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good: it is from God's open hand, his unconfined SERM. bounty and liberality, that all creatures do receive LXVIII. all that good which fills them, which satisfies their needs, and satiates their desires. Every pleasant object we view, every sweet and savoury morsel we taste, every fragrancy we smell, every harmony we hear; the wholesome, the cheering, the useful, yea, the innocent and inoffensive qualities of every thing we do use and enjoy, are so many perspicuous arguments of divine goodness; we may not only by our reason collect it, but we even touch and feel it with all our senses.
The like conclusion may be inferred from the observation of divine Providence. Every signification or experiment, whence we may reasonably infer that divine power and wisdom do concur in upholding, managing, and directing the general state of things, or the particular affairs of men, being well examined and weighed, would afford reason apt to persuade, that the Governor of the world is graciously affected toward his creatures and subjects. The general preservation of things in their natural constitution and order; the dispensing constant vicissitudes of season, so as may serve for the supply of our needs; the maintaining such a course of things in the world, that, notwithstanding the great irregularity of will, and violence of passion in so many persons; yet men do ordinarily shift so as to live tolerably upon earth in peace and safety, and enjoyment of competent accommodations for life; with the aids and consolations arising from mutual society; the supports, encouragements, and rewards of virtue many times in a strange manner administered; the restraints, disappointments, and seasonable chastise
Isa. y. 12.
SERM. ments of wickedness, especially when it grows exorLXVIII.
bitant and outrageous, unexpectedly intervening,
with the like passages of Providence, will, to him Ps. xxviii.5. that shall regard the works of the Lord, and the
operation of his hands, sufficiently declare as the other glorious attributes, (wisdom, power, and justice, so especially the goodness of him who presides over the world; assuring that he is a friend to the welfare, and dislikes the misery of mankind. He that shall well observe and consider how among so many fierce and hardhearted, so many crafty and spiteful, so many domineering and devouring spirits, the poor and weak, the simple and harmless sort of people do however subsist, and enjoy somewhat, cannot but suspect that an undiscernible hand, full of pity and bounty, doth often convey the necessary supports of life to them, doth often divert imminent mischiefs from them; cannot but acknowledge it credible what the holy scripture teacheth, that God is the
friend, and patron, and protector of those needy and Psal. xiv. 6. helpless people, redeeming their soul from deceit lxxii. 12. and violence, as the Psalmist speaks; that he is, as Isa. Ixv. 4. the prophet expresseth it, a strength to the poor, a
strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall. He that shall remark, how frequently, in an unac
countable way, succour and relief do spring up to Ps. xxxvii. just and innocent persons; so that in a whole age,
as the Psalmist observed, such persons do not appear destitute or forsaken; how also iniquity is commonly stopped in its full career, and then easily receives a check, when its violence seemed uncontrollable; how likewise many times the world is
rescued from confusions and distractions unextric- SERM. able by any visible wit or force; with other like oc
LXVIII. currences in human affairs ; must admit it for a reasonable hypothesis (fit to render a cause of such appearances) that a transcendent goodness doth secretly interpose, furthering the production of such effects: he must upon such observation be ready to verify that of the Psalmist: Verily there is a re- Psal. Iviii. ward for the righteous ; verily there is a God that judgeth the earth. St. Paul instructs us, that in past times (that is, in all generations from the beginning of things) God did attest himself to be the Acts xiv. Governor of the world: How ? ảyadan olõv, by his beneficence; giving to men showers from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling their hearts with food and gladness: competent evidences, it seems, these were of his providence, and withal (supposing that) certain demonstrations of his goodness: although some have abused this kind of testimony, or argumentation, so valid in itself, unto a contrary purpose; alleging, that if God ruled the world, so much wickedness and impiety would not be tolerated therein ; that ingrateful and evil men could not so thrive and flourish; that more speedy and more severe vengeance would be executed ; that benefits would not be scattered among the crowd of men, with so promiscuous and undistinguishing a freeness. But such discourses, upon a just and true account, do only infer the great patience and clemency, the unconfined mercy and bounty of our Lord; that he is in disposition very different from pettish and impatient man, who, should he have the reins put into his hands, and in his administration of things should be so often neglected, crossed, abused, would soon over
SERM. turn all things; and, being himself discomposed with LXVIII. passion, would precipitate the world into confusion
Things would not have subsisted hitherto, and continued in their orderly course, but by the moderation of an immense goodness; by that
- magni custos clementia mundi. Lam. iii. It is by the Lord's mercies that we (we, the whole
body of sinful men, so guilty of heinous provocations
and rebellions against our Maker) are not consumed. Hos. xi. 8. And what again God in the prophet speaks concern
ing Israel, he might have applied to the whole nation of men: How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah ? how shall I set thee as Zeboim ? I will not execute the fierceness of my anger,
I will not return to destroy Ephraim; for I am God, and not man. The reason (for I am God, and not man) is observable; implying (upon parity of reason in the cases, concerning that one nation, and concerning the body of men) that it is an indulgence and forbearance above, if not contrary to the temper of man, and even beyond human conceit, whereby the state of things here doth subsist, and is preserved from ruin.
Thus nature and thus Providence do bear witness concerning the disposition of God. As for scripture, there is nothing either in way of positive assertion more frequently inculcated, or by more illustrious examples set forth, and made palpable, than this attribute of God. When God would impart a portraiture or description of himself to his dearest friend and favourite, Moses; the first and chief lineaments thereof are several sorts, or several instances of
Exod. xxxiv. 6.
goodness; he expresses himself merciful and gra- SERM.
LXVIII. cious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness : (Merciful: El rachum) a God of pitying, or strong bume in pity; that is, most apt to commiserate and to succour those who are in need or distress. Gracious, that is, ready both freely to forgive wrongs, and to dispense favours. Longsuffering, or longus irarum, that is, not soon moved, or apt easily to conceive displeasure; not hasty in execution of vengeance, or venting his anger in hurtful effects. Abundant in goodness, that is, not sparing as to quantity or quality, either in the multitude or magnitude of his favours, but in all respects exceedingly liberal; conferring willingly both very many and very great benefits. Such did God represent him-Psal. self to Moses, when he desired a fuller knowledge cii. 8, &c. and nearer acquaintance with him, than ordinary means afford. The same character in substance we have often repeated, and sometimes with advantage of emphatical expression, well deserving our observation and regard; as when the prophet Joel saith, that God is penitent, or sorry, for evil inflicted ; Joel ii. 13. and Micah, that he delighteth in mercy; and when 18.
Neh. ix. 17. Nehemiah calleth him a God of pardons ; and when Isaiah represents him as waiting (or seeking 18. occasions) to be gracious: and all this in the Old Testament, where God seems to look upon man with a less serene and debonair aspect. Indeed, as that dispensation (suitably to the nature and condition of things under it) doth set out God's mercy and goodness, with especial relation to this present world, or temporal estate; so the New one more abundantly displays his more excellent care and love of our souls; his great tenderness of our spiritual and eter