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SERMON II. The Goodness of God, proved from
Mark x. 18.
There is none good but one, that is God. Serm. A s goodness, in general, is a most amiII. A able subject of meditation, it is im
possible for the human heart designedly and deliberately to think of it without pleasure. The goodness of the Deity is in a peculiar manner, above his other perfections, attractive of our highest esteem and delight. They are all excellent in themselves, absolute, independent of any other being, necessary as his existence, and infinite: But beneficence finishes his character, which is the just object of our adoration our reverence and love, the foundation of our hope and confidence in him, and most worthy to be imitated by us, as far as our limited capacity and the frailty of our nature will allow. The consideration of eternity and immensity, of
power and wisdom, nay, and of holiness and Serm. justice, abstracting from love and kindness, II. may strike the mind with admiration and awe; but the bounty of God to all sensitive, and especially rational creatures, his opening his hand liberally, and giving them that which is convenient for them, suitable to their several natures - This inspires the heart of man with hope and joy, excites the best affections, and makes all the rest of the divine attributes appear most lovely. · I intend afterwards more particularly to explain this subject. My present design is to prove that God is good. Some have endeavoured to prove all his moral attributes, and particularly his goodness, from his natural perfections; and their reasoning seems to be very strong. As morality has a necessary foundation in the nature and reason of things, independently on, and antecedently to all will, and positive appointment; (for the essences of things being different, there must be different relations, an agreeableness and disagreeableness of some to others, and particularly a suitableness of certain conditions and circumstances to certain persons, or their characters and qualifications ;) So this necessarily appears to the human understanding; and we cannot help thinking it appears to every unVol. II,
SERM.derstanding, more or less clearly, according II. to the measure of its perfection; and every
'intelligent agent must of necessity, (not natural but moral, consistent with the most perfect freedom,) direct his actions by that distinction of fit and unfit, so far as it is known to him, unless he be hindered by impotence or wrong affection. Now the supreme cause of all things being absolutely perfect, selfexistent, independent, and unchangeable, his understanding infinite, his power almighty ; as he discerns all the relations and even poffibilities of things ; no reason can poslībly be imagined why he should not always act according to these invariable respects, which he has made every intelligent creature capable of seeing, and thereby capable of approving and praising his administration. He can never mistake evil for good, or fail in distinguishing the true limits of fit and unfit. There is no superior power to controul or restrain him in doing what he thinks most reafonable to be done. He is infinitely above all indigence, or want of any thing to make him perfectly easy and happy; and therefore his mind cannot be biassed by any selfish or partial affections, which are in other agents the sources of offence againít the eternal rule of right. In particular, the supreme Being must
be good, or inclined to communicate happi-Serm. ness, because he is in himself, and was from II. eternity, perfectly and unchangeably happy, and therefore cannot be supposed to have designed the production of any kind or degree of unhappiness, unless his wisdom should foresee it might be a means of greater good in the end. Nor indeed can it be supposed, that such a Being could have another motive to make any creatures at all than to communicate good in such variety, and always in such proportion, as to his infinite wisdom should seem meet. That God is beneficent also appears from his absolute all-sufficiency, whereby he is at an infinite distance from malice, envy, and all temptations to do evil. For these malevolent dispositions, and every disposition contrary to goodness, as they are known to be tormenting to the mind in which they are seated, so they always proceed, and in their nature must proceed, from weakness and imperfection.
But tho' this reasoning may be very convincing to some attentive persons, yet ano. ther, and a larger method of illustrating the subject before us, may be more generally useful, which therefore I fall endeavour in the following discourse ; namely, by considering the genuine fruits of goodness apparent in the
Ser M.works and ways of God, or in his constituII. tion of things, and administration of provi
dence. To which purpose it is only necesfary to observe, that the evidence of the divine goodness is the same with the evidence of that disposition in any other being, as the principle itself is the same in kind tho' different in the degree of its perfection. If a designing cause actually produces those effects, which in their nature and tendency are beneficial to other beings, and we see no reason to think that he acts upon selfish principles, we cannot help concluding that he is beneficent. Now it has been proved, that God is the supreme intelligent designing cause of all things in the universe; he has disposed its form, 'fixed its order, the relations, the connexion
and dependence of all its parts, and the harmony of the whole; that he continually superintends and irresistibly governs it, being every where present, and every where exercising his power and wisdom. And therefore
if in the intire state of things, and series of "events, it appears that there are many bene
fits actually conferred, and much happiness actually communicated to beings which are capable of it, (various happiness suitable to their various natures and conditions, either in their poffeffion, or placed within their