SERMON II.* The Goodness of God.
The Lord is Good to all, and his tender Mercies are over all his Works.
IN the handling of this Argument, I proposed to do these four things.
First, To consider what is the proper Notion of Goodness, as it is attributed to God.
Secondly, To shew that this Perfecti∣on belongs to God.
Thirdly, To consider the Effects of the Divine Goodness, together with the large extent of it, in respect of its objects. And,
Fourthly, To answer some Objections which may seem to contradict, and bring in question the Goodness of God. Page 26 I have considered the two first; and in speaking to the third, I proposed the considering these two things.
I. The universal extent of God's Goodness, to all his Creatures.
II. More especially the Goodness of God to man, which we are more especially concerned to take notice of, and be affected with.
The First of these appears in these four particulars.
1. In his giving Being to so many Creatures.
2. In making them all so very good, considering the number and variety, the rank and order, the end and de∣sign of all of them.
3. In his continual preservation of them.
4. In his providing so abundantly for the welfare and happiness of all of them, so far as they are capable and sensible of it.
The First of these I spoke largely to; I proceed to shew in the,
2. Place, that the universal Goodness of God appears, in making all these Creatures so very good, considering the number and variety, the rank and order, the end and design of all of Page 27 them. His Goodness excited and set a work his Power to make this World, and all the Creatures in it; and that they might be made in the best man∣ner that could be, his Wisdom direct∣ed his Power, he hath made all things in number, weight, and measure; so that they are admirably fitted and proportioned to one another: And that there is an ex∣cellent Contrivance in all sorts of Be∣ings, and a wonderful beauty and har∣mony in the whole Frame of things, is I think sufficiently visible to every discerning and unprejudiced mind. The lowest form of Creatures, I mean those which are destitute of sense, do all of them contribute some way or o∣ther, to the use, and conveniency, and comfort of the Creatures above them, which being endowed with sense are capable of enjoying the benefit and delight of them, which being so palpable in the greatest part of them, may resonably be presumed, tho'it be not so discernable concerning all the rest; so that when we survey the whole Creation of God, and the seve∣ral parts, we may well cry out with Da∣vid, Psal. 104.24. O Lord how mani∣fold are thy works, in wisdom hath thou made them all!
Page 28'Tis true indeed, there are degrees of Perfection in the Creatures, and God is not equally good to all of them. Those Creatures which are of more Noble and Excellent Natures, and to which he hath communicated more degrees of Perfection, they partake more of his Goodness, and are more glorious instances of it: But every Creature partakes of the Divine Good∣ness in a certain degree, and accord∣ing to the Nature and Capacity of it. God, if he pleased, could have made nothing but immortal Spirits; and he could have made as many of these as there are individual Creatures of all sorts in the World: but it seemed good to the wise Architect, to make seve∣ral ranks and orders of Beings, and to display his Power, and Goodness, and Wisdom, in all imaginable variety of Creatures; all which should be good in their kind, tho' far short of the Per∣fection of Angels and immortal Spi∣rits.
He that will build a House for all the uses and purposes of which a House is capable, cannot make it all foun∣dation, and great beams and pillars; must not so contrive it, as to make it Page 29 all Rooms of state and entertainment: but there must of necessity be in it meaner materials, rooms and offices for several uses and purposes, which however inferiour to the rest in dignity and degree, do yet contribute to the beauty and advantage of the whole. So in this great Frame of the World, it was fit there should be variety and different degrees of Perfection in the several parts of it; and this is so far from being an impeachment of the Wisdom or Goodness of him that made it, that it is an Evidence of both. For the meanest of all Gods Creatures is good, considering the nature and rank of it, and the end to which it was designed; and we cannot imagine how it could have been ordered and framed better, tho' we can easily tell how it might have been worse, and that if this or that had been wanting, or had been otherwise, it had not been so good; and those who have been most con∣versant in the contemplation of Na∣ture, and of the Works of God, have been most ready to make this acknow∣ledgment.
But then if we consider the Crea∣tures of God, with relation to one a∣nother, Page 30 and with regard to the whole Frame of things, they will all appear to be very good; and notwithstand∣ing this or that kind of Creatures, be much less perfect than another, and there be a very great distance be∣tween the Perfection of a worm, and of an Angel; yet considering every thing in the rank and order which it hath in the Creation, it is as good as could be, considering its nature and use, and the place allotted to it a∣mong the Creatures.
And this difference in the Works of God, between the goodness of the se∣veral parts of the Creation, and the excellent and perfect goodness of the whole, the Scripture is very careful to express to us in the History of the Creation, where you find God repre∣sented, as first looking upon, and con∣sidering every days work by it self, and approving it, and pronouncing it to be good, Gen. 1.4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 24. at the end of every days work, it is said that God saw it, and it was good: but then when all was finisht, and he surveyed the whole together, it is said, v. 31. that God saw every thing that he had made, and behold it Page 31 was very good; very good, that is the best, the Hebrews having no other Superlative. Every Creature of God by it self is good: But take the whole together, and they are very good, the best that could be.
3. The universal goodness of God further appears, in the careful and continual preservation of the things which he hath made; his upholding and maintaining the several Creatures in being, in their natural state and order; those which have life, in life, to the period which he hath determi∣ned and appointed for them; in his preserving the whole World, his ma∣naging and governing this vast Frame of things, in such sort, as to keep it from running into confusion and disor∣der. This is a clear demonstration, no less of the goodness than of the Wis∣dom and Power of God, that for so many Ages all the parts of it have kept their places, and performed the offices and work for which Nature designed them; that the World is not, in the course of so many thousand years, grown old and weak, and out of re∣pair, and that the Frame of things Page 32 doth not dissolve and fall in pie∣ces.
And the Goodness of God doth not only take care of the main, and sup∣port the whole Frame of things, and preserve the more noble and conside∣rable Creatures; but even the least and meanest of them. The Providence of God doth not overlook any thing that he hath made, nor despise any of the works of his hands, so as to let them relapse, and fall back into nothing, through neg∣lect and inadvertency; as many as there are, he takes care of them all, Psal. 104.27, 28. where the Psal∣mist speaking of the innumerable mul∣titude of Creatures upon the Earth, and in the Sea, These all (saith he) wait upon thee, that thou mayst give them their meat in due season; that thou giv∣est them they gather, thou openest thine hand, and they are filled with good. And to the same purpose, Psal. 145.15 16. The eyes of all wait upon thee, and thou givest them their meat in due sea∣son; thou openest thine hand, and satisfi∣est the desire of every living thing. The inanimate Creatures, which are with∣out sense; and the brute Creatures, which tho' they have sense, are with∣out Page 33 understanding, and so can have no End and Design of self-preservation, God preserves them, no less than men who are endowed with reason, and foresight to provide for themselves; Psal. 36.7. Thou preservest man and beast. And Psal. 147.9. He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young Ravens when they cry. And so our Saviour declares to us the particular Providence of God towards those Creatures, Matth. 6.26. Behold the fowls of the air, for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. V. 28.29. Consider the lillies of the field, how they grow; they toyl not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of these.
And tho' all the Creatures below man, being without understanding, can take no notice of this bounty of God to them, nor make any acknow∣ledgments to him for it, yet man, who is the Priest of the visible Creati∣on, and placed here in this great Temple of the World, to offer up Sa∣crifices of praise and thanksgiving to God, for his universal goodness to all his Creatures, ought to bless God in Page 34 their behalf, and to sing praises to him, in the name of all the inferiour Crea∣tures, which are subjected to his Do∣minion and Use; because they are all as it were his Family, his Servants and Utensils, and if God should neglect any of them, and suffer them to perish and miscarry, 'tis we that should find the inconvenience and want of them; and therefore we should on their behalf celebrate the Praises of God; as we find David often does in the Psalms, calling upon the inani∣mate and the brute Creatures to praise the Lord.
4. The universal Goodness of God doth yet further appear; in pro∣viding so abundantly for the Welfare and Happiness of all his Creatures, so far as they are capable and sensible of it. He doth not only support and preserve his Creatures in Being, but takes care that they should all enjoy that happiness and pleasure, which their natures are capable of. The Crea∣tures endowed with Sense and Rea∣son, which only are capable of plea∣sure and happiness, God hath taken care to satisfie the several Appetites Page 35 and Inclinations which he hath plant∣ed in them; and according as Nature hath enlarged their desires and capa∣cities, so he enlargeth his Bounty to∣wards them; he openeth his hand, and satisfieth the desire of every living thing. God doth not immediately bring Meat to the Creatures, when they are hun∣gry; but it is near to them, common∣ly in the Elements wherein they are bred, or within their reach, and he hath planted Inclinations in them to hunt after it, and to lead and direct them to it; and to encourage self-preser∣vation, and to oblige and instigate them to it, and that they might not be melancholy and weary of Life, he hath so ordered the nature of living Creatures, that Hunger and Thirst are most implacable desires, exceeding painful, and even intolerable; and like∣wise that the satisfaction of these Appe∣tites, should be a mighty pleasure to them. And for those Creatures that are young, and not able to provide for themselves, God hath planted in all Creatures a 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, a natural Affection towards their young ones, which will effectually put them upon seeking Pro∣visions Page 36 for them, and cherishing them, with that care and tenderness which their weak and helpless condition doth require; and reason is not more powerful and effectual in mankind to this purpose, than this natural instinct is in brute Creatures; which shews what care God hath taken, and what provision he hath made in the natural Frame of all his Creatures, for the sa∣tisfaction of the inclinations and appe∣tites which he hath planted in them; the satisfaction whereof is their plea∣sure and happiness. And thus I have done with the First head I proposed, the universal extent of God's goodness to his Creatures, let us now proceed, in the
II. place, To consider more particu∣larly the goodness of God to men; which we are more especially concern∣ed to take notice of, and to be affect∣ed with it. And we need go no fur∣ther than our own observation and ex∣perience, to prove the goodness of God; every day of our lives, we see and taste that the Lord is good, all that we are, and all the good that we en∣joy, and all that we expect and hope for, is from the divine goodness, eve∣ry good and perfect gift descends from Page 37 above, from the Father of lights, Jam. 1.17. And the best and most perfect of his gifts he bestows on the Sons of men. What is said of the wisdom of God, Prov. 8. may be applyed to his goodness; the goodness of God shines forth in all the works of Crea∣tion, in the Heavens and Clouds a∣bove, and in the Fountains of the great deep, in the Earth and the Fields, but its delight is with the Sons of men. Such is the goodness of God to man, that it is represented to us in Scripture, under the Notion of love. God is good to all his Creatures, but he is only said to love the sons of men. More particularly the goodness of God to man appears,
1. That he hath given us such noble and excellent Beings, and placed us in so high a rank and order of his Creatures. We owe to him that we are, and what we are; we do not on∣ly partake of that effect of his good∣ness, which is common to us with all other Creatures, that we have re∣ceived our being from him; but we are peculiarly obliged to him, for his more especial goodness, that he Page 38 hath made us reasonable Creatures, of that Kind which we should have cho∣sen to have been of, if we could sup∣pose, that before we were, it had been referr'd to us, and put to our choice, what part we would be of this visible World. But we did not contrive and chuse this Condition for our selves, we are no ways accessary to the dignity and excellency of our Beings; but God chose this condition for us, and made us what we are; So that we may say, with David, Psal. 100.3, 4, 5. 'Tis he that hath made us, and not we our selves. O enter then into his gates with thanksgiving, and in∣to his courts with praise; be thankful unto him, and speak good of his name, for the Lord is good. The goodness of God is the Spring and Fountain of our Beings, but for that we had been nothing; and but for his farther goodness, we might have been any thing, of the lowest and meanest rank of his Creatures. But the goodness of God hath been pleased to advance us to be the Top and Perfection of the visible Creation, he hath been pleased to en∣dow us with Mind and Understanding, and made us capable of happiness, in the Page 39 knowledge, and love, and enjoyment of himself. He hath curiously and wonderfully wrought the Frame of our Bodies, so as to make them fit Habitations for reasonable Souls, and immortal Spirits; he hath made our very Bodies Vessels of Honour, when of the very same Clay he hath made innumerable other Creatures, of a much lower rank and condition; so that tho' man in respect of his Body be a-kin to the Earth, yet in regard of his Soul, he is allied to Heaven, of a divine Original, and descended from above. Of all the Creatures in this vi∣sible World, man is the chief; and what is said of Behemoth, or the Ele∣phant, Job 42. in respect of his great strength, and the vast bigness of his Body, is only true absolutely of man, that he is, divini opificii caput, the chief of the ways of God, and upon earth there is none like him.
The Psalmist takes particular notice of the goodness of God to man, in this respect of the excellency and dignity of his being. Psal. 8.5. Thou hast made him little lower than the Angels, and hast crowned him with glory and ho∣nour. And this advantage of our na∣ture Page 40 above other Creatures, we ought thankfully to acknowledge; tho' most men are so stupid, as to overlook it, as Elihu complains, Job 35.10, 11. None saith, where is God my maker? Who teacheth us more than the beasts of the earth, and maketh us wiser than the fowls of heaven.
2. The goodness of God to man ap∣pears, in that he hath made and or∣dained so many things chiefly for our use. The beauty and usefulness of the Creatures below us, their plain sub∣serviency to our necessity, and bene∣fit, and delight, are so many clear Evidences of the Divine Goodness to us, not only discernable to our Reason, but even palpable to our Senses, so that we may see and taste that the Lord is gracious.
This David particularly insists up∣on as a special ground of praise and thanksgiving to God, that he hath subjected so great a part of the Crea∣tion to our dominion and use; Psal. 8.6, 7, 8. speaking of man, Thou hast made him to have dominion o∣ver the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet; all sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of Page 41 the field; the fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. What an in∣innumerable variety of Creatures are there in this inferiour World, which were either solely or principally made for the use and service, pleasure and delight of man! How many things are there, which serve for the necessi∣ty and support, for the contentment and comfort of our lives! How ma∣ny things for the refreshment and de∣light of our Senses, and the excercise and employment of our Understand∣ings! That God hath not made man for the service of other Creatures, but other Creatures for the service of man, Epictetus doth very ingeniously argue from this observation; that the Crea∣tures below man, the brute beasts, have all things in a readiness, nature having provided for them meat, and drink, and lodging, so that they have no absolute need that any should build Houses, or make Cloaths, or store up Provisions, or prepare and dress meat for them; for, says he, being made for the service of another, they ought to be furnisht with these things, that they may be always in a readiness, to serve Page 42 their Lord and master; a plain evidence that they were made to serve man, and not man to serve them.
And to raise our thoughts of God's goodness to us the Sons of men yet higher, as he hath given us the Crea∣tures below us for our use and conve∣nience, so hath he appointed the Crea∣tures above us for our Guard and Pro∣tection, not to say for our service. Psal. 34.7. The Angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and he delivereth them; and then it follows, O taste and see that the Lord is good. And, Psal. 91.11, 12. He shall give his Angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands. Nay the Apostle speaks, as if their whole business and imployment were to attend upon and be serviceable to good men, Heb. 1.14. Are they not all ministring spirits, sent forth to minister for them, who shall be heirs of Salvation?
3. The goodness of God to men ap∣pears, in his tender Love and peculi∣ar Care of us, above the rest of the Creatures, being ready to impart and dispense to us the good that is sui∣table to our capacity and condition; Page 43 and concerned to exempt us from those manifold Evils of Want and Pain, to which we are obnoxious. I do not mean an absolute exemption from all sorts and all degrees of Evil, and a perpetual tenor of temporal happi∣ness, and enjoyment of all good things; this is not suitable to our present state, and the rank and order which we are in among the Creatures; nor would it be best for us, all things considered. But the Goodness of God to us above o∣ther Creatures, is proportionable to the dignity and excellency of our Natures above them; for as the Apostle rea∣sons in another case, doth God take care for Oxen, and shall he not much more extend his care to Man? To this pur∣pose our Saviour reasons, Mat. 6. Be∣hold the Fowls of the Air, they sow not, neither do they reap, and yet your hea∣venly Father takes care of them; are not ye much better than they? And, v. 30. Wherefore if God so cloath the grass of the field, shall he not much more cloath you? And, Chap. 10.29. Are not two Sparrows sold for a Farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbred. Fear ye not Page 44 therefore, ye are of more value than many Sparrows. 'Tis true, God hath a spe∣cial care of his People and Servants, above the rest of Mankind; but our Saviour useth these Arguments to his Disciples, to convince them of the Providence of God towards them, as Men, and of a more excellent Nature than other Creatures.
And indeed we are born into the World more destitute and helpless, than other Creatures; as if it were on purpose to shew, that God had re∣served us for his more peculiar Care and Providence; which is so great, that the Scripture, by way of conde∣scention, expresseth it to us by the name of Love; so that what effects of Care the greatest and tenderest Affection in Men is apt to produce towards one another, that, and much more, is the effect of God's Goodness to us; and this Affection of God is common to all Men (tho' of all Creatures we have least deserved it) and is ready to diffuse and shed abroad it self, where∣ever Men are qualified for it by Du∣ty and Obedience, and do not obstruct and stop the emanations of it, by their Sins and Provocations.
Page 45And tho' the greatest part of Man∣kind be evil, yet this doth not wholly put a stop to his goodness, tho' it cause many abatements of it, and hin∣der many good things from us; but such is the Goodness of God, notwith∣standing the evil and undutifulness of Men, that he is pleased still to concern himself in the Government of the World, and to preserve the Societies of Men from running into utter con∣fusion and disorder; notwithstanding the violence and irregularities of Mens Wills and Passions, the Communities of Men subsist upon tolerable terms; and notwithstanding the rage and craft of evil Men, poor and unarmed Innocence and Virtue is usually pro∣tected, and sometimes rewarded in this World; and domineering and outra∣gious Wickedness is very often re∣markably checkt and chastised. All which Instances of God's Providence, as they are greatly for the advantage and comfort of Mankind, so are they an effectual declaration of that Good∣ness which governs all things, and of God's kind care of the affairs and con∣cernments of Men; so that if we look no farther than this World, we may Page 46 say with David, Verily there is a re∣ward for the Righteous, verily there is a God that judgeth the earth.
I know this Argument hath been perverted to a quite contrary purpose; that if goodness govern'd the World, and administred the Affairs of it, good and evil would not be so carelesly and promiscously dispensed; good Men would not be so great sufferers, nor wicked Men so prosperous as many times they are.
But this also, if rightly considered, is an Effect of God's goodness, and in∣finite Patience to Mankind; That he causeth his Sun to rise, and his Rain to fall upon the just and unjust. That up∣on the Provocations of Men, he does not give over his care of them, and throw all things into confusion and ruin; this plainly shews, that he de∣signs this Life for the tryal of Men's Virtue and Obedience, in order to the greater reward of it; and therefore he suffers Men to walk in their own ways, without any great check and controle, and reserves the main bulk of Rewards and Punishments for another World: So that all this is so far from being a∣ny Objection against the goodness of Page 47 God, that on the contrary, it is an Argument of God's immense Good∣ness, and infinite Patience, that the World subsists and continues, and that he permits Men to take their course, for the fuller tryal of them, and the clearer and most effectual declaration of his Justice, in the Rewards and Punishments of another life.
Fourthly, and Lastly, The Goodness of God to Mankind most gloriously appears, in the provision he hath made for our Eternal Happiness. What the happiness of Man should have been, had he continued in Innocency, is not particularly revealed to us; but this is certain, that by willful trans∣gression, we have forfeited all that happiness which our Natures are ca∣pable of. In this lapsed and ruinous condition of Mankind, the Good∣ness and Mercy of God was pleased to employ his Wisdom for our Re∣covery, and to restore us, not only to a new, but a greater capacity of Glory and Happiness. And in order to this, the Son of God assumes our Na∣ture, for the recovery and redempti∣on of Man; and the pardon of Sin is purchased for us by his Blood; Eter∣nal Page 48 Life, and the Way to it, are clearly discover'd to us. God is plea∣sed to enter into a New and better Covenant with us, and to afford us inward grace and assistance, to en∣able us to perform the Conditions of it; and graciously to accept of our Faith and Repentance, of our sincere Resolutions and Endeavours of Holi∣ness and Obedience, for Perfect and Compleat Righteousness, for his sake who fullfilled all righteousness.
This is the great and amazing goodness of God to Mankind, that when we were in open Rebellion a∣gainst him, he should entertain thoughts of Peace and Reconciliation; and when he past by the fall'n An∣gels, he should set his Affection and Love upon the sinful and miserable Sons of Men. And herein is the love of God to men perfected, that as he hath made all Creatures, both above us, and below us, subservient and instrumental to our subsistence and preservation, so, for the ransom of our Souls from eternal Ruin and Mi∣sery, he hath not spared his own Son, but hath given him up to death for us; him, whom he hath commanded all the Page 49 Angels of God to worship, and to whom he hath made subject all Crea∣tures in Heaven and Earth; Him, who made the World, and who upholds all things by the word of his power, who is the brightness of his Glory, and the express Image of his Person.
And after such a stupendious In∣stance as this, what may we not rea∣sonably hope for, and promise our selves from the Divine Goodness! So the Apostle hath taught us to reason, Rom. 8.32. He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?