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observes all this, can fail to be convinced of the goodness of the great Creator, in the formation, preservation, and government of the universe. That there is much natural evil, much suffering of pain and distress, none can deny. But still, it is also undeniable that there is, on the whole, an immense balance or preponderance of happiness or enjoyment.
66 The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord-he openeth his hand and satisfieth the wants of every living thing.” And it belongs to the believer in revelationand to him only it belongs—to give some account of the misery and suffering that exist in our world. He knows that the world now, is not what it was when it came fresh from the forming hand of its Almighty Author. Then, he who made it, on the most perfect survey, saw and pronounced it good. The sin of man has introduced into our world all the natural evil that has marred, and that still mars, the fair creation of the God of goodness. Never was there a fouler slander than that which charges the holders of the sentiments contained in our Catechism, with representing the Deity as having made man a sinner; as having doomed him, by a necessity of nature, to misery. No, verily, whatever difficulty there may be and difficulty there is, on every system or hypothesis-in accounting fully for the present guilty and suffering state of man, and the various evils that infest the world, we hold that God created all things good; that he created man in knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness; and that it would be entirely irreconcilable with all our ideas of the goodness and perfection of God, if any part of his original creation had not been good-perfectly good. But it is just a plain and undeniable matter of fact, that misery and guilt are in the world. Let those then who object to our Catechism tell us how they came into the world, and how and why they continue in it. Do they admit that misery is the consequence of man's sin? If so, they thus far agree with us. But will they dare to say that the Deity could not have ordered it other. wise-could not have formed and guarded a moral agent, such as man, so that he should neither have sinned nor suffered? If he could, and yet did not so form and guard him, then let them reconcile this with the goodness of God. If they altogether deny human guilt, then let them reconcile it with the divine goodness, that there is so much suffering where there is no offence. The truth is, that the orthodox sentiments are the most rational and the easiest of belief, as well as the most scriptural. We hold that “God made man upright, and that he hath sought out many inventions.” But I am digressing too far. We shall hereafter have occasion to enter more at large into this subject.
In the mean time, I remark, that every mind which is under the influence of truly pious feelings, views it as a wonderful exhibition of the goodness and forbearance of God, that there is not unspeakably more suffering than there is, in a world in which there is so much sin; so much awful provocation of a righteous and Holy God—That notwithstanding it all, he spares rebels and blasphemers, crowns their lives with temporal mercies innumerable, continues to them the offers and invitations of mercy, and eventually brings some of them to repentance and salvation. This leads me to remark, that the most conspicuous and transcendent display of the goodness of God, ever made to our world-or probably to the universe—was the gift of his own coequal Son, to be our Saviour_To be a Saviour, at the expense of a life of hardship and suffering, and a death of ignominy and agony unitedthe Saviour of fallen, guilty, rebellious men; and thus to raise them from all the ruins of their apostasy, to be children of God, and heirs with his own dear Son of an eternal inheritance, a kingdom of glory in the heavens. Here is a display of goodness emphatically Godlike; a display which, like all the other ways and works of God, surpasses the bounds of human comprehension.
It is proper to remark, that the attribute of Mercy is included in that of goodness, in the enumeration before us. Mercy is a particular form, or kind of goodness; and to us sinners it is the most interesting form. “Mercy is a readiness to forgive the guilty, and to remit deserved punishment-It is never mercy to pardon, if it would not have been perfectly equitable and just to punish."* Mercy is that attribute of God, of which the light of nature gives but feeble and dubious intimations. The assurance of it comes, and can come, from revelation only. None but the Being who was offended could certainly tell that he would forgive: and guilt, which is always fearful and suspicious, required the strongest and most explicit assurance that it would, on the proper terms, be pardoned. This assurance, I repeat, could not be given but by an express revelation-and for ever blessed be the God of all goodness, it has thus been given; and given in connexion with that unspeakable gift the Son of God, which assures pardon and acceptance even to the chief of penitent and believing sinners.
It only remains, in considering the answer before us, to speak of Truth, as an attribute of God. « Truthf —it has been well observed—is inseparable from infinite perfection : for any departure from truth must be considered as arising from weakness, or necessity. What end could be served, to a self-sufficient and allsufficient Being, by falsehood or deception?” There is I think no one of the attributes of God more insisted on in holy writ than truth. He is there characterized, by calling him “the God of truth;” and it is affirmed that “it is impossible for God to lie." He is true to his word; true to his covenants; true to his purpose; true to his promises; true to his threatenings. The great aggravation of the sin of unbelief, is that "it makes God a liar:” and all false dealing with the God of truth, is represented as involving guilt of the most awful kind. The tremendous doom of Ananias and Sapphira, was brought upon them because they had not merely “lied unto men, but unto God.”
Thus have we taken a cursory and general notice of the divine attributes. In what you have heard upon them, my aim has been to suggest the leading ideas which we derive, in regard to them, both from reason and revelation. Only the leading ideas could be suggested-A whole lecture might have been employed on each attribute, without exhausting the subject.
The practical inferences derivable from a consideration of the divine attributes, are both very numerous and very important. We cannot however do more than direct your attention, in the briefest manner, to a few.
1. Did we derive our being, and all our powers from God; and are we constantly upheld, preserved and provided for, by him? Then how perfectly reasonable is it, that he should require us to love, and serve, and obey him; and how unspeakably unreasonable, wicked, and rebellious is it, in those who refuse their affections and obedience to their Creator, Preserver, and Redeemer-but give them all to his enemies? O that this could be seen in its proper light, and be felt with some degree of its proper force and impression!
2. Is God infinitely wise? How should this induce his covenant people to trust him unreservedly to order for them the whole lot of life, and all that concerns them for time and eternity? What can they desire more, than that infinite wisdom should choose for them that which is best?-and this it will do assuredly. But how vain, as well as impious, are all the plots, and plans, and designs of the wicked, either to oppose the purposes of God, or to escape the punishment with which he has threatened them. Let them consider in time, that there is “no knowledge, nor counsel, nor device against the Lord-He taketh the wise in their own craftiness, and carrieth the counsel of the froward headlong.
3. Considering the infinite power and truth of God, how safely may his children rely on the performance of every word which their Heavenly Father hath spoken? How implicitly may they trust him for a
victory over sin, Satan, and the world; saying, " if God be for us, who can be against us?” and for the discharge of any commanded duty, however difficult? saying with the apostle, “I can do all things through Christ, which strengthene thme.” But with what perfect ease can this Almighty Being blast and defeat all the power and efforts of his enernies? He has only to will it, and it is done. Oh how inexpressibly awful it is for a worm of the dust, however distinguished among his fellow worms, to fall into the hands of an Almighty avenger! "Be wise, now, therefore, 0 ye kings, be instructed ye judges of the earth-serve the Lord with fear-kiss the Son lést he be angry and ye perish from the way when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.' 4. When we consider the holiness of God,
how deeply abased should the holiest man on earth be, in reflecting on the remainders of sin that yet cleave to him. It was a view of the holiness of God that laid Job in the dust of silence before his Maker, and which made him “abhor himself, and repent in dust and ashes.” And the very same effect it will always produce, on all who have the same right perceptions that Job had-And oh! how do these views endear our adorable Mediator, through whom we may approach this pure and spotless Being with acceptance-yea, through whom we ourselves may at last be delivered from all the pollutiòn, and from every stain of sin, and be raised to the high, and pure, and perfect enjoyment of a holy God. But alas! this is the attribute that unsanctified men never love to think of, when they contemplate the Deity.--The thought of it immediately stirs up the rebellion of their hearts, because they hate holiness! All their views of God therefore, when they think that they love him, are essentially defective. They love not the true God, but a being of their own imagination.
5. From the justice of God we infer the certain punishment, the tremendous doom, of all his irreconcilable enemies.--Now they may break his laws and