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CONTEMPLATIONS ON SOME OF THE MORAL PER
FECTIONS OF GOD.
Exodus, XXXllI. 19.
THE goodness of God, is like himself, a theme of infinite ex. tent. His goodness is as his nature, incomprehensible by the largest capacity of the most exalted created spirit. It is a term used to express the whole moral essence of Jehovah ; it is a word employed to communicate some idea of his moral attributes or perfections. When the whole of the moral excellencies of the great Supreme, in the most summary manner, would be given in a single phrase, sometimes they are expressed by the word holy, sometimes love, but more generally and frequently by the word good. As God is holy, God is love but it is almost every where said, God is good. And perhaps, this may be a reason, why Theologians, when they treat of the moral perfections of God, in a compendious view, often fix upon the term goodness. However this may be, I have selected the phrase, goodness of God, for my present purpose. When we contemplate this pleasing and glorious subject, with what fervency should we raise our hearts to this infinitely benificent and good Being, that he would shed abroad, in a rich profusion, his gracious goodness upon our souls, that we may behold it with admiration and love, and taste and see its precious excellency.
The occasion of the Lord's making this declaration to Moses, .I will make all my goodness to pass before thee,” was briefly
this. Moses had offered a strange and extraordinary petition to God, saying, “ I beseech thee, shew me thy glory.” What it was that he precisely and particularly requested, is dithcult to investigate or explain any farther than is revealed by the answer which the Lord gave him in our text and context. Moses seems to have had nearer access to, and more intimate converse withi God, than any other mere man ever had. God often manifested himself to him, and conversed with him face to face, as a man with his friend. He had made often extraordinary exhibitions. of himself, in a glorious manner to Moses ; as he appeared, to him in great splendor in the burning bush ; the bush appeared, before him as a fiame of fire, yet it was not consumed. An ar-, ticulate voice proceeded from this luminous appearance, informing him that this was God in his presence, that the place where he stood was holy, and gave a large account of the affilictions and oppressions of the children of Israel in Egypt, and furnished hini' with a divine commission to go and bring forth his people from that state of bondage. Here was truly a wonderful discovery of God to him. But the Most High, gave still a more miraculous display of his perfections to him and before all Israel, at Mount Sinai. Here God appeared in glorious and terrible 'majesty, with thunders, lightnings, and earthquakes, and not only a bush, but the whole mountain, was wrapped in fire. And Moses was called up to enter into this universal blaze, and there he continued in the presence of God, to converse with him forty days and forty nights. Now, after all these astonishing manifestations of the eternal Jehovah to Moses, what could he mean by this uncommon prayer, " Shew me thy glory." Was it possible for mortal to see more of God than be had seen, or receive more distinguishing communications from himn than he had done? Some have supposed that Moses desired to see that glory which should be conferred on the Messiah, after he should have made an atonement for the sins of men, and ascended to heaven, and seated on the
right hand of the inajesty on high. That is, that he might see that glorious splendor of Christ Jesus, as he is now enthroned in the celestial world. Whatever it was he desired, God, in his in. finite wisdom, saw it inproper to grant it in its fullest extent. Therefore, the Lord said unto him, “ There shall no man see me < and live." Yet God, in the wonders of his condescension and love to Moses, determines to gratify his desires as far as it was possible for him to receive in his present state of mortality. “ And the Lord said, behold there is a place by me, and thou “shalt stand upon a rock, and it shall come to pass, while my “ glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock ; " and will cover thee with my hand, while I pass by. And I will “ take away my hand, and thcu shalt see my back parts; but my « face shall not be seen."
Moses prayed to behold the divine glory ; God answers, “ I " will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim « the name of the Lord before thee. Accordingly he passed by “ and proclaimed, the Lord, the Lord God, inerciful and gracious, “long suffering and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping “mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and “sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty.” Jehovah does not say to him, that he would shew him his glory, but notwithstanding, he would gratify him to the utmost extent, of which his nature and present existence were capable. “I will make my “goodness pass before thee.” The goodness of God is selected here, to express all the moral excellencies of Godhead. Goodness is a quality which renders sweet, amiable, and illustrious, all the other divine and glorious attributes. God, before he makes proclamation of his name to Moses, gives in the first place, this summary view of it. And he comprehends all the glory thereof in the term goodness, hereby teaclring us, that his goodness is his glory; and that he would make himself more known to mankind by the riches of his goodness, than by the splendor of his anjesty.
· Now, in speaking of this goodness, we shall confine ourselves to that description and delineation of it, which God himself here gives in the proclamation of his name and character. He makes known his supremacy_his sovereignty-Inercy-grace--patience
love--faithfulness--forgiveness of sin—and righteousness or justice. And this grand collection of his moral attributes, constitutes the divine goodness. There are many summaries of the divine character afforded us in the sacred oracles, but we have chosen this for our present purpose, as it is both a description drawn by himself of the fullness of the cxcellency of his goodness, and as the heavenly design was to display the same to Moses, as far as the conception of a created mind could receive it. The whole of this exalted and majestic picture is delineated by the mouth of Jehovah, every word communicating a distinct idea, and every idea too vast for the human soul to comprehend, we can arrive at some faint apprehension of the same, and admire and adore in the divine presence. “I will proclaim the name of the “ Lord before thee, and will be gracious to whom I will be gra. u cious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy. The " Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long suffering and “ abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, “ forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin, and that will by " no means clear the guilty.”—The
First thing mentioned in this description, is the supremacy of the divine goodness. The Lord_and again, the Lord, the Lord God. These words, so frequently repeated, shew forth this transcendently supreme dominion of Jehovah. And all this cominion is exercised in goodness, for the highest good of his intelligent creatures, and to display the glory of his name, that is, the glory of his goodness. Hence it is said, “ Thou art the God of « all the kingdoms of the earth. Dominion and fear are with bim, " he maketh peace in his high places. He is the living God; and 4 stedfast forever, and his kingdom is that which shall not be des “stroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end. Air
all this supremacy and dominion, are only exhibitions of the greatness of his goodness. Therefore, with propriety may we exclaim with the Prophet, “ How great is his goodness? How great is « his bounty?"Let us fear the Lord and his goodness.
A Second branch of the glory of divine goodness contained in this sacred description, is the sovereignty of it, which is expressed in these sublime terms, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.” He is absolute proprietor of his own, and he makes what distinction in the bestowment of his gifts and benefits, as to him seemeth good. He is not debtor to any, neither accountable to any, therefore, may do what he will with his own. All his reasons for mer. cy and goodness originate from himself, and not from any merit or supposed goodness in his earthly creatures. He extends or confers his grace and mercy according to his sovereign pleasure. He does according to his will in the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of this lower world. None can stay his hand, or say, what dost thou? It may be here observed, that all the descriptions of divine sovereignty given us in the holy scriptures, are all manifestations of sovereign goodness and beneficence. It is never said, “ I will be angry at whom I will be angry;" for his wrath, and all the displays of it, are always perfectly righte'ous and just. But he will shew mercy on whom he will shew mercy, for his grace and loving kindness are always sovereignly free. St. Paul quotes this very declaration to Moses, that though God was sovereign in the dispensations of his grace, yet there was no unrighteousness with him. “Is there unrighteousness with God? 4 God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on “ whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion, on whom I “ will have compassion.” God saves the children of men by the prerogative of his goodness, and never condemns any by the prerogative of wrath, but always justly, for their rebellion and transgressions. Therefore, the Psalmist declares, “Men shall abund“antly utter the memory of thy great goodness, and shall sing of «thy righteousness.