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therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed."* He said to his disciples, “Behold the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered every man to his own, and shall leave me alone; and yet
I am not alone, because the Father is with me." + The power of God is displayed in the conversion of sinners. When we consider the change effected at the return of a sinner to God after a long apostasy, and the opposition which is made to it by the most active principles of his nature; the influence upon his mind, by which it admits views totally new, and the revolution which takes place in his feelings and affections ; the sacrifices which he makes, the connexions which he abandons, the conditions to which he submits, and the new course of life upon which he enters; in a word, the entire alteration in the moral habit of his soul, we must be convinced that a higher cause was requisite than reasoning and eloquence, and that nothing less than Omnipotence could have made "old things pass away, and all things become new. Hence the conversion of a sinner is called in Scripture a creation, and a resurrection from the dead; and God is said to fulfil in them “all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power.” I
What I would chiefly request you to consider, is the power of God manifested in the propagation of the Gospel, which will appear truly worthy of admiration, if we reflect upon the nature of the religion published to the world, the obstacles which stood in the way of its progress, and the persons by whose ministry the opposition was subdued. The religion was the least likely to succeed by its intrinsic merits of all that have been proposed to mankind; not because it wanted high excellence, but because it was not of a kind to be generally perceived and relished. It is pronounced by one of the apostles to have been a stumbling-block to the Jews, and foolishness to the Greeks. S It offered to both salvation by a man who had been crucified; salvation, not from poverty, oppression, and disease, but from sin, which men loved too well to have any desire to be delivered from it; it demanded the renunciation of their present habits and pursuits, the sacrifice of worldly honours and pleasures, and conditionally of life itself; it prescribed humility, the mortification of appetite, and a course of circumspect and patient obedience; and the promised recompense lay in another world, of which they could have no knowledge but by implicitly depending upon the word of its Author. To whom was this religion addressed ? To the Jews, who had conceived a very different idea of the character of the Messiah, and expected him not to die but to reign, and to call them, not to repentance but to victory and glory; to the Gentiles, whose minds were preoccupied by the speculations of philosophical wisdom, and were prejudiced against the lowly doctrine of the cross by the pride of virtue; to men sunk in ignorance and vice, who were devoted to the worship of false gods, and felt no interest in any concerns but those of this transitory life. When Christianity demanded their attention, and claimed to be received as the only true religion, nothing could exceed their surprise and indignation. The philosophers despised it as an absurd and arrogant superstition; the priests denounced it as impious and offensive to the gods; statesmen regarded it with a jealous eye, as dangerous to the public peace; and the rabble rose against its preachers, loaded them with abuse, and subjected them to every kind of injurious treatment. To whose care was the propagation of the Gospel commitiçd? Who were appointed to publish it amidst hardships, sufferings, and death, and to defend it against acute and learned antagonists? They were taken from the lowest ranks, and from the meanest occupations; they had not received the advantages of education, and knew nothing of worldly wisdom; they had no power, or wealth, or influence; their appearance, their language,
Isaiah j. 7. + John xvi. 32. # 2 Thess. i. 11. 1 Cor. i. 23.
their manner of address, were all unfavourable to their cause. Notwithstanding the utter improbability that such a religion should succeed in such circumstances, its progress was great and rapid. During the life of its first preachers, it found its way into the provinces and cities of the Roman empire, and made converts of the rich and the poor, the learned and the illiterate. It afterwards went on extending its conquests till it gained the ascendant, and was triumphantly established in almost every region of the civilized world. Now, as the human means employed in the propagation of the Gospel were manifestly inadequate, we must attribute its success to supernatural agency. It is a species of miracle which does not strike the eye, but the mind. Something has been effected, not indeed without means, but above them; and is as truly wonderful as was the flowing of water from a rock, when Moses smote it with his rod. A power was exerted upon the minds of men, as plainly omnipotent as the power exerted in the creation, or in the various modifications of matter. 66 God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise ; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty ; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are, that no flesh should glory in his presence.” * The same writer says in another place,
6. We have this treasure, namely, the Gospel, “ in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us;" † that is, the dispensation of it is committed to us, who are manifestly incapable of giving it efficacy, that the world may be compelled to acknowledge its success to be the work of God.
An almighty Being demands the profound reverence of his creatures. Shall they not fear him “who removeth the mountains, and they know not; who overturneth them in his anger; who shaketh the earth out of her place, and the pillars thereof tremble; who commandeth the sun, and it riseth not, and sealeth up the stars; who alone spreadeth out the heavens, and treadeth upon the waves of the sea; who doth great things past finding out, yea, and wonders without number?"! His friendship should be diligently cultivated, for if God be for us, who can be against us? Upon him we should confidently rely, who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or think. Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that therein is, who keepeth truth for ever.”'S “ The Lord is thy keeper, the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand. The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.”'ll
Goodness of God—Idea of this Perfection : display of Goodness in the Creation of the Universe :
and in his dispensations to Mankind—Existence of Physical Evil consistent with the Divine Goodness-Origin of Moral Evil-Display of Divine Goodness in Redemption.
By the goodness of God, we do not understand the general excellence of his nature, but that particular property or principle, which disposes him to communicate happiness to his creatures. It is in this sense that we pronounce it to be one of his essential attributes. It is necessary in conjunction with other attributes, to complete the idea of an all-perfect Being, and is the foundation of the trust, and love, and hope, with which he is regarded by men. We could think of him only with distant reverence, if we conceived that he took no interest in the well-being of his creatures ; and the supposition that he was actuated by a principle of malevolence, would create dread of one infinitely superior to us, from whose pursuit it was impossible to escape. We should tremble at his power, which could torment and destroy us; at his wisdom, the contrivances of which for our injury we possessed no means of evading; at his immensity, which forced upon us the alarming thought, that to whatever place we might flee for refuge, we should be always in the presence of an enemy. Goodness throws a mild and tranquillizing lustre over the majestic attributes of his nature. It presents them to us under a friendly aspect; associated with it, they appear as so many powers, by which its benignant designs will be carried into full effect. We look up to him not only as a Sovereign, but as a Father; we feel emotions of gratitude rising in harmony with sentiments of veneration; we are emboldened to supplicate his favour, and to resign ourselves to his disposal. Goodness has been considered as one of his attributes by men of every nation, conducted no doubt to this conclusion by the proofs of his beneficence in the natural course of events. The ancient heathens called him the Best, as well as the Greatest of Beings. If some believed in the existence of a malevolent Being, because they observed much evil in the world, and knew not how otherwise to account for it, they also acknowledged another Being of an opposite character, the author of order and beauty, by whose bounty the wants of living creatures were supplied.
* 1 Cor. i. 27-29. + 2 Cor. iv. 7. † Job ix. 5—10. Ps. cxlvi. 5, 6. || Ps. cxxi. 5, 6.
Goodness being a disposition to communicate happiness, regulated, however, in an intelligent Agent by wisdom, and in a moral Agent by a regard to purity and justice, we learn that it belongs to God from a survey of his works and dispensations.
The goodness of God is clearly deducible from the act of creation. We can conceive no other reason, in subordination to his glory, for the exertion of his power in giving life to so many orders of creatures, and fitting up the earth to be a convenient habitation for them. This argument consists of two parts: the formation of sensitive beings capable of happiness, and the adaptation of the circumstances in which they are placed to promote it. The production of the earth, with its division into sea and dry land, its vegetable covering, and its springs and rivers, would have afforded a proof of power, but not of goodness, if it had not been replenished with inhabitants who could be benefited by this arrangement; so that in reasoning concerning the goodiess of God, we constantly refer to the provision made for the well-being of ani. mals, rational and irrational, according to their respective natures and capacities. He did not create by a necessity of nature, as the sun gives light, or a fountain pours out its waters; but, being a free Agent, he exerted his power in consequence of counsel and design, and exerted it to such an extent, and in such a variety of ways, as were agreeable to himself. He did not create with the same view which leads a man to collect a retinue of friends and dea pendants, that he may be cheered by their company, and aided by their services; for he was sufficient to himself
, infinitely and immutably blessed in the enjoyment of his own excellence. As we are confessedly not competent judges of the Divine counsels, it might be presumptuous to affirm that benevolence was the only motive of the creation, and it has been thought more proper to say, that the end was the glory of the Creator. But this is a general reason for all his works, and consequently throws no light upon a particular one.
When we say that God does any thing for his glory, if we aflix any distinct sense to our words, we must mean that he does it for the manifestation of his perfections. There is no inconsistency, therefore, in maintaining that Vol. 1.-31
goodness was the motive of creation, for this is only to say, that God purposed to display the benevolence of his nature in giving existence to other beings besides himself
. It is true, that creation has eventually served to glorify all his perfections in the great scheme of providence, of which fallen men are the objects; but considering it by itsell, and in its first intention, we are authorized to assert, that its primary design was the diffusion of happiness. What other idea is suggested by the contemplation of a system so regular and beautiful in all its parts, and teeming with life and enjoyment? Had noi the Divine nature been communicative, God would have remained for ever alone; but now he beholds from his throne a scale of beings, ascending from the insect and the worm to the seraph and the archangel, all rejoicing in conscious existence, and partaking of the riches of his liberality. The eternal fountain has overflowed, and the universe is refreshed and gladdened by its stream. It is the saying of a heathen philosopher, that when God was about to make the world, he transformed himself into love.
The goodness of God may be inferred from the state in which living creatures are made. They are relatively perfect: that is, they are fitted for their place in creation, their peculiar mode of life, and the purposes which they were designed to serve. Nothing is wanting which is necessary for the preservation of life, for defence, the procuring of food, and motion from place to place. As this adaptation is a proof of wisdom, when considered in the relation of means to an end, so it is also a proof of goodness, as the obvious intention of it is the well-being of the animal. Had we found living creatures destitute of any of those members and organs of sense upon which their safety and comfort depend, birds without wings, fishes without fins, beasts without legs, we might have supposed that they were the productions of a Being who meant that they should languish in misery and perish. The contrary conclusion must be drawn from the intention which has been evidently paid to their comfortable subsistence. He who has bestowed life, has rendered it a gist worthy of himself, by associating with it a variety of conveniences and pleasures. “If he had wished our misery,” says a celebrated writer," he might have made sure of his purpose, by forming our senses to be so many sores and pains to us, as they are now instruments of gratification and enjoyment, or by placing us amidst objects so ill suited to our perceptions, as to have continually offended us, instead of ministering to our refreshment and delight. He might have made, for example, everything we tasted bitter, every thing we saw loathsome, every thing we touched a sting, every smell a stench, and every sound a discord. If he had been indifferent about our happiness or misery, we must impute to our good fortune (as all design by this supposition is excluded) both the capacity of our senses to receive pleasure, and the supply of external objects fitted to produce it. But either of these (and still more both of them) being too much to be attributed to accident, nothing remains but the supposition that God, when he created the human species, wished their happiness, and made for them the provision which he has made, with that view, and for that purpose."'* These observations are applicable to the inferior animals as well as to men; and the adjustment of their constitution to their circumstances, so that they are capable of enjoyment from the objects around them, proves in the most satisfactory manner, that their Maker is a benevolent Being.
The goodness of God is displayed in the abundant provision which he has made for the wants of his creatures. “ The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season. Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing.”+ With the care and bounty of a parent, he provides for the members of his family. The various species of * Paley's Moral Philosophy, B. ii. c. 5.
Ps. cxlv. 15, 16.
animals differ from each other, as much in their taste as in their form, insomuch, that the food which sustains one will not nourish another, and what one eagerly seeks another rejects with disgust. Substances which to us seem useless, and offensive to our senses, and if taken into our stomachs would be noxious, furnish wholesome and delicious nutriment to creatures differently constituted. The goodness of God is seen in the production of such a variety of substances, that none of the tribes of animals which it has seemed meet to his wisdom to create, might want its appropriate aliment. The guests at the table of providence have no community of interests and feelings, but they all find entertainment; not one of them goes away disappointed. Many parts of the earth are not inhabited by men, yet in them the process of -vegetation goes on from year to year; the sun shines, the rain falls, and the earth brings forth herbs and plants. It is not, however, to be thought that this is a mere waste, like the profusion of the spendthrift, who scatters his bounty where no good will be done. In the deserts there are myriads of insects, and birds, and quadrupeds, which He who made them does not deem unworthy of his care; and as our Lord says, “our heavenly Father feedeth them.” If on digging into the earth, or penetrating into the fissures of the rock, you find living creatures to which such places afford a convenient abode, you also find, that he who assigned them these stations has not left them without the means of subsistence and enjoyment. What a delightful view of the Divine goodness is given by the regular succession of the seasons, the opening buds and blossoms of spring, the luxuriant growth of summer, the matured fruits and rich harvests of autumn! It is by this succession, that God prepares the ample and various feasts to which all his living offspring are invited.
For them the sun pours out a flood of light and genial heat; for them the earth is endowed with unceasing powers of fertility; for them the winds bear life and health on their wings. “O Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all; the earth is full of thy riches.” His riches are not exhausted upon the earth; the ocean which surrounds it is also replenished with inhabitants, to whom his bounty extends. “So also is this great and wide sea, wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts. There go the ships; there is that leviathan, whom thou hast made to play therein. That thou givest them they gather: thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good.”
Once more : The goodness of God is manifest in the variety of natural pleasures, which he has provided for his creatures. By associating these with existence, he has made it truly a blessing, and acted in the character of benevolence, which happy itself, delights to see others happy. There seems, indeed, to be a high degree of pleasure attached to simple existence, as we may judge from the lively motions of young animals—the frisking of a lamb, for example-which appear to have no specific object, and to proceed from a certain indescribable satisfaction which they experience in the possession of life and activity. When in summer the air is filled with myriads of insects, which are almost constantly on the wing, wheeling in sportive circles, we have an evidence of the delight with which they pass their transitory duration, and a proof, not perhaps much attended to, but calculated to affect a reflecting mind, of the beneficence of the Deity. Their enjoyment is merely sensitive, but it is the only kind of which they are capable; and it is goodness, rich in its treasures, and minute in its attentions, which thus adapts itself to every living nature. His goodness is farther displayed in the pleasure which animals derive from their food. This is a distinct consideration from the nourishment which it yields. It might have nourished without producing any agreeable sensation. We experience that food not only satisfies the appetite of hunger, but also gratifies our taste; and we have reason to think, that this gratification
# Ps. cis. 24-28.