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believe that he always has acted, and always will act under the influence of it, it will be impossible for any of mankind, or for any other intelligent creatures, to see the least ground to object against a single instance of God's conduct in forming and executing his original and eternal purposes. The plain and important truth, that God is perfectly and immutably good, and always acts under the influence of perfect goodness, solves all the apparent darkness and difficulties in both the natural and moral world, and completely removes the ground of every objection, that ever has been, or ever can be made against the conduct of God in any of his works of creation, or providence or redemption.
3. If God always acts under the influence of his pure, permanent, universal goodness; then no creature in the universe ever has had, or ever will have any just cause to murmur or complain, under the dispensations of providence. Though mankind are born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward ; and though God does inflict many and great evils upon the children of men; yet he never afflicts willingly, or grieves them. It is only, if need be, or some good end may be answered by it. He treats all his creatures as well, as it is morally possible for him to treat them; and with this, every one ought to be completely satisfied.
All men have constant occasion to rejoice, that the Lord reigneth, and that their times are in his holy and benevolent hands. This good men have believed; and they have acted accordingly. Who ever suffered greater, more complicated, and more unexpected calamities than Job did; but in the depth of his afflictions he said, “ The Lord hath given and the Lord hath taken away ; blessed be the name of the Lord.” He viewed all his sufferings as coming from the wisdom and goodness of God, which removed every murmuring thought, and produced cordial and unreserved submission. And the primitive christians lived in the lively faith of the perfect goodness of God in all the dealings of his providence towards them, which gave them entire satisfaction under all the evils they suffered. They could sincerely say of themselves, “ As dying, and behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing all things.” The paternal goodness of God is a perpetual source of consolation to all his children while they are passing through all the fiery trials, which fall to their lot in this
present evil world. When God's ancient people complained, that his ways were not equal, he appeals to their own consciences to justify his conduct, and condemn their own. “ Are not my ways equal? are not your ways unequal ?" God fills the earth with his goodness, and acts it out in every dispensation of his providence towards
every individual of the human race, which ought to remove every murmur and complaint, fill every heart with gratitude, and every mouth with praise. Hence says the apostle to every one with great propriety, “ Rejoice ever more; and again I say, rejoice."
4. If God be universally and perfectly good, and always acts under the influence of his immutable and perfect goodness ; then it is owing to the knowledge, and not to the ignorance of sinners, that they hate God. They are called haters of God, and are said to have a carnal mind which is enmity to God, and not subject to his law, neither indeed can be.” Some ascribe all their enmity and opposition to God to their ignorance of his true character. They say no man can know the great and amiable character of God, and at the same time hate him. This would be true, if their hearts were holy and benevolent; but their hearts are entirely selfish, and selfishness is diametrically opposite to pure, holy, perfect benevolence. And therefore the more they know of God, the more their hearts rise against him, and hate every part of his character, and every instance of his conduct rightly understood. Could they see and realise the
pure, benevolent motives of his conduct in all instances, they would perfectly hate and oppose all his designs and all his conduct. Could the eyes of all the sinners in the world be opened at once, and they have a clear and full view of his motives in creating and governing all his creatures, they would all rise up in open rebellion against their maker. This is exemplified by the feelings and language and conduct of those, whose eyes God does often open to see and realise his sovereign goodness and grace. They are the persons who hate God the most sensibly, till their carnal mind is slain, and holy love is shed abroad in their hearts. Our Saviour, who knew what was in man, represents sinners as hating God, not because they are ignorant of him, but because they know him. He expressly says, “ If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen, and hated both me and my Father. But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me withou a cause.” Sinners hate God for his goodness, which is no just cause for their hating him. Their hearts are evil because he is good. They hate him more for his goodness, than for any thing else in his character. They hate his power, knowledge, and wisdom, because these natural attributes are under the constant influence of his pure, holy, disinterested benevolence; and of
the more they know of his natural and moral perfections, the more their carnal mind rises against him.
5. If God be purely, perfectly, and universally good, and always acts under the influence of it; then he will display his goodness in the everlasting punishment of the finally impenitent. He loves them with the love of benevolence in this world, and desires simply considered, that they might not perish, but have everlasting life. This he declares under the solemnity of an oath.
66 As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live : turn ye, turn ye, from your evil ways: for why will ye die, 0 house of Israel ?" And again we read, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long suffering to us ward, not willing that any should perish,
but that all should come to repentance.” As God loves the impenitent in this life with the love of benevolence, so he will always feel benevolently towards them, while he manifests the tokens of his everlasting displeasure towards them. His perfect goodness disposes him to hate their perfect wickedness, and to punish them for it. And as it is his goodness, that disposes him to punish them, so it will dispose him to punish them for ever. If he punished them from a principle of malevolence and revenge, there
, could be no evidence, that he would punish them for ever. But since his perfect goodness leads him to regard the highest good of the universe, and to oppose whatever is opposed to that, his goodness requires him to punish those, who are the opposers of that good, so long as the highest good of the universe renders their punishment necessary. And we can see no reason why the good of the universe should not require their eternal, as well as temporary punishment. God's displeasure towards the finally impenitent, will be a holy and benevolent displeasure, and his goodness turned into wrath will for ever burn to the lowest hell, and give a peculiar emphasis to the miseries of the damned. If they could only see, that God punished them in the exercise of a malignant and a revengeful spirit, it would be a great relief to their sorrows; but they will always know and feel, that God always acts under the influence of perfect goodness, while he pours out the vials of his wrath upon them, which must serve to sink them deeper and deeper in darkness, misery and despair. The goodness of God, instead of being an argument in favour of univeral salvation, affords the strongest argument to prove, that since God punishes sinners in this life, he will punish them for ever except they repent.
6. If God is purely and perfectly good, and always acts under the influence of his goodness; then those who are finally happy will for ever approve of the divine conduct towards the finally miserable. Some have supposed, that the everlasting miseries of the
damned would disturb and diminish the happiness of the blessed. And they undoubtedly would, if their miseries did not flow from the perfect goodness of God. But they will see and believe, that God displays his goodness in displaying his justice, and this display of goodness and justice, will be so far from diminishing their felicity, that it will augment it for ever. Though the blessed will not take pleasure in the mere miseries of the damned; yet they will take pleasure in the pure, impartial, and perfect goodness of God, in
, giving them the due reward of their deeds. Moses and the pious Israelites rejoiced in the goodness of God, which sunk Pharaoh and his hosts in the merciless waves. And we know, that the heavenly hosts sing the song of Moses, and say, 66 Amen, Alleluia ;" while they behold the smoke of the torments of the damned. And the only reason is, that they see the displays of divine goodness in punishing those, who have opposed and always will oppose the glory of God, and the highest good of the universe.
7. If the pure, perfect immutable goodness of God be consistent with his pure, perfect, immutable justice; then while sinners remain impenitent, they have no ground to rely upon his mere goodness to save them. While God gives them health and strength, and prosperity, and pours into their bosoms the common blessings of his providence, they are extremely apt to imagine, that his goodness will terminate in his special grace; and that after he has done them so much good in this world, he never will inflict everlasting punishment upon them, in the world to come. This notion of divine goodness gives them habitual ease and security in the neglect of duty from day to day; and often affords them hope in their last moments. How often do we find those on a sick and dying bed who feel easy and safe, though they have never embraced the gospel. And if they are asked, why they are not distressed about their future and eternal state; they will readily reply, that they hope in the mercy of God to prepare them to die, before