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in opinion. They generally suppose that God is eternal, selfexistent, independent, and immutable; and that he possesses almighty power, unerring wisdom, and universal knowledge. But they are not so well agreed in respect to his goodness, which forms all his moral excellence. Indeed, some of the most noted Deists deny the goodness of God, and represent him as a pure infinite Intelligence, who is devoid of all moral excellence. But it is extremely absurd to suppose, that he who has made, who upholds and governs the world, and filled it with goodness, is himself destitute of goodness. It is true, his goodness is seated in his heart, and not in his power, wisdom, or knowledge ; but it is inseparably connected with these natural perfections. God is good, for God is love. His love is pure,
, disinterested benevolence, which desires and seeks the highest good of the whole intelligent and percipient creation. This holy love forms his moral character; and in his own view comprises his supreme glory. For when Moses desired him to show him his glory, he said he would gratify his desire, and cause all his goodness to pass before him. His goodness essentially and summarily consists in his benevolent affections, which he exercises towards all his creatures, whether rational or irrational, that are capable of enjoying happiness, or suffering misery. His heart is equal to his understanding ; so that his goodness is commensurate with his boundless knowledge and wisdom. He possesses as much love, kindness, and beneficence as can exist in an intelligent and all-comprehensive mind. Hence our Saviour said, “ There is none good but One;" that is, comparatively. All created goodness is as nothing, in comparison with the uncreated and unlimited goodness of God. His goodness is the source of all the goodness that exists in his creatures, and as far surpasses their goodness, as the fountain surpasses all the streams that flow from it. Let us consider,
II. What is meant by saints tasting the goodness of God.
This is something different from reasoning about the goodness of God; for men may reason about it without tasting it. Sinners, who never tasted the goodness of the Lord, are very apt to reason about it. It is the darling theme of some, who place all their future hopes upon divine goodness. They are continually declaiming upon the universal benevolence of the Deity; and imagine that they can demonstrate its nature, extent, and beneficent influence upon all intelligent creatures. The fallen angels, who perfectly hate the goodness of God, are capable of reasoning about it. Even good men may reason about divine goodness, while they do not taste it. To taste
the goodness of God is very different from reasoning about it; just as reasoning about the nature of honey is very different from tasting its sweetness.
To taste the goodness of God is something different from seeing the effects of it. These are to be seen all over the world, and by all the nations of the earth. The heathen who know
. not God, cannot help seeing the effects of his goodness, which fill their hearts with gladness. Those who are the most stupid under gospel light, daily discover the displays of divine goodness in the common course of providence, while they are very far from tasting it. Their eyes are evil, while they see that God is good to others; and they are so far from tasting that goodness which they see manifested to others, that they hate it with perfect hatred. Though all men see the effects of divine goodness, yet very few really taste it. Tasting, therefore, is very different from seeing it.
It may be further observed, that tasting the goodness of God is something different from feeling the effects of it. There is not a creature in the universe who has not felt the effects of divine goodness. All mankind are continually receiving innumerable favors from the beneficent heart and hand of God;. but very few, however, taste his goodness, from which his blessings flow. The rich, the great, and prosperous, into whose bosoms God pours the bounties of providence in the largest profusion, seldom taste his goodness. They only taste their own happiness, without tasting the divine goodness from which it flows. It is true of saints, as well as of sinners, that they do not so constantly and sensibly taste the goodness of God, as they feel the effects of it.
But if saints tasting the goodness of God, means something different from their reasoning about it, or seeing the effects of it upon others, or feeling the effect of it upon themselves; the question still returns, what does their tasting divine goodness mean? To this there is but one general and satisfactory answer. By saints tasting the goodness of God is meant, their having an experimental knowledge of it from their own benev. olent exercises of heart. They exercise benevolent affections, which are of the same nature as the pure, benevolent affections of God. They have been born of the Spirit, and the fruit of the Spirit is love, and the same kind of love that exists in the heart of God. By being born of God, saints become partakers of the divine nature; which is the same thing, as being partakers of that holy love, which is of a divine nature. Being renewed in the spirit of their mind, saints have put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holi.
ness;" or "in knowledge, after the image of him that created them.” God having given saints a new heart, has given them a heart after his own heart, which is a heart to know him. For as soon as they have a heart just like his heart, they know what his heart is. As soon as they feel universal benevolence, they know how God feels, who exercises the same affection. That is to say, they know the goodness of God, by what they experience in their own hearts. It is by experience of what passes in our own minds, that we gain the most certain knowledge of what passes in the minds of other men. It is by knowing what reason is in ourselves, that we know what reason is in others. "It is by knowing what love, joy, hope, fear, and sorrow is in ourselves, that we know what love, joy, hope, fear, and sorrow is in others. Just so, the Scripture represents saints as knowing what passes in the heart of God, by knowing what passes in their own hearts. For, says the apostle, “What man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him ? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but V the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God : for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” Here we are told, that saints have a spiritual knowledge of God, which natural men or sinners have not; and that this spiritual knowledge of God is an experimental knowledge of him, or a knowledge which they
V gain from their own experience, in respect to the exercises of their own hearts. The same apostle expresses the same sentiment in his prayer for the Ephesians, “That ye being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height: and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God. It is by the love which saints feel in their own hearts, that they know and comprehend the love of God and of Christ towards them. And the apostle John declares, that “ love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not, knoweth not God : for God is love." And again, “God is love : and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God ✓ in him.” So far as saints dwell in love, they dwell in God and God in them; their hearts are entirely united; they feel 'as God feels, and God feels as they feel. They experimentally know the love and goodness of God. This experimental knowl. edge of divine goodness, is perfectly easy to be understood, by
the lowest capacity. Let two persons meet and converse, who are in a state of joy, and they will experimentally know how each other feels. Let two persons in a state of sorrow meet and converse, and they will experimentally know how each other feels. When two persons experimentally know each other's joys, they taste each other's joys; and when two persons experimentally know each other's sorrows, they taste each other's sorrows. So when saints experimentally know the goodness of God, they taste his goodness. There is no mystery in saints experimentally tasting the goodness of God, and enjoying the happy effects of it. I proceed, III. To point out th
effects which flow from this source. While David was experimentally tasting the goodness of God, he felt an ardent desire, that others might taste his goodness, and enjoy the happy effects, which he had found, and they would find, flowing from it. Tasting the goodness of God, never fails to throw saints into a peculiar state of mind, and to produce a variety of delightful views and feelings. And here I may observe,
1. That their tasting the divine goodness, brings them near to God, and God near to them. Though they are constantly the objects of the care and kindness of God, who loads them with his benefits every day; yet they do not constantly taste his goodness, from which all their blessings flow. They too often forget and forsake God their Maker and Benefactor, and suffer their eyes and their thoughts to wander from him. In such circumstances, though he passes by them on their right hand and left, they do not perceive him; and though they occasionally think of him, he appears at a great distance, far above out of their sight; and so long as he is out of their sight, they do not taste his goodness in any of the favors he bestows upon them. But when they awake out of their stupidity and look through all secondary causes up to the supreme First Cause, and view all their favors as coming from the heart and hand of God, they taste his goodness, and are sweetly drawn to him by the cords of love. Their hearts rise in love to him, while they realize that his heart flows out in goodness to them, which brings them to such a mutual nearness, that they may be said to dwell in each other. m 2. Tasting the goodness of God gives saints a clear, lively, and affecting sense of the greatness of divine goodness. Those who never taste the goodness of God, have very low and lim. ited views of it. They measure his goodness by its effects upon themselves and others within the circle of their very imperfect knowledge and observation. They never trace his goodness in its immense duration from eternity to eternity; nor in its immense extent from one end of the universe to the other, nor in the multiplicity and magnitude of the blessings which it is continually bestowing upon innumerable millions of rational and percipient creatures through the whole circle of creation. But supposing they should actually view the effects of divine goodness in their boundless duration, extent, multiplicity, and magnitude, yet their sense of the goodness of God would fall infinitely below the clear, lively, and affecting sense, which saints have of it when they experimentally taste it. For they view it in the Fountain, and not in the streams. What are the drops of the cean, which rise into clouds, and fall upon the earth, in comparison to the ocean itself? What is the goodness, which fills the earth and the whole creation, in comparison with the fountain of goodness in God, from whom it comes? Those who are rooted and grounded in love, comprehend with all saints, the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of that goodness in God, which they taste, and which is infinitely greater than any effects that ever have flowed, or ever will flow from it. David, who had tasted the goodness of God, had such a high and lively sense of it. He said, “Many, O Lord my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward ; they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered.”X “How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand." Tasting the goodness of God never fails to give saints such a lively, joyful, impressive sense of its boundless, bottomless, and immeasurable greatness. It fills them, as the apostle emphatically says, “ with all the fullness of God."
3. Tasting the goodness of God removes all fears from the minds of saints. They often entertain painful fears about themselves and others, while they do not realize and taste the goodness of God. But when they realize and taste the goodness of God, it banishes all doubts, and fears, and anxiety from their minds. Says the apostle, “ Perfect love casteth out fear." And David says in the context, “I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears." While saints taste the boundless goodness of God, they cannot see any ground of fear in any part of the universe. For while they see the universe under the eye, and under the hand of almighty and boundless goodness, all creatures, and objects, and events appear to be perfectly safe. Their own benevolence perfectly