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play of his goodness as they are capable of beholding, it cannot be said with propriety that he displays all his goodness. But when he displays as much of his goodness as they are capable of comprehending, then he may be said in that respect to display all his goodness.
2. God's displaying all his goodness farther implies his displaying it in all its branches, and agreeably to the various natures and characters of his dependent creatures. In particular,
1. It implies displaying his benevolence towards all sensitive natures. Nothing more is necessary to render any creature the proper object of benevolence, than a mere capacity of enjoying happiness and suffering pain. And as all the creatures of God possess this capacity, so they are all the objects of his benevolent feelings. He hears the young ravens when they cry. He opens his hand, and satisfies the desire of every living thing. He is good unto all, and his tender mercies are over all his works. He regards with a benevolent eye, the highest angel and the lowest insect. His perfect goodness is perfect benevolence towards all the proper objects of benevolence. And it is impossible that he should display all his goodness, without displaying universal benevolence towards all his creatures, whether rational or irrational, whether virtuous or vicious. Mere benevolence has no respect to character, but only to capacity. And therefore God displays his benevolent regards to the lowest as well as the highest, and to the worst as well as to the best, of his creatures.
2. In order to display all his goodness, God must display his complacency towards all holy beings. The goodness of the Deity naturally and necessarily inclines him to love goodness, wherever he sees it. Those creatures, therefore, who are virtuous and holy, are the objects of his complacency and delight. He not only desires their happiness, but loves their characters. Accordingly we read, “ The righteous Lord loveth righteousness.” “ The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him. “The
." Lord loveth the righteous.” And to Zion it is said, “ The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save thee; he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love; he will joy over thee with singing. God loved Moses, and
" manifested his love to him by conversing freely with him as a man converses with his friend. John was the beloved disciple of Christ, who allowed him to lean on his bosom. And Christ says all that love him are loved of his Father. God loves all who bear his moral image, from the highest seraph to the lowest saint. Hence he cannot display all his goodness, without VOL. IV.
displaying his love of complacency towards all amiable, holy, virtuous beings.
3. Another branch of divine goodness is grace towards the guilty and ill deserving. This God explicitly declares is im. plied in his goodness, and must be manifested in displaying it. “ I will make all my goodness pass before thee; -- and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.' The goodness of God, as it respects sinners, is grace, or mercy, or compassion, or that disposition which leads him to pardon their offences. Perfect goodness is perfect grace to the guilty. So it is more fully represented in the chapter succeeding that of the text, where we have an account of God's displaying his goodness agreeably to his promise to Moses. “ And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin."
God's forgiving goodness, or pardoning love, lay at the foundation of the work of redemption. All the blessings of the gospel, and even the gospel itself, took their rise from this branch of divine goodness, which is more celebrated in scripture than any other beauty in the divine character. Our Saviour declares, “ God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Paul says in the fifth of Romans, “ God commendeth his love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” And he celebrates divine grace in stronger terms still, in the second of Ephesians. “ But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ; by grace are ye saved ; and bath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness towards us through Christ Jesus.” Such a display of divine grace is absolutely necessary, in order to give a full display of divine goodness. It must be observed,
4. That another branch of God's goodness is distributive justice, or a disposition to punish impenitent sinners according to their deeds. Such distributive justice God manifested when he made all his goodness pass before Moses. Having proclaimed himself as forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin, he adds, “And that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation." This must mean his punishing the impenitent, because it is set in contrast with his forgiving the penitent. And God often declares that he has not only a right, but a disposition to punish incorrigible sinners. “See now that I, even I am he, and there is no god with me. I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal; - If I whet my glittering sword, and mine hand take hold on judgment; I will render vengeance to mine enemies, and will reward them that hate me.” To this the apostle refers, when he says to christians, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath; for it is written, vengeance is mine; I will repay saith the Lord.” It must be the nature of a perfectly good being to feel affections exactly correspondent to the characters and dispositions of his reasonable creatures. As God loves the good, sò he must hate the evil; and as he is disposed to reward the good, so he must be disposed to punish the evil. Accordingly David represents God as feeling and conducting in this manner. 6 With the merciful thou wilt show thyself merciful; with an upright man thou wilt show thyself upright; with the pure thou wilt show thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt show thyself froward." In another place, the Psalmist calls upon the church to praise God for the displays of his goodness in punishing the wicked. “O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever. To him that smote Egypt in their first-born; for his mercy endureth for ever. To him that overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea; for his mercy endureth for ever. - To him which smote great kings; for his mercy endureth for ever.” God's goodness is a consuming fire to the finally impenitent, and will burn to the lowest hell. And this amiable attribute of vindictive justice must be displayed, in order to a full display of divine goodness. Thus God displays all his goodness when he displays it in the highest possible degree, and in every possible way. It is impossible to conceive that a more clear and full display of goodness than this, can be made by the greatest and best of beings. It remains to show,
III. That God, by thus displaying all his goodness, necessarily displays all his glory. This is plainly supposed in the text. Moses prays that God would show him his glory, and God replies, “I will make all my goodness pass before thee." There appears no pertinency in this reply, unless the Deity would necessarily display all his glory, by displaying all his good
But the truth of this will more fully appear, if we consider,
1. That when God displays all his goodness, he displays all his moral character. The Supreme Being has no moral excellence but what is included in his goodness. God is love; all his goodness consists in love; all his love lies in his heart; and his heart is the seat of all his moral excellence. By displaying all his heart, therefore, he necessarily displays all his moral character. But he displays all his heart
, when he displays all his goodness. For all the feelings of his heart are goodness itself.
So that it is impossible for God to display all his goodness, without displaying all his feelings; and when all his feelings are expressed or acted out, his whole heart and all his moral excellence is displayed. Besides,
2. When God displays all his goodness, he necessarily displays all his natural as well as moral excellence. Self-existence, independence, omnipresence, almighty power, boundless knowledge and infinite wisdom, form the natural excellence or glory of God. But all these natural attributes derive their real glory from his goodness, without which, they would be a blemish rather than a beauty in his character. When his natural perfections are under the influence of perfect goodness, and exercised to display it, then they appear in all their glory; but could we suppose them to be disconnected from perfect goodness, and under the influence of a malevolent heart, they would appear infinitely odious and terrible, and form the most malignant and detestable character conceivable. It is the goodness of God which stamps a beauty and glory upon all his natural attributes. Accordingly, when he displays all his goodness, he necessarily displays all the glory of his natural perfections. The full display of his goodness requires the highest exertions of his power, wisdom and knowledge. All these must be exerted, in order to form and execute a scheme which is calculated to promote the highest possible good of the universe. If God displays all his goodness, therefore, he must necessarily display all his greatness. This connection between the displays of goodness and greatness we find in men. Moses could not display all his goodness, without displaying all his greatness. Paul could not display all his goodness without displaying all his greatness. And Christ could not display all the feelings of his heart, without displaying all the perfections of his nature. So the Supreme Being cannot display all his moral without displaying all his natural attributes. God has no glory but what consists in and is derived from his goodness; and, therefore, by displaying all his goodness, he must necessarily display all his glory. Having illustrated the several particulars proposed, it remains to draw a number of plain and important inferences from what has been said.
1. If God be a being who possesses and displays perfect goodness, then the religion which he has required of mankind is a reasonable service. He saith to every one who is capable of understanding his word, “ Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength.” Supreme love to God is the sum and comprehension of all that religion which he has enjoined upon men. And if he be a being of supreme moral excellence, then he is worthy of the supreme affection of all his reasonable creatures. It is neither superstition nor enthusiam to love, to fear, to obey, to worship and to adore, the greatest and best of beings. tional creatures cannot give a brighter display of their rationality, than in discerning the supreme excellences of their Creator, nor a brighter display of their goodness, than in giving him the supreme affection of their hearts. If it be reasonable to love any object, it is reasonable to love the most amiable object. If it be reasonable to esteem any object, it is reasonable to esteem that which has the greatest natural and moral excellence. If it be reasonable to obey any being, it is reasonable to obey him whose will is perfect rectitude. If it be reasonaable to submit to the government of any being, it is reasonable to submit to the government of him who always knows and always does what is best.
best. If it be reasonable to worship any being, it is reasonable to worship him who is infinitely the greatest and best of all beings. The religion which God requires is founded in the nature of things, and must remain a reasonable service on the part of man, as long as he retains his rational nature, and God possesses supreme natural and moral excellence.
2. If God must display his goodness in order to display his glory, then by seeking his own glory he must necessarily seek the good of his creatures. A full display of divine goodness must necessarily promote the highest happiness of the intellectual system. God cannot, therefore, display all his goodness without aiming to diffuse the largest possible portion of holiness and happiness through the universe ; or in other words, he cannot seek his own glory in the highest degree, without seeking the highest good of. the intelligent creation. The scriptures abundantly teach us that God aims at his own glory in all his conduct. We read that he “ made all things for him- . self;" and that “ for his pleasure they are and were created." In dispensing mercies and judgments, he tells us he means to display his glory before the eyes of all his intelligent creatures. · But in every instance of displaying his glory, he displays his goodness, and promotes the happiness of the universe. In creating angels and men, and all inferior objects, his ultimate