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ignorance of their uses and ends. Thus reason, with a very little modesty, might lead us to believe, if we had only the light of nature. But,
2. From the law and the prophets, we have much further evidence of the goodness of God, and greater reason to be satisfied that his nature is love.
All the precepts of the moral law, contained in the scriptures of the Old Testament, are evidently dictated by universal benevolence. That law enjoins nothing but what is beneficial, and forbids nothing but what is hurtful, not only to others, but even to ourselves. It is easy to see that the law, in every commandment of it, is good, as well as holy and just. It may easily be seen that love is the fulfilling of the law" or that all the law and the prophets are comprehended in these two commandments; "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart; and thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."
Now the law of God, it must be supposed, is perfectly agreeable to his nature. Bad earthly rulers may, indeed, sometimes enact good laws. They may be obliged to do so, for the sake of their own popularity or safety. But can it be thought that an Almighty Legislator, who is absolutely independent, and who has nothing to fear from any of his subjects, would have given a system of laws enjoining that in which he himself delighteth not? or one not perfectly expressive of his own disposition?
3. The gospel, gives us still more abundant evidence of God's infinite goodness,
In this, he hath made known to us a wonderful way provided for sinners to escape the wrath to come, and to inherit eternal life. In this we have the strongest proof, of God's infinite concern for the good of creatures who hated him without a cause, and were justly hateful to him; and, at the same time, of his infinite concern for the support of that just
government, which is necessary for the general good of the universe. "In this was manifested the love of God," as it follows immediately after our text, "because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love; not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins."
In the gospel, also, much light is given respecting the permission of sin and misery; and concerning other things in the ways of God, which, without this clue, might have forever appeared dark and inexplicable. See 2 Tim. i. 10, "But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel." And Eph. iii. 10, "To the intent that now, unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places, might be known by the church, the manifold wisdom of God."
In the gospel we are informed of the happy issue of present dark appearances; and that, by the fail and redemption of men, a wise plan is executing in the Providence of God, for the most glorious display, of his power, justice and grace, to the eternal admiration and increased happiness of all the holy part of the intelligent creation; and for thus, out of partial evil, producing the greatest universal good.
4. I know of nothing in the scriptures of the Old or New-Testament, which is not fairly reconcilable with believing, that God is love-the most perfect universal benevolence.
It is said, indeed, "For his pleasure, all things are, and were created." But it is his pleasure to do good.
God says, of every one called by his name, "I have created him for my glory: I have formed him, yea, I have made him." But it is for his glory to
create beings capable of enjoying good; to form them for happiness, and to make them happy.
It is said, "The Lord hath made all things for himself; yea, even the wicked for the day of evil." But by the former part of this saying of Solomon, we need not understand, that God had an exclusive regard to himself in creation; so as to have no ultimate respect to the happiness of his creatures. That their good was one thing he had ultimately in view in creating many of them, we are plainly taught in the scriptures: though we are also there taught, that he regards himself, or his own glory, as the chief end of all his works. An ultimate end, is any thing which an agent aims at for its own sake, in however low a degree. There can be but one chief end of any action or undertaking; but ultimate ends there may be many. For instance, a man may build a house for himself, as the principal thing in view; and yet he may design it for the comfort of his family, for the accommodation of his friends occasionally, and for the lodging of strangers. The good of each of these others, may be an object in itself; and not merely in subserviency to the personal interest or honor of the owner and builder. So, it may very consistently be supposed, that God made all things for himself, as the chief end; while he had yet respect to the happiness of the creatures made, in different degrees, as an ultimate end. And if this were the case, as we are abundantly assured it was, he is then not to be thought selfish, as men count selfishness. Some have no ultimate object besides themselves, in any thing they do others make self their object, beyond what is equal and just. But neither of these need be supposed, or is to be understood, in regard to God. He values the good of all his creatures, in itself considered. He aims at their happiness as an ultimate object and he seeks his own glory above every thing else, no more than in equal proportion to its real superior importance.
With respect to its being said, "The Lord hath made the wicked for the day of evil;" we are not to understand by this, that their misery was any ultimate end at all with God, in creating them. The contrary he hath solemnly declared, Ezek. xxxiii. 11, "As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked." Neither the destruction, nor the least pain of any creature, however sinful, is pleasing to him for its own sake. He punishes sinners, and made them for that end, only because it is necessary for benevolent designs. Thus, as is observed, Rom. ix. 17, “The scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth." Now, if thus declaring God's name, were of importance enough to over-balance all the evils brought upon this cruel, haughty, obstinate prince, neither his final destruction, nor his being raised up for that end, was at all inconsistent with God's most glorious benevolence. The same holds true of all other instances of his punishing justice; and of every link in the chain of Providence, by which such awful events are brought to pass. That the punishment of the wicked was a part of God's eternal plan, and that he made them for the day of evil, in this sense, must be admitted. But that this was only because he saw it necessary for the greatest general good, must be believed, if we believe his word. And in this way, all that is seen or said, of the wrath and vengeance of God, may be accounted for, in a good consistency with the belief that his nature is love: or that, in all things, his ultimate motive is pure benevolence. When he hateth all the workers of iniquity, he bears them no ill will. When he inflicts the most terrible punishments upon them, it is not from any delight he takes in their misery, or from any want of a friendly disposition towards them. As a tender father doth not cease to love an offending
child, when most displeased with it, and when, for its own good, or the good of his other children, or for the support of his own authority and honor, he is obliged to punish it; so neither doth the universal Parent cease to love, with benevolence, his rebellious creatures, even the most criminal of them; though he will not spare them, when, for any good ends, of sufficient importance, their punishment is seen necessary. When his regenerate and adopted children are undutiful to him; when " they break his statutes, and keep not his commandments; he will visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless, his loving kindness he doth not take from them, nor suffer his faithfulness to fail." And though he " is angry with the wicked every day;" yet he pities them, and often waits long for their repentance, that deserved vengeance may not be executed upon them. Nor are we to imagine that he ceases to be benevolent, even towards those his enemies, who, finally, will not have him to reign over them, and whom he casts off for ever.
5. As far as we are able of ourselves to judge what is right, it must be believed, that all the moral perfections of God are comprehended in benevolence, if we believe him altogether glorious. Nothing but this, or what proceeds from this, I am persuaded, can be approved by any man's conscience, when well considered, as a moral perfection. Anger, wrath, vengeance, are amiable, when benevolence inspires them, and when good only, is ultimately intended by them. On the other hand, when this is not the case, even truth and justice, do not commend themselves to the feelings of the most upright man, I presume, as being laudable. If need be, the truth should be spoken, and justice should be done; but when there is no need of it, what glory can there be in speaking the one, or in doing the other? Be