The remaining discourses, on the attributes of God Viz. his Goodness. His mercy. His patience. His long-suffering. His power. His spirituality. His immensity. His eternity. His incomprehensibleness. God the first cause, and last end. By the most reverend Dr. John Tillotson, late Lord Arch-Bishop of Canterbury. Being the seventh volume; published from the originals, by Ralph Barker, D.D. chaplain to his Grace.
Tillotson, John, 1630-1694., Barker, Ralph, 1648-1708, publisher.
Page  81

SERMON IV.* The Goodness of God.


PSAL. CXLV.9.

The Lord is Good to all, and his tender Mercies are over all his Works.

I Have made several Discourses up∣on this Argument of the goodness of God; shewing what it is; on what accounts we ascribe it to God; what are the Effects and large extent of it to the whole Creation, and more particularly to Mankind; and, in the last place, considered the several Ob∣jections which seem to lie against it. I proceed now to the Application of this excellent Argument, the conside∣deration whereof is so fruitful of use∣ful Inferences, in relation both to our Comfort and Duty. And,

Page  82I. This shews us the prodigious folly and unreasonableness of Atheism. Most of the Atheism that is in the World, doth not so much consist in a firm perswasion that there is no God, as in vain wishes and desires that there were none. Bad Men think it would be a happiness to them, and that they should be in a much better condition, if there were no God, than if there be one. Nemo deum non esse cre∣dit, nisi cui deum non esse expedit, no Man is apt to disbelieve a God, but he whose Interest it is that there should be none. And if we could see into the Hearts of wicked Men, we should find this lying at the bottom, that if there be a God, he is just and will punish sin, that he is infinite in pow∣er and not to be resisted, and there∣fore kills them with his terror so often as they think of him; hence they ap∣prehend it their interest, that there should be no God, and wish there were none, and thence are apt to che∣rish in their Minds a vain hope that there is none, and at last endeavour to impose upon themselves by vain reasonings, and to suppress the belief of a God, and to stifle their natural Page  83 apprehensions and fears of him. So that it is not primus in orbe deos fecit ti∣mor, fear that first made Gods; but the fear which bad Men have of the Di∣vine Power and Justice, that first tempted them to the disbelief of him.

But were not these Men as foolish as they are wicked, they would wish with all their Hearts there were a God, and be glad to believe so. And the Psalmist gives them their true Cha∣racter, who can entertain any such thoughts or wishes; Psal. 14.1. The Fool hath said in his heart, there is no God; for they are Fools who do not understand nor consult their true In∣terest: And if this be true which I have said concerning the goodness of God, if this be his Nature, to desire and procure the happiness of his Crea∣tures, whoever understands the true Nature of God and his own true In∣terest, cannot but wish there were a God, and be glad of any Argument to prove it, and rejoyce to find it true, as Children are glad of a kind and tender Father, and as Subjects re∣joyce in a wise and good Prince.

The goodness of God gives us so love∣ly a Character of him, makes him so Page  84 good a Father, so gracious a Gover∣nour of Men, that if there were no such Being in the World, it were infi∣nitely desirable to Mankind that there should be; he is such an one, qualem omnes cuperent, si deesset, as if he were wanting, all Men ought to wish for. The Being of God is so comfortable, so convenient, so necessary to the felici∣ty of Mankind, that (as Tully admi∣rably says) Dij immortales ad usum hominum fabricati penè videantur, if God were not a necessary Being of himself, he might almost seem to be made on pur∣pose for the use and benefit of Men; so that Atheism is not only an Instance of the most horrible Impiety, but of the greatest Stupidity; and for Men to glory in their disbelief of a God, is like the rejoycing and triumph of a furious and besotted multitude, in the Murder of a wise and good Prince, the greatest calamity and confusion that could possibly have befaln them.

If the Evidence of God's being were not so clear as it is, yet the conside∣ration of his goodness ought to check all inclination to Atheism and Infide∣lity; for if he be as good as he is repre∣sented to us, both by natural Light Page  85 and divine Revelation, (and he is so, as sure as he is) if he tender our Wel∣fare, and desire our Happiness, as much as we our selves can do, and use all wise ways and proper means to bring it about, then it is plainly every man's Interest, even thine, O sinner! to whom after all thy Provocations he is willing to be reconciled, that there should be such a Being as God is, and when ever thou comest to thy self, thou wilt be sensible of thy want of him, and thy soul will thirst for God, even the living God, and pant af∣ter him, as the hart pants after the wa∣ter brooks; in the day of thy Afflicti∣on and Calamity, when distress and an∣guish cometh upon thee, thou wilt flie to God for Refuge, and shelter thy self under his Protection, and wouldest not for all the World, but there were such a Being in it, to help and deliver thee. Deos nemo sanus timet (says Se∣neca) furor est metuere salutaria, no man in his wits is afraid there is a God; it is a madness to fear that, which is so much for our benefit and advantage. Humane Nature is conscious to it self of its own weakness and insufficiency, and of its necessary dependance upon something Page  86 without it self for its Happiness, and therefore in great Extremity and Di∣stress, the Atheist himself hath natu∣rally recourse to him, and he who de∣nyed and rejected him in his Prospe∣rity, clings to him in adversity, as his only support and present help in time of trouble. And this is a sure Indication, that these men, after all their endea∣vours to impose upon themselves, have not been able wholly to extinguish in their Minds the belief of God and his Goodness; nay it is a sign, that at the bottom of their Hearts they have a firm perswasion of his goodness, when after all their insolent defiance of him, they have the Confidence to apply themselves to him for mercy, and help in time of need; and therefore our Hearts ought to rise with indignation against those who go about to perswade the belief of a thing so prejudicial to our Interest, to take away the Light of our eyes, and the Breath of our nostrils, and to rob us of all the Comfort and Support, which the belief of an infi∣nite Power, conducted by infinite Wisdom and Goodness, is apt to afford to Mankind.

Page  87II. We should take great care of perverting and abusing this great good∣ness by vain Confidence and Presump∣tion. This is a Provocation of an high Nature, which the Scripture calls, turning the grace of God into wantonness, making that an encouragement to Sin, which is one of the strongest Argu∣ments in the world against it. God is infinitely good and merciful; but we must not therefore think, that he is fond and indulgent to our faults; but on the contrary, because he is good, he cannot but hate evil. So the Scripture every where tells us, that He is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity; that the face of the Lord is against them that do evil; he is not a God that hath plea∣sure in wickedness, neither shall evil dwell with him; the foolish shall not stand in his fight, he hateth all the workers of in∣iquity. He is ready to shew Mercy to those, who are qualified for it by Re∣pentance, and resolution of a better Course; but as long as we continue impenitent, God is implacable, and will deal with us according to the tenor of his Laws, and the desert of our Doings. Despair is a great Sin, but Presumption is a greater; De∣spair Page  88 doubts of the goodness of God, but Presumption abuseth it; Despair disbelieves, but Presumption perverts the best thing in the world to a quite contrary purpose from what it was intended.

III. The consideration of God's goodness is a mighty comfort and re∣lief to our Minds, under all our Fears and Troubles. Great are the Fears and Jealousies of many devout Minds con∣cerning God's Love to them, and their everlasting Condition; which are commonly founded in one of these two causes, a melancholy Temper, or mistaken Notions and Apprehensi∣ons of God; and very often these two meet together, and hinder the cure and removal of one another.

Melancholy as it is an effect of bo∣dily temper, is a Disease not to be cured by Reason and Argument, but by Physick and Time; but the mistakes which men have entertained concerning God, if they be not set on and heightned by Melancholy (as many times they are) may be rectifi∣ed by a true representation of the goodness of God, confirmed by Rea∣son and Scripture. Many good Men Page  89 have had very hard and injurious Thoughts of God instill'd into them, from Doctrines too commonly taught and received; as if he did not sin∣cerely desire the happiness of his Crea∣tures, but had from all Eternity de∣creed to make the greatest part of Mankind, with a secret purpose and design to make them miserable; and consequently were not serious and in good earnest in his Invitati∣ons and Exhortations of Sinners to Repentance; and it is no wonder if such Jealousies as these concerning God, make Men doubtful whether God love them, and very scrupulous and anxious about their everlasting condition.

I have already told you, that these harsh Doctrines have no manner of Foundation, either in Reason or Scrip∣ture; that God earnestly desires our Happiness, and affords us sufficient Means to that End; that he bears a more hearty good will to us, than any Man does to his Friend, or any Father upon Earth ever did to his dearest Child; in comparison of which, the greatest Affection of Men to those whom they love best, is but as the Page  90 drop of the Bucket, as the very small dust upon the Balance. If we have right apprehensions of God's goodness, we can have no temptation to despair of his kind and merciful Intentions to us, provided we be but careful of our Duty to him, and do sincerely repent and forsake our Sins. Plainer Decla∣rations no words can make, than those we meet with in the holy Scriptures, That God hath no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that he should turn from his wickedness and live; that he would have all Men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth; that he is long suffering to us-ward, not wil∣ling that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance; that he that confesseth and forsaketh his sin shall have mercy; that if the wicked forsake his ways, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and return unto the Lord, he will have mercy, and will abundantly pardon.

As for outward Calamities and Af∣flictions, the consideration of God's goodness is a firm ground of consola∣tion to us, giving us assurance, that God will either prevent them by his Providence, or support us under them, or rescue us out of them, or turn them Page  91 to our greater good and happiness in this World or the next. St. Paul speaks of it as the firm belief and per∣swasion of all good Men, that in the issue all their Afflictions should prove to their advantage. We know (says he) that all things shall work together for good to them that love God; and one of the greatest Evidences of our love to God, is a firm belief and perswasion of his goodness; if we believe his goodness, we cannot but love him, and if we love him, all things shall work together for our good.

And this is a great Cordial to those who are under grievous Persecutions and Sufferings,* which is the case of our Brethren in a neighbour Nati∣on, and may come to be ours, God knows how soon. But tho' the malice of Men be great, and backt with a power not to be control'd by any visi∣ble means, and therefore likely to continue; yet the goodness of God is greater than the malice of Men, and of a longer duration and continuance. And thus David comforted himself, when he was persecuted by Saul, Psal. 52.1. Why boasteth thou thy self in mischief, O mighty man? the goodness Page  92 of God endureth continually. The Per∣secution which Saul raised against him was very powerful, and lasted a long time; but he comforts himself with this, that the goodness of God endures for ever.

IV. The consideration of God's goodness, is a powerful motive and ar∣gument to several Duties.

1. To the love of God. And this is the most proper and natural effect and operation of the goodness of God up∣on our Minds. Several of the Divine Attributes are very awful, but goodness is amiable, and without this nothing else is so. Power and Wisdom may command Dread and Admiration; but nothing but Goodness can challenge our Love and Affection. Goodness is amiable for it self, tho' no benefit and advantage should from thence re∣dound to us; but when we find the comfortable Effects of it, when the riches of God's goodness, and long-suffer∣ing, and forbearance, are laid out upon us, when we live upon that goodness, and are indebted to it for all that we have and hope for, this is a much greater endearment to us of that ex∣cellency and perfection, which was Page  93 amiable for it self. We cannot but love him who is good, and does us good; whose goodness extends to all his Creatures, but is exercised in so pecu∣liar a manner towards the Sons of Men, that it is called Love; and if God vouchsafe to love us, well may this be the first and great Commandment, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

2. The consideration of God's good∣ness is likewise an argument to us to fear him; not as a Slave does his Ma∣ster, but as a Child does his Father, who the more he loves him, the more afraid is he to offend him. There is forgiveness with thee (saith the Psal∣mist) that thou mayest be feared; be∣cause God is ready to forgive, we should be afraid to offend. Men shall fear the Lord, and his goodness, (saith the Prophet) Hosea 3.5. And in∣deed nothing is more to be dreaded, than despised Goodness and abused Patience, which turns into Fury and Vengeance; despisest thou the riches of his goodness, and long-suffering, and for∣bearance, (says the Apostle) and treasu∣rest up to thy self wrath against the day of Page  94 wrath, and the revelation of the righteous judgment of God?

3. The consideration of God's good∣ness, is a powerful motive to obedi∣ence to his Laws, and as the Apo∣stle expresseth it, to walk worthy of the Lord unto all well pleasing, being fruit∣ful in every good work. This Argument Samuel useth to the People of Israel, to perswade them to obedience, 1 Sam. 12.24. Only fear the Lord, and serve him in truth, with all your heart: for con∣sider what great things all he hath done for you.

And indeed the Laws which God hath given us, are one of the chief In∣stances of his goodness to us, since they all tend to our good, and are pro∣per Causes and Means of our. Happi∣ness; so that in challenging our obe∣dience to his Laws, as acknowledg∣ments of our obligation to him for his. Benefits, he lays a new obligation, and confers a greater benefit upon us. All that his Laws require of us, is to do that which is best for our selves, and does most directly conduce to our own welfare and happiness. Considering our infinite obligations to God, he might have challenged our obedience to the severest and harshest Laws he Page  95 could have imposed upon us; so that as the Servants said to Naaman, Had the Prophet bid thee do some great thing, wouldst thou not have done it? how much more when he hath only said, wash and be clean? If God had required of us things very grievous and burthensome, in love and gratitude to him, we ought to have yielded a ready and chearful obedience to such Commands; how much more, when he hath only said, do this and be happy? In testimony of your love to me, do these things which are the greatest kindness and benefit to your selves.

4. The goodness of God should lead Men to Repentance. One of the great∣est aggravations of our Sins is, that we offend against so much goodness, and make so bad a requital for it; Do ye thus requite the Lord, O foolish Peo∣ple and unwise! The proper tendency of God's goodness and patience to Sinners, is to bring them to a sense of their miscarriage, and to a resolu∣tion of a better course. When we re∣flect upon the blessings and favours of God, and his continual goodness to us, can we chuse but be ashamed of our terrible ingratitude and disobedi∣ence? Page  96 Nothing is more apt to make an ingenuous Nature to relent, than the sense of undeserved kindness; that God should be so good to us, who are evil and unthankful to him; that tho' we be Enemies to him, yet when we hunger, he feeds us; when we thirst, he gives us to drink; heaping as it were coals of fire on our heads, on purpose to melt us into Repentance, and to overcome our evil by his goodness.

5. The consideration of God's good∣ness, is a firm ground of trust and con∣fidence. What may we not hope and assuredly expect from immense and boundless goodness? If we have right apprehensions of the goodness of God, we cannot possibly distrust him, or doubt of the performance of those gracious promises which he hath made to us; the same goodness which incli∣ned him to make such promises, will effectually ingage him to make them good. If God be so good as he hath declared himself, why should we think that he will not help us in our need, and relieve us in our distress, and comfort us in our afflictions and sor∣rows? If we may with confidence re∣ly upon any thing to confer good upon Page  97 us, and to preserve and deliver us from Evil, we may trust infinite good∣ness.

6. The goodness of God is likewise an argument to us to patience and contentedness with every condition. If the Hand of God be severe and heavy upon us in any Affliction, we may be assured that it is not without great cause, that so much goodness is so highly offended and displeased with us; that he designs our good in all the Evils he sends upon us, and does not chasten us for his plea∣sure, but for our profit; that we are the cause of our own Sufferings, and our Sins separate between God and us, and with-hold good things from us; that in the final issue and result of things, all things shall work together for good to us; and therefore we ought not to be discontented at any thing which will certainly end in our Happiness.

7. Let us imitate the goodness of God. The highest Perfection of the best and most perfect Being is worthy to be our Pattern. This the Scripture frequently proposeth to us; Math. 5.48. Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.Page  98 How is that? in being good, and kind, and merciful, as God is. But I say un∣to you (says our Lord) Love your ene∣mies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despightfully use you, and per∣secute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his Sun to rise on the evil, and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just, and on the unjust. And then it follows, Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Fa∣ther which is heaven is perfect. The same Pattern St. Paul proposeth to us, Eph. 4.32. and Ch. 5.1. Be ye kind one to another, tender hearted; forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you. Be ye therefore fol∣lowers of God as dear Children, and walk in love. We cannot in any thing re∣semble God more, than in goodness, and kindness, and mercy, and in a readiness to forgive those who have been injurious to us, and to be recon∣ciled to them.

Let us then often contemplate this Perfection of God, and represent it to our Minds, that by the frequent con∣templation of it, we may be transform∣ed into the Image of the Divine Goodness.Page  99 Is God so good to his Creatures? with how much greater reason should we be so to our fellow Creatures. Is God good to us? let us imitate his universal goodness, by endeavouring the good of Mankind; and, as much as in us lies, of the whole Crea∣tion of God. What God is to us, and what we would have him still be to us, that let us be to others. We are infinitely beholding to this Perfection of God for all that we are, and for all that we enjoy, and for all that we expect; and therefore we have all the reason in the World to admire and imitate it. Let this pat∣tern of the Divine Goodness be con∣tinually before us, that we may be still fashioning our selves in the tem∣per of our Minds, and in the actions of our Lives, to a likeness and con∣formity to it.

Lastly, The consideration of the Divine goodness, should excite our praise and thankfulness. This is a great Duty, to the performance where∣of we should summon all the Powers and Faculties of our Souls, as the holy Psalmist does, Psal. 103. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within Page  100 me, bless his holy Name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits. And we should invite all o∣thers to the same Work, as the same devout Psalmist frequently does, Psal. 106. O give thanks unto the Lord! for he is good, for his mercy endureth for e∣ver. And Psal. 107. O that men would therefore praise the Lord for his good∣ness, and for his wonderful works to the children of Men!

And we had need to be often call'd upon to this Duty, to which we have a peculiar backwardness. Necessity drives us to Prayer, and sends us to God for the supply of our wants; but Praise and Thanksgiving is a Duty which depends upon our gratitude and ingenuity; and nothing sooner wears off, than the sense of Kindness and Benefits. We are very apt to for∣get the blessings of God, not so much from a bad Memory, as from a bad Nature; to forget the greatest bles∣sings, the continuance whereof should continually put us in mind of them; the blessings of our Beings; So God complains of his People, Deut. 32. Of the God that formed thee, thou hast been unmindful; the dignity and excel∣lency Page  101 of our Beings above all the Crea∣tures of this visible World; 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? the daily comforts and blessings of our Lives, which we can continually receive, without almost ever looking up to the Hand that gives them. So God com∣plains by the Prophet, Hosea 2.8, 9. She knew not that I gave her corn, and wine, and oyl, and multiplied her gold and silver. And is it not shameful to see how at the most plentiful Tables, the giving of God Thanks is almost grown out of fashion; as if Men were ashamed to own from whence these Blessings came. When thanks is all God ex∣pects from us, can we not afford to give him that? Do ye thus requite the Lord, foolish people and unwise! It is just with God to take away his Bles∣sings from us, if we deny him this ea∣sie tribute of Praise and Thanksgiv∣ing.

It is a sign Men are unfit for Hea∣ven, when they are backward to that which is the proper Work and Im∣ployment of the blessed Spirits above. Page  102 Therefore as ever we hope to come thither, let us begin this Work here, and inure our selves to that which will be the great business of all Eternity. Let us with the four and twenty El∣ders in the Revelation, fall down before him that sits on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast our crowns before the throne (that is, cast our selves) and ascribe all glory to God; Saying, thou art worthy O Lord, to receive glory, and honour, and power for thou hast made all things, and for thy pleasure they are, and were created.

To him therefore, the infinite and in∣exhaustible fountain of goodness, the fa∣ther of mercies, and the God of all conso∣lation, who gave us such excellent Beings, having made made us little lower than the Angels, and crowned us with glory and ho∣nour; who hath been pleased to stamp up∣on us the image of his own goodness, and thereby made us partakers of a divine na∣ture, communicating to us, not only of the effects of his goodness, but in some measure and degree of the perfection it self; to him who gives us all things richly to en∣joy, which pertain to life and godliness, and hath made such abundant provision, not only for our comfort and convenience Page  103 in this present life, but for our unspeakable happiness to all eternity; to him who de∣signed this happiness to us from all eternity, and whose mercy and goodness to us endures for ever; who when by willful transgressions and disobedience, we had plunged our selves into a state of sin and misery, and had for∣feited that happiness which we were design∣ed to, was pleased to restore us to a new ca∣pacity of it, by sending his only Son to take our nature with the miseries and infirmities of it, to live among us, and to die for us; in a word, to him who is infinitely good to us, not only contrary to our deserts, but beyond our hopes, who renews his mercy up∣on us every morning, and is patient tho' we provoke him every day, who preserves and provides for us, and spares us continu∣ally, who is always willing, always watch∣ful, and never weary to do us good; to him be all glory and honour, adoration and praise, love and obedience, now and for e∣ver.