SERMON III.* The Goodness of God.
The Lord is Good to all, and his tender Mercies are over all his Works.
IN handling this Argument, I pro∣ceeded in this Method.
First, To consider what is the proper Notion of Goodness.
Secondly, To shew that this Perfe∣ction of Goodness belongs to God.
Thirdly, I considered the Effects of the Divine Goodness under these Heads.
I. The universal Extent of it, in the number, variety, order, end, and design of the things created by him, and his preservation and providing for the welfare and happiness of them.
Page 52II. I considered more particularly the Goodness of God to Mankind, of which I gave these four Instances.
1. That he hath given us such no∣ble Beings, and placed us in so high a rank and order of his Creatures.
2. In that he hath made and or∣dained so many things chiefly for us.
3. In that he exerciseth so peculiar a Providence over us above the rest, that tho he is said to be good to all, he is only said to love the Sons of Men.
4. In that he hath provided for us eternal Life and Happiness. There only now remains the
Fourth and last particular to be spo∣ken to, which was to answer some Objections which may seem to contra∣dict and bring in question the Good∣ness of God; and they are many, and have (some of them especially) great difficulty in them, and therefore it will require great consideration and care, to give a clear and satisfactory answer to them, which undoubtedly they are capable of; the Goodness of God being one of the most certain and unquestionable Truths in the World. I shall mention those which are most Page 53 considerable and obvious, and do al∣most of themselves spring up in every Man's Mind, and they are these Four, the first of them more general, the other three more particular.
First, If God be so exceeding good, whence comes it to pass, that there is so much Evil in the World, of seve∣ral kinds; Evil of Imperfection, Evil of Affliction or Suffering, and (which is the greatest of all others, and indeed the cause of them) Evil of Sin?
Secondly, The Doctrine of absolute Reprobation; by which is meant, the decreeing of the greatest part of Man∣kind to eternal Misery and Torment, without any consideration or respect to their Sin or Fault; this seems no∣toriously to contradict, not only the Notion of infinite Goodness, but any competent measure and degree of Goodness.
Thirdly, The eternal Misery and Punishment of Men for temporal Faults, seems hard to be reconciled with that excess of Goodness, which we suppose to be in God.
Fourthly, The Instances of God's great severity to Mankind upon occa∣sion, in those great Calamities, which Page 54 by the Providence of God have in se∣veral Ages either befaln Mankind in general, or particular Nations; and here I shall confine my self to Scripture Instances, as being the most certain and remarkable, or at least equal to any that are to be met with in Histo∣ry; as the early and universal dege∣neracy of Mankind, by the sin and transgression of our first Parents; the destruction of the World by a general Deluge; the sudden and terrible de∣struction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the Cities about them, by Fire and Brimstone from Heaven; the cruel extirpation of the Canaanites, by the express command of God; and lastly, the great Calamities which befel the Jewish Nation, and the final ruin and perdition of them at the destruction of Jerusalem.
These are the Objections against the goodness of God, which I shall seve∣rally consider, and with all the brevi∣ty and clearness I can, endeavour to return a particular Answer to them.
The First Objection, which I told you is more general, is this, If God be so exceeding Good, whence then comes it to pass, that there is so much Page 55 Evil in the World of several kinds? 'Tis evident beyond denyal, that E∣vil abounds in the World. The whole World lies in Evil, says St. John,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, lies in wickedness, (so our Translation renders it) is involved in Sin; but by the article and opposi∣tion St. John seems to intend the Devil. We know, says he, that we are of God, and the whole World, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, is subject to the evil one, and under his power and dominion. Which way so ever we render it, it signifies, that Evil of one kind or other reigns in the World. Now can Evil come from a Good God? Out of the same Mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. Doth a Fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? This cannot be, as St. James speaks in another case. But all Evils that are in the World, must either be directly procured by the Divine Providence, or permitted to hap∣pen; and next to the causing and procu∣ring of Evil, it seems to be contrary to the Goodness of God, to permit that there should be any such thing, when it is in his power to help and hinder it.
Page 56Answer. To give an account of this, it was an ancient Doctrine of some of the most ancient Nations, that there were two first Causes or Prin∣ciples of all things, the one of good things, the other of bad; which a∣mong the Persians were called Oro∣masdes and Arimanius; among the E∣gyptians Osiris and Typhon; among the Chaldeans good or bad Planets; among the Greeks,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉; and Plu∣tarch expresly says, That the good Prin∣ciple was called God, and the bad, De∣mon, or the Devil; in conformity to which ancient Traditions, the Mani∣chees (a sad Sect of Christians) set up two Principles, the one infinitely good, which they supposed to be the original cause of all good that is in the World; the other infinitely evil, to which they ascribed all the evils that are in the World.
But besides that the Notion of an infinite Evil is a contradiction, it would be to no purpose to suppose two opposite Principles of equal pow∣er and force. That the very Notion of an infinite Evil is a contradiction, will be very clear, if we consider, that what is infinitely evil, must be infi∣nitely Page 57 imperfect, and consequently infinitely weak; and for that reason, tho never so mischievous and malici∣ous, yet being infinitely weak, and ig∣norant, and foolish, would neither be in a capacity to contrive Mischief, nor to execute it. But admit, that a Be∣ing infinitely mischievous, were infi∣nitely cunning, and infinitely pow∣erful, yet it could do no evil; because the opposite Principle of infinite Good∣ness, being also infinitely wise and powerful, they would tie up one ano∣thers Hands; so that upon this suppo∣sition, the Notion of a Deity, would signifie just nothing, and by virtue of the eternal opposition and equality of these two Principles, they would keep one another at a perpetual Bay, and being an equal match for one another, instead of being two Deities, they would be two Idols, able to do neither good nor evil.
But to return a more distinct and sa∣tisfactory Answer to this Objection; there are three sorts of Evil in the World; the Evil of Imperfection; the Evil of Affliction and Suffering; and the Evil of Sin.
And 1st, For the Evil of Imperfecti∣on, Page 58 I mean natural Imperfections, these are not simply and absolutely, but only comparatively evil; now comparative Evil is but a less degree of goodness; and it is not at all incon∣sistent with the goodness of God, that some Creatures should be less good than others, that is, imperfect in comparison of them; nay, it is very agreeable both to the Goodness and Wisdom of God, that there should be this variety in the Creatures, and that they should be of several degrees of Perfection, being made for several U∣ses and Purposes, and to be subser∣vient to one another, provided they all contribute to the Harmony and Beauty of the whole.
Some Imperfection is necessarily involved in the very nature and con∣dition of a Creature, as that it derives its Being from another, and necessa∣rily depends upon it, and is beholding to it, and is likewise of necessity finite and limited in its Nature and Perfecti∣ons; and as for those Creatures which are less perfect than others, this also, that there should be degrees of Per∣fection, is necessary, upon supposition, that the Wisdom of God thinks fit to Page 59 display it self in variety of Creatures of several kinds and ranks. For tho comparing the Creatures with one a∣nother, the Angelical Nature is best, and most perfect; yet it is absolutely best, that there should be other Crea∣tures besides Angels. There are ma∣ny parts of the Creation, which are rashly and inconsiderately by us con∣cluded to be evil and imperfect, as some noxious and hurtful Creatures; which yet in other respects, and to some purposes, may be very useful, and against the harm and mischief whereof, we are sufficiently armed, by such means of defence, and such antidotes as reason and experience are able to find and furnish us withal; and those parts of the World, which we think of little or no use, as Rocks and Deserts, and that vast Wilderness of the Sea, if we consider things well, are of great use to several very consi∣derable purposes; or if we can di∣scern no other use of them, they serve at least to help our dulness, and to make us more attentively to consider, and to admire the perfection and use∣fulness of the rest; at the worst, they may serve for Foils to set off the wise Page 60 order and contrivance of other things, and (as one expresseth it very well) they may be like a Blackmoor's Head in a Picture, which gives the greater Beauty to the whole Piece.
2dly, For the Evils of Affliction and Suffering; and these either befal brute Creatures, or Men endow'd with Reason and Consideration.
1st, For those which befal the brute Creatures; those sufferings which Na∣ture inflicts upon them, are very few; the greatest they meet withal are from Men, or upon their account, for whose sake they were chiefly made, and to whose reasonable use and gentle domi∣nion they are consigned.
It is necessary from the very nature of these Creatures, that they should be passive and liable to pain: and yet it doth in no wise contradict either the Wisdom or Goodness of God to make such Creatures, because all these pains are for the most part fully recompen∣sed, by the pleasure these Creatures find in Life; and that they have such a pleasure and happiness in Life, is e∣vident, in that all Creatures, notwith∣standing the miseries they endure, are still fond of Life, and unwilling to part Page 61 with it: no Creature but Man (who only hath perverted his Nature) ever seeks the destruction of it self; and since all brute Creatures are so loth to go out of Being, we may pro∣bably conclude, that if they could de∣liberate, whether they would be or not, they would chuse to come into Being, even upon these hard conditi∣ons.
But however that be, this we are sure of, that they suffer chiefly from us, and upon our account; we who are their natural Lords, having de∣praved our selves first, are become cru∣el and tyrannical to them; nay, the Scripture tells us, that they suffer for our sakes, and that the whole Creation groaneth, and is in bondage for the sin of Man: And this is not unreasonable, that being made principally for Man, they should suffer upon his account, as a part of his Goods and Estate; not as a punishment to them (which un∣der the notion of punishment, they are not capable of) but as a punishment to him, who is the Lord and Owner of them, they being by this means be∣come more weak and frail, and less useful and serviceable to him for whom Page 62 they were made; so that the suffer∣ings of the Creatures below us, are in a great measure to be charged up-us, under whose dominion God hath put them.
2dly, As for the Afflictions and Suf∣ferings which befal Men, these are not natural and of God's making, but the result and fruit of our own doings, the effects and consequences of the ill use of our own liberty and free choice; and God does not willingly send them upon us, but we wilfully pull them down upon our selves; For he doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men, as the Prophet tells us, Lam. 3.33. Or as it is in the Wisdom of Solo∣mon, Chap. 1.12, 13. God made not death, neither hath he pleasure in the de∣struction of the living; but men pull de∣struction upon themselves, with the works of their own hands. All the Evils that are in the World, are either the Ef∣fects of our own Sin, as Poverty, and Disgrace, Pains, Diseases, and Death, which are sometimes more immedi∣ately inflicted upon Men, by a visi∣ble Providence and hand of God, but are usually brought upon us by our selves, in the natural course and order Page 63 of things; or they are the Effects of other Mens sins, brought upon us by the ambition and covetousness, by the malice and cruelty of others; and these Evils, tho they are procured and caused by others, yet they are deser∣ved by our selves; and tho they are immediately from the Hand of Men, yet we ought to look farther, and con∣sider them, as directed and disposed by the Providence of God; as David did when Shimei cursed him; God (saith he) hath bid him curse David, tho it immediately proceeded from Shimei's insolence and ill nature.
Now upon the supposition of Sin, the Evils of Affliction and Suffering are good, because they are of great use to us, and serve to very good ends and purposes.
I. As they are the proper Punish∣ments of Sin. Evil is good to them that do Evil, that is, it is fit and pro∣per, just and due. Psal. 107.17. Fools, because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted. And it is fit they should be so, crook∣ed to crooked is streight and right. A rod for the back of Fools, saith Solomon; and elsewhere, God hath made every Page 64 thing for that which is fit for it, and the evil day for the wicked man.
2dly, As they are the preventions and remedies of greater Evils. Evils of Affliction and Suffering are good for wicked Men, to bring them to a sense of their sin, and to reclaim them from it, and thereby to prevent great∣er temporal Evils, and preserve them from eternal Misery; and not only good to the Person that suffers, but likewise to others, to deter and af∣fright them from the like sins; to pre∣vent the contagion of Sin, and to stop the progress of Iniquity, upon which greater guilt and worse mischiefs might ensue; and they are good to good Men, to awaken and rouse them out of their security, to make them know God and themselves better; they are almost a necessary Discipline for the best of Men, much more for evil and depraved dispositions; and we might as reasonably expect, that there should be no Rod in a School, as that there should be no suffering and afflictions in the World.
3dly, As they are the occasions and matter of many Virtues. God teach∣eth Men temperance by want, and pa∣tience Page 65 by reproach and sufferings, charity by persecution, and pity and compassion to others by grievous pains upon our selves. The benefit of Af∣flictions to them that make a wise use of them is unspeakable; they are grievous in themselves, nevertheless (saith the Apostle to the Hebrews) they bring forth the peaceable fruits of righteousness, to them that are exercised therewith. David gives a great testi∣mony of the mighty benefit and ad∣vantage of them, from his own expe∣rience, Psal. 119.76. Before I was af∣flicted I went astray, but now have I kept thy word. And, v. 71. It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn thy Statutes.
4thly, The Evils of Suffering, pati∣ently submitted to, and decently born, do greatly contribute to the increase of our happiness. All the persecutions and sufferings of good Men in this life, do work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. And if they contribute to our greater good and happiness at last, they are good. The glorious reward of the Sufferings which we have met with, in this life, will in the next clear up the goodness Page 66 and justice of the Divine Providence, from all those Mists and Clouds which are now upon it, and fully acquit it from all those Objections which are now raised against it, upon account of the afflictions and sufferings of good Men in this life, which are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in them.
III. As for the Evil of Sin, which is the great difficulty of all. How is it consistent with the goodness of God, to permit so great an Evil as this to come into the World? For answer to this, I desire these two things may be considered.
1. That it doth not at all contradict the wisdom or goodness of God, to make a Creature of such a frame, as to be capable of having its obedience tryed in order to the reward of it, which could not be, unless such a Creature were made mutable, and by the good or bad use of its liberty, ca∣pable of obeying or disobeying the Laws of his Creator; for where there is no possibility of sinning, there can be no tryal of our Virtue and Obe∣dience, and nothing but Virtue and Obedience are capable of reward. Page 67 The goodness of God towards us is sufficiently vindicated, in that he made us capable of happiness, and gave us suf∣ficient direction and power for the at∣taining of that end; and it does in no wise contradict his goodness, that he does not by his Omnipotency inter∣pose to prevent our sin; for this had been to alter the nature of things, and not to let Man be the Creature he made him, capable of reward or pu∣nishment, according to the good or bad use of his own free choice. It is sufficient that God made Man good at first, tho mutable, and that he had a power to have continued so, tho he wilfully determined himself to evil; this acquits the goodness of God, that he made Man upright, but he found out to himself many inventions.
2. If there had not been such an order and rank of Creatures, as had been in their nature mutable, there had been no place for the manifestati∣on of God's goodness in a way of mer∣cy and patience; so that tho God be not the Author of the sins of Men, yet in case of their willful transgression and disobedience, the goodness of God hath a fair opportunity of disco∣vering Page 68 it self, in his patience and long-suffering to Sinners, and in his merci∣ful care and provision for their recove∣ry out of that miserable state. And this may suffice for answer to the first Objection, if God be so good, whence then comes evil?
The Second Objection against the Goodness of God, is from the Doctrine of absolute reprobation; by which I mean the decreeing the greatest part of Mankind to eternal misery and tor∣ment, without any consideration or re∣spect to their sin and fault. This seems not only notoriously to contradict the Notion of infinite Goodness, but to be utterly inconsistent with the least mea∣sure and degree of Goodness. Indeed, if by reprobation were only meant, that God in his own infinite Know∣ledge foresees the sins and wickedness of Men, and hath from all eternity determined in himself, what in his Word he hath so plainly declared, that he will punish impenitent Sin∣ners with everlasting destruction; or if by reprobation be meant, that God hath not elected all Mankind, that is, absolutely decreed to bring them in∣fallibly to Salvation; neither of Page 69 these Notions of reprobation, is any ways inconsistent with the goodness of God; for he may foresee the wick∣edness of Men, and determine to pu∣nish it, without any impeachment of his goodness: He may be very good to all, and yet not equally and in the same degree; if God please to bring a∣ny infallibly to Salvation, this is tran∣scendent goodness; but if he put all others into a capacity of it, and use all necessary and fitting means to make them happy, and after all this, any fall short of happiness, through their own wilful fault and obstinacy, these Men are evil and cruel to themselves, but God hath been very good and merciful to them.
But if by reprobation be meant, either that God hath decreed, without re∣spect to the sins of Men, their absolute ruin and misery; or that he hath de∣creed that they shall inevitably sin and perish; it cannot be denied, but that such a reprobation as this doth clearly overthrow all possible Notion of good∣ness. I have told you, that the true and only Notion of goodness in God, is this, that it is a propension and disposition of the Divine Nature, to communicate Page 70 Being and Happiness to his Creatures: But surely nothing can be more plainly contrary to a disposition to make them happy, than an absolute decree, and a per∣emptory resolution to make them miserable. God is infinitely better than the best of Men, and yet none can possibly think that Man a good Man, who should absolutely resolve to disinherit and destroy his Children, without the foresight and consideration of any fault to be committed by them. We may talk of the Goodness of God: But it is not an easie matter, to devise to say any thing worse than this of the De∣vil.
But it is said, reprobation is an act of soveraignty in God, and therefore not to be measured by the common rules of goodness. But it is contrary to goodness, and plainly inconsistent with it; and we must not attribute such a soveraignty to God, as contradicts his goodness; for if the soveraignty of God may break in at pleasure upon his o∣ther Attributes, then it signifies no∣thing to say that God is good, and wise, and just, if his soveraignty may at any time act contrary to these Perfections.
Now if the Doctrine of absolute re∣probation, and the goodness of God can∣not Page 71 possibly stand together, the Que∣stion is, Which of them ought to give way to the other? What St. Paul de∣termines in another case, concerning the truth and fidelity of God, will e∣qually hold concerning his goodness; Let God be good, and every Man a lyar. The Doctrine of absolute reprobation is no part of the Doctrine of the Holy Scrip∣tures, that ever I could find; and there's the Rule of our Faith. If some great Divines have held this Doctrine, not in opposition to the goodness of God, but hoping they might be reconciled together, let them do it if they can; but if they cannot, rather let the Schools of the greatest Divines be call'd in question, than the goodness of God, which next to his Being, is the greatest and clearest truth in the world.
Thirdly, It is farther objected, that the eternal punishment of Men for temporal Faults seems hard to be re∣conciled with that excess of Goodness, which we suppose to be in God.
This Objection I have fully an∣swer'd, in a Discourse upon S. Matth. 25.46. and therefore shall proceed to the
Fourth and last Objection, against the goodness of God, from sundry In∣stances of God's severity to Mankind, Page 72 in those great Calamities which by the Providence of God have in seve∣ral Ages either befaln Mankind in general, or particular Nations.
And here I shall confine my self to Scripture Instances, as being most known, and most certain and remark∣able, or at least equally remarkable with any that are to be met with in any other History; such are the early and universal degeneracy of all Man∣kind, by the sin and transgression of our first Parents; the destruction of the World by a general deluge; the sud∣den and terrible destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the Cities about them, by Fire and Brimstone from Heaven; the cruel extirpation of the Canaanites by the express command of God; and lastly, the great Calami∣ties which befel the Jewish Nation, especially the final ruin and dispersion of them at the destruction of Jerusa∣lem. These and the like instances of God's severity, seem to call in questi∣on his goodness.
Against these severe and dreadful Instances of God's severity, it might be a sufficient vindication of his good∣ness, to say in general, that they were Page 73 all upon great and high Provocations; most of them after long patience and forbearance, and with a great mixture of mercy, and a declared readiness in in God to have prevented or remo∣ved them upon repentance; all which are great Instances of the goodness of God. But yet for the clearer manife∣station of the Divine Goodness, I shall consider them particularly, and as briefly as I can.
1. As for the transgression of our first Parents, and the dismal conse∣quences of it to all their Posterity. This is a great depth, and tho the Scripture mentions it, yet it speaks but little of it; and in matters of mere Revelation, we must not attempt to be wise above what is written. Thus much is plain, that it was an act of high and wilful Disobedience, to a very plain and easie Command; and that in the punish∣ment of it, God mitigated the extre∣mity of the Sentence (which was pre∣sent death) by granting our first Pa∣rents the Reprieve of almost a thou∣sand Years; and, as to the consequen∣ces of it to their Posterity, God did not, upon this provocation, abandon his care of Mankind; and tho he re∣moved Page 74 them out of that happy state and place in which Man was crea∣ted, yet he gave them a tolerable condition and accommodations upon Earth; and which is certainly the most glorious Instance of Divine Good∣ness that ever was, he was pleased to make the fall and misery of Man the happy occasion of sending his Son in our Nature, for the recovery and advancement of it to a much happier and better condition, than that from which we fell. So the Apostle tells us at large, Rom. 5. That the Grace of God, by Jesus Christ, hath redound∣ed much more to our benefit and ad∣vantage, than the sin and disobedi∣ence of our first Parents did to our prejudice.
2. For the general Deluge, tho it look very severe, yet if we consider it well, we may plainly discern much of goodness in it. It was upon great provocation, by the universal corrup∣tion and depravation of Mankind, The earth was filled with violence, and all flesh had corrupted its ways; the wickedness of Man was great upon the earth, and eve∣ry imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually; which is not Page 75 a description of original sin, but of the actual and improved wickedness of Mankind; and yet when the wicked∣ness of Men was come to this height, God gave them fair warning, before he brought this Calamity upon them, when the patience of God waited in the days of Noah, for the space of an hun∣dred and twenty Years; at last, when nothing would reclaim them, and al∣most the whole race of Mankind were become so very bad, that it is said, it repented the Lord that he had made Man upon the earth, and it grieved him at his heart, when things were thus extremely bad, and like to continue so; God in pity to Mankind, and to put a stop to their growing wicked∣ness and guilt, swept them away all at once, from the face of the Earth, except one Family, which he had pre∣served from this Contagion, to be a new Seminary of Mankind, and, as the Heathen Poet expresseth it, Mun∣di melioris origo, the source and original of a better Race.
3. For that terrible destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by Fire and Brim∣stone from Heaven, it was not brought upon them till the cry of their sin was Page 76 great, and gone up to Heaven, till by their unnatural Lusts they had pro∣voked supernatural Vengeance. And it is very remarkable, to what low terms God was pleased to condescend to Abraham for the sparing of them; if in those five Cities there had been found but ten righteous persons, he would not have destroyed them for those ten's sake. So that we may say with the A∣postle, Behold the goodness and severity of God! Here was wonderful goodness mixt with this great severity.
4. For the extirpation of the Canaa∣nites, by the express command of God, which hath such an appearance of se∣verity, it is to be consider'd, that this Vengeance was not executed up∣on them, till they were grown ripe for it. God spared them for above four hundred Years, for so long their grow∣ing Impiety is taken notice of, Gen. 18.28. where it is said, That the iniqui∣ty of the Amorites was not yet full; God did not proceed to cut them off, till their case was desperate, past all hopes of recovery, till the land was defiled with abominations, and surcharg∣ed with wickedness, to that degree, as to spue out its Inhabitants, as is ex∣presly Page 77 said, Levit. 18.28. When they were arrived to this pitch, it was no mercy to them to spare them any longer, to heap up more guilt and mi∣sery to themselves.
Fifthly, and Lastly, As for the great Calamities which God brought upon the Jews, especially in their final ruin and dispersion, at the destruction of Jerusalem; not to insist upon the known History of their multiplied Rebellions and Provocations, of their despiteful usage of God's Prophets, whom he sent to warn them of his Judgments, and to call them to Repentance, of their obstinate refusal to receive Correction, and to be brought to amendment, by any means that God could use; for all which Provocations, he at last deliver∣ed them into their Enemies hands, to carry them away Captive; not to insist upon this, I shall only consider their final destruction by the Romans, which tho' it be dreadfully severe, be∣yond any Example of History, yet the Provocation was proportionable; for this Vengeance did not come upon them, till they had as it were extort∣ed it, by the most obstinate impeniten∣cy and unbelief, in rejecting the Coun∣sel Page 78 of God against themselves, and resist∣ing such means as would have brought Tyre and Sidon, Sodom and Gomorrah to repentance; till they had despised the Doctrine of Life and Salvation, delivered to them by the Son of God, and confirmed from Heaven, by the clearest and greatest Miracles; and by wicked hands had crucified and slain the Son of God, and the Saviour of the World. Nay, even after this great∣est of sins that ever was committed, God waited for their Repentance for∣ty Years, to see if in that time they would be brought to a sense of their sins, and to know the things which belonged to their peace. And no wonder if after such provocations, and so much pati∣ence, and so obstinate an impenitency, the goodness of God at last gave way to his justice, and wrath came upon them to the utmost.
So that all these Instances rightly considered, are rather commendations of the Divine Goodness, than just and reasonable objections against it; and notwithstanding the severity of them, it is evident that God is good, from the primary inclinations of his nature; and se∣vere only upon necessity, and in case of Page 79 just provocation. And to be otherwise, not to punish insolent Impiety and in∣corrigible Wickedness, in a severe and remarkable manner, would not be goodness, but a fond indulgence; not patience, but stupidity; not mercy to Mankind, but cruelty; because it would be an encouragement to them to do more mischief, and to bring greater misery upon themselves.
So that if we suppose God to be holy and just, as well as good, there is no∣thing in any of these Instances, but what is very consistent with all that goodness which we can suppose to be in a holy, and wise, and just Governour, who is a declared Enemy to Sin, and is resolved to give all fitting discoun∣tenance to the breach and violation of his Laws. It is necessary in kindness and compassion to the rest of Mankind, that some should be made remarkable Instances of God's severity, that the punishment of a few may be a warn∣ing to all, that they may hear and fear, and by avoiding the like sins, may prevent the like severity upon them∣selves.
And now I have, as briefly as I could, explained and vindicated the Page 80goodness of God; the consideration whereof is fruitful of many excel∣lent and useful Inferences, in relati∣on both to our Comfort and our Duty, But these I shall refer to another op∣portunity.