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Reade, Lady, Oddington, Gloucestershire
Sherborne, Right Hon. Lord
Thomond, Marquis of, 2 copies
Rev. Dr. Principal of St. Edm. Hall, Oxford Tuckfield, Richard Hippisley, Esq. Fulford, Devonshire,
Upton, Rev. John
THE CONDUCT OF GOD
HUMAN SPECIES, &c.
THE method I mean to pursue in this treatise is to endeavour, in the first proposition, to refute those objections which the rashness and inconsiderateness rather than the reason of man has presumed to advance against the conduct and goodness of God; particularly those bigotted and superstitious tenets in the writings of John Calvin respecting election and predestination ; and, above all, his unwarrantable and therefore impious assertion, that, even before their birth, or they could possibly have offended him, God devoted a portion of the human race to perdition, and the sufferance of everlasting torment. In the second proposition I shall state from Scripture that proclamation which God has condescendingly and graciously been pleased to make of his character and in
tended conduct to the human race, and prove that his actions have been exactly correspondent with that proclamation. Secondly, I shall endeavour to refute the two greatest objections made by Sceptics against the divine mission of our blessed Saviour; the first, that it is inconsistent with our natural ideas of the majesty of God to suppose that he would send his Son into this world for any period however short, or for any human purposes however great; the second, that it was the occult design of our Saviour to make himself a temporal king of the Jewish people; and then I shall assign such reasons as appear to me convincing in proof of his divinity and divine mission. And in the third and last proposition I shall attempt to shew the goodness of God to the human species, by an induction of particulars, and by an exemplification of it in a variety of instances.
All religion is at best ceremonial, and without any vital essence or effect, unless accompanied with a firm belief in the infinite goodness of God; and I apprehend, so far from any person's being able to accomplish the first and paramount duty he is enjoined by his Saviour to perform, of loving God with all his heart, with all his mind,
with all his soul, and with all his strength, it is morally impossible he can love him at all, unless his heart is fully impressed with an absolute conviction of his love and goodness to the human species. I shall therefore endeavour in this treatise to prove, that God's attribute of goodness deserves to be as entirely and universally admitted and received into the human mind, and as completely believed in, as those of his omniscience and omnipotence. But before I proceed to invalidate the various objections which have been made to his goodness, I shall attempt to define its nature, and to state the degree of it which man has any just reason to expect will be exerted towards him in this life by his heavenly Father.
In a conversation between Socrates and Aristippus on the good and beautiful, recorded in Xenophon's Memorabilia, the latter asks Socrates, What is goodness? To which question Socrates replies, that it is impossible to give an accurate definition of it, either in quality or degree, without adverting to a specific application of it to a particular case, and to the circumstances of that case. Goodness therefore in an abstract sense is to be considered of a relative or contingent nature;