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OF THE GOODNESS OF GOD.
PSALM cxlv. 9.
The Lord is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works.
THE goodness of God is a frequented theme; to many perhaps it may seem vulgar and trite; so that discourse thereon, like a story often told, may be nauseous to their ears: but in truth neither can we speak too much upon this most excellent subject, nor ought we ever to be weary in hearing about it; for it is a sign that the palate of our mind is distempered, if we do not with delight and affection relish any mention of divine goodness. Yea, the observation of men's common practice would induce us to think, that either this point is not so well known, or but little believed, or at least not well considered and applied. For how could we be so void of love to God, of gratitude toward him, of faith and hope in him, were we thoroughly persuaded, did we seriously consider, that he is so exceedingly good toward us? How can we be so insensible of the benefits we enjoy, so distrustful of finding succours and supplies in our need, so dissatisfied and discontented with what befalls us, if we conceive and weigh, that all things do proceed from, are guided and governed by immense
goodness? How also, if men have such an opinion SERM. of God impressed on their minds, comes it to pass, that they are so little careful to resemble and imitate him in kindness, bounty, and mercy to one another? How is it, in fine, that the most powerful argument to all manner of good practice, and the mightiest aggravation of sin, if well known and pondered, hath so little force and efficacy upon us? From experience therefore this argument may seem scarce sufficiently inculcated. We may add, that discourse upon this attributea (which above all other attributes doth render God peculiarly admirable and amiable) hath this special advantage beyond other discourses, that it doth, if our hearts conspire therewith, approach most nearly to the formal exercise of the most high and heavenly parts of devotion, praise and thanksgiving; that it more immediately conduces to the breeding, the nourishing, the augmenting in us the best and noblest of pious affections, love and reverence to God; trust and hope in him; willing resolutions to please and serve him; whence it is consequent, that we cannot too much employ our thoughts, our words, or our attention upon this point. Besides so much reason, we have also good example to countenance us in so doing: we have the precedent of the holy Psalmist resolving to make it his constant and continual employment: I will sing, saith he, of the mercies of Ps. lxxxix. the Lord; with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations. And, Every day Psal. cxlv. will I bless thee, and I will praise thy name for2. ever and ever; (that blessing and praising God, the context shews to have consisted especially in the de
-Θεὸς, οὗ πολλῶν ὄντων, ἐφ ̓ οἷς θαυμάζεται, οὐδὲν οὕτως ὡς τὸ πάντας εὐεργέτειν ἰδιωτατόν. Νaz. Orat. 26.
SERM. claration of God's great goodness :) and, It is a good LXVIII. thing, saith he again, to give thanks unto the Lord, Psal. xcii. and to sing praises unto thy name, O thou most High: to shew forth thy lovingkindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night. Such were his intentions, and such his judgment about this practice; and we find him in effect true and answerable to them; every song of his, every meditation, every exercise of devotion chiefly harping upon this string; and he earnestly wishes that others would consent and consort with him therein; he Psal. cvii. earnestly exhorts and excites them thereto: O that 8. cvi. I. men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! Praise the Lord, O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever. That one example might sufficiently authorize this practice; but we have innumerable others, and those the highest that can be, to encourage and engage us thereto; even the whole choir of heaven, whose perpetual business and happy entertainment it is to contemplate with their minds, to celebrate with their Rev. iv. 8. voices, the immense goodness of God; They have, as it is in the Revelation, no rest day or night, from performing this office. Such is the subject of our discourse; the which our text most plainly and fully expresses; asserting not only the goodness of God, but the universal and boundless extent thereof; The Lord is good to all, and his tender mercies (or his bowels of affection and pity) are over all his works. And that God indeed is such, we shall first endeavour to declare, then shall briefly apply the consideration thereof to practice.
That God the Lord, and Maker of all things, is of
himself, in regard to all his creatures, especially to SERM. us men, superlatively good, that is, disposed never without just or necessary cause to harm us, and inclinable to do us all possible and befitting good, the universal frame of nature and the constant course of Providence do afford us sufficient reason to conceive, and most frequent, most express testimonies of holy scripture do more fully demonstrate. There is no argument from natural effects discernible by us, which proveth God's existence, (and innumerable such there are, every sort of things well studied may afford some,) the which doth not together persuade God to be very kind and benign; careful to impart to us all befitting good, suitable to our natural capacity and condition; and unwilling that any considerable harm, any extreme want or pain should befall us. (I interpose such limitations, for that an absolute, or universal and perpetual exemption from all kinds or all degrees of inconvenience, an accumulation of all sorts of appearing good upon us, doth not become or suit our natural state of being, or our rank in perfection among creatures; neither, all things being duly stated and computed, will it turn to best account for us.) The best (no less convincing than obvious) arguments, asserting the existence of a Deity, are deduced from the manifold and manifest footsteps of admirable wisdom, skill, and design apparent in the general order, and in the particular frame of creatures; the beautiful harmony of the whole, and the artificial contrivance of each part of the world; the which it is hardly possible that any unprejudiced and undistempered mind should conceive to proceed from blind chance, or as blind necessity. But with this wisdom are always complicated no less evident marks
SERM. of goodness. We cannot in all that vast bulk of the LXVIII. creation, and numberless variety of things, discover any piece of mere pomp, or dry curiosity; every thing seems to have some beneficial tendency; according to which it confers somewhat to the need, convenience, or comfort of those principal creatures, which are endued with sense and capacity to enjoy them. Most of them have a palpable relation to the benefit (to the subsistence or delight) of living creatures; and especially in an ultimate relation to the benefit of man; and the rest, although their immediate use be not to our dim sight so discernible, may therefore be reasonably presumed in their natural designation to regard the same end. Wherefore as upon consideration of that ample provision, which is made in nature for the necessary sustenance, defence, and relief, for the convenience, delight, and satisfaction of every creature, any man, who is not careless or stupid, may be induced to cry out with the Psal. civ. Psalmist, O Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: so may he with no less reason and ground after him pronounce and Ps. xxxiii. acknowledge; The earth is full of the goodness of 5. cxix. 64. the Lord: The earth, O Lord, is full of thy mercy: Thy mercy is great unto the heavens: thy mercy is great above the heavens. It is indeed because divine goodness is freely diffusive and communicative of itself; because essential love is active and fruitful in beneficence; because highest excellency is void of all envy, selfishness, and tenacity, that the world was produced such as it was; those perfections being intrinsical to God's nature, disposed him to bestow so much of being, of beauty, of pleasure upon his creaHe openeth his hand, they are filled with
Ps. civ. 28. tures.