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OF THE

INFINITE GOODNESS OF GOD.

GOD IS LOVE.-1 John iv. 8.

It is not necessary in a work of this nature, to enter into a complete detail on the existence and perfections of God; any farther than as they enable us to judge with certainty of his designs towards us. And His infinitegoodness being the leading principle in the creation and government of moral agents; it is to the par-ral good of the rest? ticular investigation of this goodness, I mean to confine myself principally, though I shall touch on His other perfections, when by so doing I can throw light upon my subject: which will be divided into three chapters; containing the definition, proofs, and consequences of the infinite goodness of God.

CHAPTER I.

Definition of the infinite goodness of God.

THE infinite goodness of God is that constant disposition of his will; by which he determines to bestow upon his creatures, as much happiness as their natures are capable of admitting. And here we must distinguish four things, viz. the nature, the design, the duration, and the effects of this divine benevolence. And

First, In its nature, it is an invariable disposition, a constant, unalterable, in a word, an immutable goodness.

Secondly, is design; to confer good, nothing but good, pure from every mixture of evil, and even all possible good; that is to say, all the good that such a being can dispense, and that the creature who is the object of it, can receive.

Thirdly, Its duration, which is boundless as eternity; for goodness to be infinite, must never cease from doing all the good it can, and consequently in an Eternal Being, must be exerted eternally.

Fourthly, Its effects, not only extend to all the intelligent beings of the universe, but even to all the creatures capable of distinguishing between pleasure and pain, for the divine goodness could not be infinite, if it did not embrace his immense family of sentient, as well as rational beings. But I shall here only consider that branch of it, which relates to man; because it is to human beings that scripture calls our attention more palticularly; and because it is infinitely more important to comprehend the designs of infinite benevolence towards us, whose duty it is to make suitable returns of love, and obedience. But here an objection may be started which merits examination. May not all the beings

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in the universe be so connected in the general
scheme of divine government, which embraces
all in one compendious whole, as not to permit
the separating a part, from the general system,
in which, infinite wisdom may make one race
of beings subservient to the greater, or gene-

That infinite goodness does, and ought to prefer a general, to a particular advantage, I am ready to allow; and therefore that He can expose one, or many of his creatures to a temporary evil, however great, when it is necessary to procure the good of a superior number. This, far from being inconsistent with the proposition I advance, is agreeable to the nature of intelligent creatures, and to the hapness corresponding therewith: As I hope to make it appear, that the sufferings inflicted for the good of others, will, sooner or later, procure an increase of happiness to the individual who endured them; so that in the end he will perceive and acknowledge himself to be a gainer, by having thus contributed to the welfare of others.

has not the least foundation, either in the nature But when by a strange supposition, which advance, that the infinite or eternal misery, of intelligent beings, or their happiness, we not of a multitude, but even of an individual, must take place to procure the good of the rest; then it is evident that perfect benevolence can never admit so horrid a method into his plan: because in so doing he must commit an act of unjust and partial cruelty; an act, barbarous and tyrannical in respect to one creature, in order to procure the happiness of others. No, the being infinitely good, cannot at the same time be infinitely cruel; the detestable reason of superior strength is no argument with him; his goodness is true and genuine, consequently impartial and universal. He possesses in the inexhaustible treasures of his wisdom and power, sufficient sources of felicity for all his creatures; without being reduced to the dreadful expedient of making some the victims of others, or adopting means repugnant to the simplest ideas of goodness, and utterly incongruous with those we ought to entertain of the merciful and kind parent of the universe: who represents himself to us as tenderly concerned for the happiness of his children; which St. Paul calls, the kindness and love of God towards men, or as it is rendered in the original, the philanthropy of God. Are men miserable? it is termed that infinite compassion, he has for their wretchedness: are they irregular and vicious? it assumes the

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Fourthly, I have I advanced that God in his nature, and atrributes, as our Creator, is inturn from their iniquity, then, it is his clemen-finite, uncircumscribed, unlimited. If his percy, his pardon, his mercy, and his grace, that is extended towards them.

CHAPTER II.

fections are immutable, and can neither admit of increase or diminution, they are now what they have ever been, and what they will be throughout all eternity, infinite. If he possesses knowledge, it must pervade all things; if power, it must be uncontrolled; if goodness, it must extend to all; and will the greatest and most universal happiness. Such are the sublime ideas comprehended in necessary existence.

Proofs of the infinite goodness of God. To the proper demonstrating of this important, and fundamental principle, I must establish it on two evident proofs, one drawn from reason, the other from scripture.

And in doing this I shall shew, that it is impossible to form to ourselves, just notions of the adorable goodness of the Governor of the universe; unless we endeavour to know his other perfections. We must therefore consider Him, first, as the original cause of all things; and secondly, deduce from thence, his right to the character of the best, and most excellent of beings.

Let us for a moment contemplate this unfathomable, this astonishing being, who sits supreme, without rival or competitor; to raise our thoughts to Him, is to elevate them to the Being of Beings, the source of existence, or as he describes himself, the I AM. "Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you." But when we turn our eyes upon his creatures, what do we behold? but a borrowed and contingent existence which they hold by his grant, which at the moment of their creation, depended up. on his will, and which every instant is sub.

If God in the beginning created the heavens and the earth, he must be the original cause of the universe: a being existing of himself, from whom all other beings derive existence:ject to it? Thus their preservation is a conthis idea inust naturally present itself, when tinued creation, for in him we live, and move, we ascend from the effect to the cause, and and have our being from this definition, which is certainly incontestible, we are led by a necessary conclusion, to the discovery of all his other perfections. It contains two important ideas; the one relative to the manner of his own independent existence the other, to his agency, as the Creator of all other beings. All the attributes we discover in God must depend on one or other of these ideas; and arise either from his own self-existent nature or belong to his character as Creator, it is impossible to separate them. For if God is the spring and fountain of life, he cannot have derived it from any, but in a word exists necessarily. The same is true of all his attributes as Creator, such as he is, he has ever been, the perfections of his nature are eternal, and consequently exist necessarily in him; so that the Supreme Being is both in his nature and perfections, eternal, independent, immutable and infinite.

First, He is eternal, for having received nothing, he cannot possibly suffer any privation; and as he knew no commencement, he ean know no end. "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty."

Secondly, His absolute independence flows from the same premises, and scripture everywhere abounds with the most positive declarations of this truth. "Is it any pleasure to the Almighty that thou art righteous? or is it gain to him, that thou makest thy ways perfect ?"

titles of forbearance, long-suffering, and patience; but when by a sincere repentance they

Thirdly, That the Most High is immutable in his being and perfections, is equally evident from his independent nature, which precludes every possibility of change; "He is always the same, the father of Lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning."

He is eternal, and we are but of yesterday: He is independent, whereas we, and all that surround us, are constantly deriving new supplies from Him; exposed to the loss of what we have, and needing new acquirements. He is immutable, always the same; in him is no succession, no modification, no transition from one condition to another. He is all that he can ever be, whereas his creatures are mutable, constantly affected by the objects which surround them, and perpetually passing through a variety of situations and circumstances. He is infinite in his essence and attributes as Creator, unconfined by space, or time, and fills immensity. The heaven of heavens cannot contain him, and all his glorious and adorable perfections, are as uncircumscribed as his essence. Whereas his creatures occupy but a small point in space, and an inconsiderable portion in time; they possess no quality, but in a degree equally limited with their nature; whatever progress they may make towards perfection, by the best improvement of their faculties, to whatever height they may elevate themselves, their knowledge and activity will ever remain confined within narrow bounds; and they will still continue at an infinite distance, from Him who fills heaven and earth, before whom the nations are as a drop of the bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance. All nations before him are as nothing, and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity. To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him?

Let us proceed to the second idea contained in this definition, that God is the origin of existence to all inferior beings; and let us ex amine what perfections must reside in Him, as Creator of the universe.

The first attribute that strikes our minds, when we reflect on the production of the world, is power. St. Paul, speaking of the invisible things of God, which are clearly seen, calls our attention to his eternal power, which in an infinite Being, must of necessity be in-him is no darkness." finite. But should we not be disposed to admit the force of this argument, there is another more simple, consequently more evident; drawn from the very act of creation. To create! to produce from nothing, to give existence, to what was inanimate! demonstrates without doubt the highest extent of power; and is the noblest idea we can form of that attribute in our Maker. He who made me, who from nothing caused me to pass into existence, can do in, and for me, every thing that is consistent with the nature and essence he has conferred upon me. Therefore he is all-powerful with respect to me; this may with equal propriety be said of all the beings that compose the universe, as they are all creatures of his power. Scripture, when it informs us that with God all things are possible, has no term more emphatical by which to express his infinite power; and appeals to creation as its incontestible proof. "He calleth those things which be not, as though they were. By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth. For He spake and it was done; He commanded and it stood fast. He said let there be light, and there was light.”

God are all his works from the beginning of the world. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight; but all things are naked and open to the eyes of him, with whom we have to do. God is light, and in

From the omniscience of God, we are led to infer his infinite wisdom, which consists in constantly proposing the best and most excellent end, and employing the most proper and efficacious means to obtain it. Thus his will being ever directed by his supreme wisdom, can never in any possible case degenerate into fancy or caprice. All his proceedings are the dictates and counsels of his eternal wisdom The Lord of Hosts is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working. The only wise God, because every subordinate degree of wisdom, that created intelligences may possess, bears no greater proportion to the fountain of knowledge, than a feeble spark, to a conflagrated world. Well therefore might the inspired apostle exclaim, when contemplating this amazing subject: "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!"

Having shewn the infinite power and wisdom of the Creator of the universe, I come to the consideration of his boundless goodness. Nor will it be difficult to establish this interesting proposition from the theory already laid down. For if his wisdom in designing is a perfect security from that versatility which arises from ignorance, or caprice; it is evident he can never sport with the happiness of his creatures, and that when He determined to create them, he was actuated by some motive worthy of himself. Now his own advantage, or that of his creatures must have been the end in view. And is it possible that a necessarily existent, immutable and infinite being, who is all-sufficient, consequently totally disinterested in all he does, could propose any benefit to himself? or be influenced by any thing but the godlike satisfaction of opening the sources of bliss, and dispensing to his creatures that felicity, those rivers of pleasure which flow at his right-hand forever more? He knows what perfect happiness is, and the method of conferring it best adapted to the nature of his creatures. Thus the voice of reason loudly proclaims, that our Creator is our Father, a father whose love is infinite, because his goodness is unalterable.

Nor can we admit the irresistible and uncontrollable power of the Creator, without acknowledging at the same time, that it is not a blind principle, which produces its effect in a manner merely physical. The smallest attention to the beings which compose the world, is sufficient to discover indications of wisdom and design. Besides, when we behold it. peopled with intelligent creatures distinguished by knowledge and design, must it not appear from thence, that he who made them, possesses these qualities in a much more eminent and superior degree. "Understand ye brutish among the people: He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? He that formed the eye, shall he not see? He that teacheth man knowledge, shall he not know?" Whence it follows, that the divine mind is infinitely intelligent, or endowed with understanding and will. His knowledge extends to all creatures. He sees at one glance all causes, and every subsequent effect, capable of resulting from them throughout all

from Scripture.

eternity. He contemplates by a single act Proofs of the infinite goodness of God taken that immense chain of consequences, that comprise all periods past, present, and future. Let us attend to the language of Scripture on this astonishing subject: "Great is the Lord, his understanding is infinite. There is no searching of his understanding. The Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts. I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times, the things that are not yet done. Known unto

SCRIPTURE here opens a rich and abundant field for our contemplation; no subject is treated more repeatedly or emphatically, than that of divine goodness. The Supreme Being is there represented as our Father: doubtless thou art our Father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not, thou O Lord art our Father: and it is by this tender appellation that our Saviour encourages

us to address Him; when he says, after this | dren, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him:

manner pray ye, Our Father, &c. He is styled the Father of mercies, the Lord God merciful and gracious, long suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth. The stongest and most lively images are employed to represent this disposition of God towards us, the riches of his goodness and forbearance, the tender mercies of our God; and an apostle writing to the Ephesians, prays, "that they being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height thereof."

from whence it equally follows, that the love of parents for their offspring is not void of all goodness. But if we admit this, how much more readily must we acknowledge, that the Saviour of the world, he who though he was rich, yet for our sakes became poor, that we through his poverty might be rich, was pos sessed of goodness in an eminent degree? Yet it is the same Jesus, whose love surpasseth knowledge, that says, why callest thou me good, there is none good but one, that is God. What then must have been his meaning, what the sense of these sublime words? Manifestly this: that the goodness of God being absolutely infinite, unlimited and unbounded, can never be compared with the same quality in his creatures, how excellent soever they may be, because finite can bear no proportion to infinite. It is true that the goodness and the wisdom of God, may reside in his crea

But as it is not possible to select here all the passages of scripture that relate to this subject, I shall confine my observations to three, which have always appeared to me, expressive of peculiar energy. The first, is that in Isaiah, where God by the mouth of his prophet expostulates with and comforts his people. "Zion said, the Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me. Can a wo-tures in a limited degree, as they are commuman forget her sucking child, that she should nicable perfections, but to possess these attrinot have compassion on the son of her womb? butes infinitely, belongs to God alone, and is yea, she may forget, yet will I not forget thee:" the exclusive privilege of a necessarily exist. The love of a mother for her infant, is the ent Being. He is called the only wise God, strongest and most constant attachment we in the same sense in which our Saviour decan conceive, I might say the most universal. clares that he alone is good. For where is the animal, however weak and The third quotation I have in view are those timid on other occasions, that has not courage words of the disciple whom Jesus loved, and sufficient to defend its young? and do we not whose writings breathe so much of the spirit consider with aversion and horror as a mon- of his divine master: "he that loveth not, ster, a mother who by any other passion has knoweth not God, for God is love." Sublime, stiffed this sentiment of nature? But rare as affecting character! Love and goodness are these examples are, we are sometimes called then the essence of his will, the motives of all to behold them. They may forget, yet will his actions, on which we may with safety renot I. His love is then superior to the strong-pose the dearest interest of our souls! With respect to his divine intelligence, God is light, and in him is no darkness, no ignorance, no error; and in respect to his will, he is pure and infinite love, without any mixture of malevolence.

est examples of it among men, it is constant, it is infinite; well then might the Psalmist declare with an unshaken confidence, "when my father and mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up."

The second passage alluded to, is that in which our Saviour ascribes goodness in the superlative degree to God alone. "And behold one came and said unto him, good master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And he said unto him, why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is God." Here the only begotten Son of God, the Saviour of the world, refuses to be called good; and expressly declares that title to belong to God alone. Are we then to conclude from these remarkable words, that there is no such thing as goodness among men; that parents have no love for their children, and above all, that our blessed Redeemer was destitute of goodness, and had no love for us? it cannot be taken by any one in this sense. For bad the Supreme Creator endowed us with a nature averse to the exercise of this celestial virtue, would he ever have made it our duty, or have proposed himself as an example for our imitation, commanding us to be merciful as our Father in heaven is merciful? And does he not condescend to borrow allusions from the tender tie of paternal affection whereby to express his own benevolent dispositions? Like as a father pitieth his chil

If we admit this representation of the character and dispositions of God towards us, we cannot suppose hatred to reside in his nature, because to say, that love hates, is a contradiction in terms. The author of the book of wisdom, whoever he was, speaking of the Supreme Being, describes him in a manner too exalted, and at the same time too just, to be overlooked. Speaking of that mercy which he had upon all that they should amend, he says: "For thou lovest all the things that are, and abhorrest nothing which thou hast made: for never wouldst thou have made any thing if thou hadst hated it."

Thus if we have any knowledge of God, of his character and dispositions towards us, we must acknowledge that his love is the grand spring of all he has done, or ever will do for us. If we refuse to admit this, St. John tells us, that we have not known him, for God is love, and that this amiable disposition alone, which enables us to see him as he is, can entitle us to any resemblance to him.

Though we have just been contemplating some of the most striking expressions of divine benevolence, yet as it is a truth upon which all religion is founded; so interesting in its

nature, and so repeatedly urged both in the | ble; and which a Being infinitely powerful Old and New Testament; I shall not fear to can confer upon us; in a word, all that is pos incur the displeasure of my reader, by detain- sible. Which comprehends the second characing him a few moments longer, on this de-ter of infinite goodness, viz.: a disposition to lightful subject. do all possible good.

We come next to consider the duration of infinite goodness, which is throughout all eternity." Thus the salvation he confers upon us, must be an eternal salvation; a life everlasting, an immortality, an eternal inheritance, an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for us. An incorruptible crown; in a word, those things which are not seen, and which are eternal, whereas the things which are seen are temporal. If then our heavenly Father has reserved an eternal salvation for us, in the treasures of his munificence, he will forever bestow upon us, all possible good, because his goodness endureth forever: and thus we are come to the third character in infinite goodness.

The fourth and last, is, that it is a disposi tion eternally to confer all possible good on all mankind, without exception. The passages above cited are full of the plainest and most positive declarations of this truth, it is the language of revelation in almost every page, that "the Lord is good unto all, and that his tender mercies are over all his works."

What I would farther propose on this head, is taken from the gospel dispensation which discovers the good will of God to men, his paternal designs, and in a word, their glorious destination to perfect and everlasting felicity; this is clearly expressed, by the apostle, that "the living God, is the Saviour of all men, especially of those that believe" and "will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth." Such are the declarations of his will; who is called the Saviour of all men, and whose designs, purposes, and resolutions, cannot fail; because infinite wisdom sees the best means to accomplish them; and infinite power, enables him to employ them; thus it is impossible his determinations should be subverted. But had we not this argument drawn from his divine pefections, we should still have the positive assurances of Scripture, that "the counsel of the Lord endureth forever. My counsel shall stand and I will do all my pleasure:" says the Supreme Jehovah by the mouth of his prophet Isaiah. In a word, it is him who worketh all things, after the counsel of his own will. Such is the immutability of his counsel; and constancy and immutability form the first characters of infinite goodness.

The effect of this divine benevolence, the happy consequence that mortals are to derive from it, is salvation; perfect and universal salvation; for this is his will, when he calls himself the Saviour of all men. Now salvation is that life, that celestial happiness which the Author of life, and fountain of felicity has prepared for his creatures, and to which he will raise them all. This immortal and unutterable bliss, so worthy of him to bestow, and of us to aspire to, will consist in the perfection of our souls, in knowledge and holiness, and that of our bodies being raised incorruptible and glorious; in the magnificent abode and delightful society of angels and of the spirits of just men made perfect, and above all in our communion with the Son of God, our gracious Redeemer: finally, in our admission to the beatific vision of the Supreme Being, who will unite us to himself, and make us partakers of his nature and happiness; so that God will be all in all. And can we form to ourselves the idea of greater happiness, are our natures susceptible of more perfect, more exalted felicity, than that of which God himself will be the immediate, and inexhaustible source?

Such is the short, but delightful sketch, of this salvation, which is to be our inheritance, the possession to which God by our Lord Jesus Christ has appointed us, and which, as it is prepared for us by him, must compre hend all desirable good. Did I say, desirable? It must contain exceeding and abundantly more, than we are able to ask, or think; all the felicity of which our natures are suscepti

Thus I have proved that the doctrine of Scripture with respect to our future destination, evidently demonstrates, that the goodness of God is indeed infinite; as I have distinctly shewn from the declarations of it, as his will, that all men should be saved; which necessarily implies all the characters of infinite goodness, and is perfectly equivalent with this proposition, that there is in the Supreme Being, a constant will, to confer all possible good upon all mankind, throughout all eternity. And does not this exactly correspond with the definition of infinite goodness, which I gave in the preceding chapter?

Such has the Father of our spirits revealed himself to us, in his word: but he has yet another method of instruction, more sensible, more evident, and more universal, than the most perfect doctrine could ever be; and this is our experience: experience, when joined to that revelation which enlightens our reason, places this truth in so striking a light, that it becomes as it were palpable, and is an object of our senses.

Thus when revelation proclaims the promise of eternal life, in which the treasures of divine munificence are displayed; it also appeals to a fact, to the most signal instance of infinite goodness, in the gift, the precious gift, that God has bestowed upon us in his Son, to call and to conduct us to happiness: that our faith being founded on experience, may lead us to place an unshaken confidence in all his assurances of salvation.

Now as this fact is appealed to in proof of the infinite goodness of our Maker, let us ex amine how it is evidenced by it.

The supreme Creator beholding the beings he had made, and destined to happiness, wan.

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