immediate presence in a future state. Surely, the goodness of God was wonderfully displayed in the formation of man! Indeed, the Creator himself, surveying all his wonderful and excellent works, and especially man, the master, and the master-piece of them all, pronounced the whole to be “good”-to be" very good !”
2. Consider also, the ample provision made for the comfort of man. The world was made for him. “ The earth fath he given to the children of men. As man was made for the honour of God, so the world was made for the support and delight of man, in order to his due performance of his service to God. The sun and the moon were ordained to give him light; the grass is a beautiful carpet spread for his feet; the heavens are a splendid canopy stretched over his head ; the trees afford him delicious food; the earth produces wholesome grain ; the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fishes of the sea, furnish his table, in immense variety, with pleasant and nourishing food. His garments, whether for necessity or ornament, are borrowed from the innocent sheep, the silk-worm, and the cotton tree ; the sturdy ox, and the generous horse, contribute their labour to lessen his toil, and enable him, with comparative ease, to cultivate the earth, and perform his journeys. The diversified beauties of nature, the hills, the dales, the rocks, and rivers, and seas, delight his organs of vision; the songsters of the grove ravish his ears with their musical notes, and the flowers of the garden regale his nostrils with their fragrant' odours. “Lord! what is man, that thou art mindful of him!”.6 0 that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men !"
3. The goodness of God to man was discovered in placing
him in so agreeable a state originally, and in giving him so holy and good a law. The commandment which he gave him, was not grievous. No more was required of him than what was written on his heart, and which he had full power to perform. Obedience was easy and pleasant to him ; it was the condition on which his own happiness and that of all his posterity depended; and the threatening of death annexed, was a further instance of the good. ness of God; because it was calculated to preserve him in his integrity, by the fear of ruin to himself and all his race.
4. The goodness of God is apparent in preserving the order of the universe, for the welfare of man. He who first made, still “ upholds all things.” The heavenly bodies perform, with the most astonishing punctuality, their appointed revolutions, any irregularity in which order, might be fatal to the earth and to man ; and a regular succession of the seasons is secured by the promise and providence of God. Hence we have “ summer and winter, seed-time and harvest.” “ He visiteth the earth, and watereth it ; he prepares the corn when he hath so provided for it; he blesseth the springing of the earth ;. he crowneth the year with his goodness, and his parhs drop fatness; the little hills rejoice on every side ; the pastures are clothed with flocks ; the valleys also are covered over with corn ; they shout for joy, they also sing.” Even the inferior creatures are the objects of his care. “ The young lions roar, and seek their meat from God." All animals “ wait upon him, that he may give them their meat in due season; that which he giveth them they gather ; he openeth
his hand, and they are filled with good.” In a word, “the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.”
5. To the same cause we must thankfully ascribe our defence against innumerable evils and dangers, seen and unseen. “ O Lord, thou preservest man and beast!" Our greatest danger is from invisible enemies. What would evil spirits effect, were they permitted ? Satan “goeth about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour ;" we are therefore taught to pray, "deliver us from evil,” or rather, « from the evil one.” The malice of evil spirits is plain from the case of Job, whose character, property, family, health, and life, were assailed by him; and whose security, Satan himself, ascribes to the Almity in those remarkable words, “ Hast thou not made a hedge about him, and about all that he hath ?” The goodness of God is our shield and our defence.
Our security from wicked men is likewise from him. We too often see what wicked men would do, if they were permitted ; but he sets bounds to their raging and cruel passions, as well as to the stormy billows of the ocean. “ He stilleth the noise of the waves, and the tumult of the people.” Without this restraint, how would murders, adulteries, robberies, perjuries, and oppressions, prevail in the world! Men would become, as the prophet speaks, “like the fishes of the sea,” destroyers of each other,“ like the creeping things, which have no ruler over them.” And this should make us thankful for the wholesome laws, and the just government, of the country in which we live. It is by the instrumentality of the magistrate, that the peace and order of society are preserved; without this there would be no safety to our persons or property,—the world would be like a howling wilderness, infested by lions, and tygers, and serpents : but the “shields of the earth belong to God”—they are the effects and instruments of his goodness, and let this be acknow