The Goodness of God!
Edward Griffin, 1770-1837
"They shall abundantly utter the memory of Your great goodness." Psalm 145:7
Whether men could have discovered the goodness of God without Scriptural revelation, is a question which has been considerably agitated for the last century; having been called up by the onset made upon religion by modern infidelity.
It may probably be admitted that had men continued in a state of innocence, with minds unclouded by sin and prejudice, and living in a world unaffected with evil — they would have been fully persuaded of the goodness of God without Scriptural revelation, provided that they could have discovered His existence and universal agency.
But blinded as they are by the fall, and having daily proofs before them of the existence of sin and misery, there is reason to believe either that they could not, or that they would not, have learned the unmixed goodness of God without instructions from Heaven.
This opinion is confirmed by experience. No portion of the heathen world has, in any age or country, formed correct ideas of the moral character of God. The character which even the polished Greeks and Romans ascribed to their Jupiter was such as no decent man in the present age would be willing to sustain. It was reserved for the Holy Spirit — to disclose the disposition of the Eternal Mind, to show us a Being who is love itself, whose happiness consists in doing good, whose chief end is to form a holy, happy kingdom, full of the knowledge of His glory. It was reserved for the Holy Spirit to explain the tendency of those measures which God has adopted for this end. Enlightened by the truths which the Spirit of God reveals, we may look with clearer vision upon the heavens and the earth, upon the dispensations of God, upon His minutest works — and see in them all proof, before unknown, of His amazing goodness.
One of the great lessons which we were sent into the world to learn, was the goodness of God. It is a sweet and heavenly theme, calculated to melt and refine the soul, to raise it to high and ecstatic contemplations, and to change it "into the same image from glory to glory." Could we now catch a glimpse of this glorious perfection — our delighted minds would spurn the earth and lose themselves in elevated wonder, love, and joy. Unable to view God either with an eye of sense or intuitively — we must search for evidences of His goodness in the works of creation and providence and in the administration of His grace, enlightened as they are by His Word. In such a study the holy angels and "the spirits of just men made perfect" are continually employed as they make excursions through the universe, and it increases their admiration of the benignity and perfection of their heavenly King.
The evidences of God's goodness may be reduced to the following heads:
The structure of the world;
the preservation and care of His works;
His providential interpositions;
His bounties; and
the administration of His grace.
1. His goodness appears in the STRUCTURE OF THE WORLD.On this theme more books might be composed than the world now contains, without exhausting the subject. A whole library might be written on the goodness apparent in the structure of the human body. The more the religious mind is enlightened by science — the more it is lost in the admiration of the wisdom and goodness which appear in every part of creation. The whole is one vast museum of curiosities, strongly portraying wise and benevolent design. Everything (except sin and its immediate effects) is admirably calculated to serve the happiness of creatures.
A Christian cannot view the sun, placed in the heavens to enlighten, warm, and influence the dependent planets — without seeing a constant monument of the goodness of the Creator. Nor without strong impressions of the same sort — can science contemplate the laws which regulate the heavenly bodies, their structure, motions, regularity, and various influence upon the happiness of the creation. Every star of night, tells a tale which fills the pious eye with tears. The air in which we breathe, is charged by the Creator to perform various necessary and important offices for man. The ocean has its numerous uses. Vegetation, which has so much influence on the beauty of the world and the support of animal life; every organ of the human body; every social affection and relation; the numerous instincts and faculties of beast, bird, fish, and worm — so admirably fitted for their preservation and defense; the organization of every plant and spire of grass — all conspire to proclaim the matchless goodness of their Author!
There is more benevolent design in a single field of wheat — I might have said, in a single blade — than all the scientists of the world can comprehend. There is more benevolent design in the faculties of yonder bird that hangs under the arch of Heaven, or in the minutest limb of the insect which hums in the evening air — than human reason can ever fathom. On no point of nature's works, can we fix our eye without seeing marks of God's amazing goodness!
2. God's goodness is discovered in the PRESERVATION and CARE of His works.The same power that constructed the universe, is necessary every moment to its continuance and order. When with the eye of science, we examine the mechanism of nature, we see that goodness not only created the countless wheels of this vast machine, but exerts equal energy and care every moment to preserve their being, properties, and motions.
The goodness of God sustains the sun in his place, and sends out every ray which enlightens and warms the earth. The flood of light which flows from that luminary is a flood constantly issuing from the fountain of eternal goodness.
The goodness of God sustains and rolls all the planets, and sheds upon us the influence of every star. The action of the atmosphere in supporting animal life and vegetation, shows the constant agency of divine goodness. Every drop of the ocean, every property of that drop, receive their being, every instant, from divine goodness. And all the apparent and secret influences which the ocean exerts upon the world, indicate the constant action of the same divine goodness.
All the minute and subtle laws of vegetation, and those which govern the animal economy and the social relations — result from the continued energies of omnipotent goodness.
It is the constant care of God, which preserves the body and the faculties of man, which propels our blood through the arteries and veins, which secretes the various fluids of our bodies and carries them through vessels fitted to conduct them.
It is the constant care of God which sustains the eagle in the midst of the heavens, and supports the organs of the smallest worm which crawls on the ground. Every blade of wheat and every blade of grass, hourly receives its organization from the goodness of God. His care raises from the earth, and enters from the sun, into the vessels of each plant every particle of nutriment. His care sends the healthful breeze to refresh the lungs of the languishing invalid. His care supports the weak young raven, and "tempers the wind to the shorn lamb."
All the countless varieties of nature's operations — are but the effects of the infinitely diversified and constantly repeated efforts of divine goodness. We are lost in the boundless contemplation, and can only say, "This also comes forth from the Lord Almighty, who is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working!"
3. The goodness of God appears in His PROVIDENTIAL INTERPOSITIONS.Not a sparrow falls to the ground without him, and the hairs of our head are all numbered. "The lot is cast into the lap — but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord." His throne, as represented in Ezekiel's vision, is erected over the wheels of providence, which, though in the highest degree complicated, like wheels within wheels, do, to those who attentively and filially observe them, furnish abundant evidence of divine goodness.
The sacred history throws great light on this department of God's government. There we trace His dealings with nations and with individuals for several hundred years, and view His providence irradiated by a column of light from Heaven. There we see the benevolent designs of His judgments upon wicked nations and individuals, and His agency in all the comforts bestowed on His people. There we trace His faithfulness to His saints, His sudden interpositions to supply their needs, to deliver them from their enemies, to arrest evils on their way to assail them, and to turn all their afflictions to a good account. There the most mysterious and complex dispensations are analyzed, and the use of every part explained before our eyes.
These are exhibited as specimens, to enable us to understand the designs of Providence in every age. Instructed by these disclosures, we may daily read the goodness of God, not only in those great events which concern nations — but in those which relate to families and individuals. The whole skein of providence, from the falling of a sparrow to the revolutions of empires — the whole skein of providence in all worlds, is nothing but the constantly repeated action of divine goodness and the universal extension of divine care.
Overcome by this boundless prospect, the mind seeks relief in a more circumscribed view. Well then, let a judicious Christian take his stand in the midst of divine operations, and attentively observe the providence of God within the narrow limits of his own vision for thirty or forty years — and what surprising disclosures will he witness of the care, compassion, and faithfulness of God! How many narrow escapes from death which the unseen and too little acknowledged hand of God brought about! How many surprising interpositions will he notice!
Here, he sees the divine care exercised over the widow and the fatherless; there, a, poor saint who trusted in God, supplied from year to year without his own care or foresight. Here, he sees the divine hand interposing between a poor orphan and its merciless oppressor. There, a Christian, through a long course of afflictions — experiencing the frequent and affecting interpositions of a Father's care. He sees the providence of God employed in ordering the seasons, in changing the winds, and in making a thousand things conspire to produce the healthfulness of a single town — or the abundance of a single harvest. He sees the hand of God in every scene, and hears everything unite in proclaiming, "How precious are your thoughts toward us! O God! how great is the sum of them!"
4. The goodness of God appears in His BOUNTY.One of the expressive titles which the ancient Hebrews gave to God was Shadah, which signified "the pourer or shedder forth" — that is, of blessings. It seemed to represent Him as the great fountain on the top of the universe, pouring out the streams of His bounty into all worlds.
This representation was correct. He is the exhaustless ocean whence countless streams of blessings have flowed into all parts of the universe from the beginning of the creation. They have not flowed from blind necessity — but from deliberate and divine purpose.
Men are apt to ascribe the effects of God's beneficence to the laws of nature, and to lift their praise no higher. But there is not an ear of barley in the harvest, nor a spire of grass upon the mountains; there is not an apple mellowing in the sun, nor a grape blushing in the vineyard; there is not a sheep in the fold, nor one of the cattle upon a thousand hills — but was produced by the particular effort and full intention of divine goodness, as really as though it had been the only thing created.
It is His hand which spreads our table and fills our cup, as much as though there were no laws of nature — and our food, like the manna, is rained down from Heaven. There is not an unfledged bird in the nest, which is not fed from His hand. There is not a worm nestling under the clod, which is not supplied by His constant care. His eye looks creation through — He bears all His creatures upon His heart. It is overflowing love that feeds kings — and that feeds reptiles. "The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord." "O that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!"
5. The goodness of God appears in the administration of His GRACE.I have not time to dwell on that mighty effort of love which brought the Son of God from a throne — to a manger, and from the manger — to a cross. I have not time to dwell on the gift of His holy Word, on any of the displays of Himself to the Church in past ages. By all these means, a monument was erected to the honor of divine goodness which the storms of time can never demolish. My object is only to glance at those proofs of God's goodness which daily appear in the administration of His grace, and which Christians find in their course without going out of their way.
Put your minds deeply to the contemplation. What goodness is that which daily looks after a revolted world, which calls and entreats them to return, which sends the Holy Spirit to overcome their obstinacy and to bring them back to God and to eternal felicity! What amazing goodness is that which pardons all their sins, which admits them to the privileges of children, and treats them with such ineffable tenderness and care! That the eternal God should condescend to hold communion with unworthy worms, that He should hear their prayers and supply all their needs and defend them with a Father's care, and not only pardon their daily sins, but take upon Himself the charge of subduing their remaining corruptions; that He should throw Himself between them and their enemies and dangers, resolving never to forsake them until He has brought them home to His heavenly kingdom — all this is a manifestation of goodness which no finite mind can comprehend.
The more we reflect on these several topics with deep and pious scrutiny — the more will our minds be overwhelmed with the unsearchable, the infinite goodness of God. It is the miserable condition of man by nature, to be blind to this amazing goodness. This world, this benighted and guilty world — has but little sense of the glorious Being who reigns above and shines in all His works.
But it will not be always thus. These astonishing measures by which God has expressed the benevolence of His nature, will yet fill the world with His glory — and men in every nation and climate under Heaven, "shall abundantly utter the memory of His great goodness!" The grateful sound shall echo from mountain to mountain, and from the valley to the hills —
"Until, nation after nation taught the strain,
Earth rolls the rapturous hosanna round!"
Then shall the inhabitants of the earth celebrate that goodness which their fathers overlooked.
Does not this reflection light up a blush in every cheek? Shall it be that after we are dead, a generation shall arise who shall be more affected with God's goodness to us, than we are ourselves? Shall the world in future ages ring with the praises of that beneficence which we enjoy, but do not acknowledge?
Ah, my beloved friends, a God of such immeasurable goodness does not merit such treatment at our hands. He deserves our highest love and praise.
Are they to be justified, who live under the care of such a God and make no returns? who worship Him neither in the family nor in the closet? who hate His religion, and reproach His servants? I submit it to the conscience of every hearer, whether these are suitable returns to God for all His goodness to poor, worthless, self-ruined sinners. The whole universe must pronounce it the basest ingratitude. Not a conscience at the last day but will condemn them.
Ah, deluded souls, I forewarn you that incensed goodness will be an awful enemy to encounter. When you shall feel all the nameless woes of reprobation — were there any other hand to punish than that of goodness, you could bear it. But to be crushed under the indignant power of offended goodness — this will be the Hell of hells! This will utterly confound and overwhelm you with a load of guilt and shame to which mountains and worlds are light. Let me meet any other enemy, but O deliver me from offended goodness! Amen.