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help. His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth, in that very day his thoughts perish, Psal. cxlvi. 3, 4. Cursed be the man that trusleih in man, and maketh flesh his arm, Jer. xvii. 5. Why? Because it is not safe to confide in man, unless he have such a harmony of attributes, as we have just now described ; and because no man hath such a harmony. His power may assist you, but, unless he have wisdom to direct his power, the very means, that he would use to make you happy, would make you miserable. Even his power would not harmonize with itself, in regard to you, if it were sufficient to supply your wants to-day, but not to-morrow. That man, that prince, that mortal, to whom thou givest the superb titles of Potentate, Monarch, Arbiter of peace, and Arbiter of war; that mortal, who is alive to-day, will die tomorrow, the breath that animates him will evaporate, he will return to his earth, and all his kind regards for thee will vanish with him.
But the perfections of God are in perfect harmo." ny. This truth shall guide us through this discourse, and shall arrange its parts : and this is the likeliest way that we can think of, to preserve the dignity of our subject, to avoid its numerous diffi- . culties, to preclude such fatal inferences as our weak and wicked passions have been too well accustomed to draw from the subject, and to verify the prophet's proposition in its noblest meaning. Like as a fa- , ther pitieth his children, so doth the Lord pity them that fear him.
Would you form a just notion of the goodness of God; (for the original term that our translators have rendered pity, is equivocal, and is used in this vague sense in the holy scriptures.) Would you form a just notion of the goodness of God? Then, conceive a perfection that is always in harmony with . i 1. The spirituality of his essence.
II. The inconceivableness of his nature.
VII. With the veracity of his word. · I. The goodness of God must agree with the spirituality of his essence. Compassion, among men, is that mechanical emotion, which is produced in them by the sight of distressed objects. I allow
played in uniting us together in such a manner. Ideas of fitness seldom make much impression on the bulk of mankind; it was necessary therefore to make sensibility supply the want of reflection, and, by a counter-blow, with which the miseries of a neighbor strike our feelings, to produce a disposition in us to relieve him. Nature produceth but few monsters, who regale themselves on the sufferings of the wretched. Here, or there, hath been a
shrieks of a fellow-creature burning in a brazen bull: . And some, whose minds were filled with ideas of a religion, more barbarous and inhuman than that of the Bacchanalians, have been pleased with tormenting those victims, which they sacrificed not to God, the father of mankind, but to him who is their murderer : But none, except people of these kinds, have been able to eradicate those emotions of pity, with which a wise and compassionate God had formed them.
But this sensibility degenerates into folly, when
chanical emotions prevail over the rational dictates of the mind. It is a weakness, it is not a love worthy of an intelligent being, that inclines a tender mother to pull back the arm of him, who is about to perform a violent but salutary operation on the child she loves. It is a weakness, it is not a love worthy of an intelligent being, that inclines a magistrate to pardon a criminal, whose preservation will be an injury to society, and the sparing of whose life will occasion a thousand tragical deaths.
This kind of weakness, that confounds a mechanical sensation with a rational and intelligent love, is the source of many of our misapprehensions about the manner in which God loves us, and in which, we imagine, he ought to love us. We cannot conceive the consistency of God's love in making us wise in the school of adversity, in exposing us to the vicissitudes and misfortunes of life, and in frequently abandoning his children to pains and regrets. It seems strange to us, that he should not be affected at hearing the groans of the damned, whose torments can only be assuaged by uttering blasphemies against him. Renounce these puerile ideas, and entertain more just notions of the Supreme Being. He hath no body; he hath no organs, that can be shaken by the violence done to the organs of a malefactor; he hath no fibres, that can be stretched to form an unison with the fibres of your bodies, and which must be agitated by their motions. Love, in God, is an intelligence, who sees what is, and who loves what may justly be accounted, lovely: who judgeth by the nature of things, and not by sensations, of which he is gloriously incapable: his love is in perfect harmony with the spirituality of his essence.
H. Our ideas of the goodness of God must agree with our notions of the inconceivableness of his nature. I oppose this reflection to the difficulties that have always been urged against the goodness of God. There are two sorts of these objections ;
one tends to limit the goodness of God, the other to carry it beyond its just bounds.
If God be supremely good, say some, how is it conceivable that he should suffer sin to enter into the world, and with sin all the evils that necessarily follow it? This is one difficulty which tends to carry the goodness of God beyond its just extent.
Is it conceivable, say others, that the great God, that God, who according to the prophet, weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance : that God, who measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with a span, Isa. xl. 12. that God, who sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and considereth the inhabitants thereof as grashoppers, ver. 22. is it conceivable that he should have such a love for those mean insects as the gospel represents : a love that inclined him to give his own Son, and to expose him to the most ignominious of all punishments to save them? This is an objection of the second class, which tends to limit the goodness of God.
One answer may serve to obviate both these kinds of objections. The love of God is in perfect harmony with the inconceivableness of his nature. All his perfections are inconceivable, we can only follow them to a certain point, beyond which it is impossible to discover their effects. Canst thou by searching find out God? Job. xi. 7.
Canst thou by searching find out his eternity? Explain an eternal duration : teach us to comprehend an extent of existence so great, that when we have added age to age, one million of years to to another million of years, if I may venture to speak so, when we have heaped ages upon ages, millions of ages upon millions of ages, we have not added one day, one hour, one instant to the dura
tion of God, with whom a thousand years are as one day, and one day as a thousand years. . Canst thou by searching find out his knowledge ? Explain to us the wisdom of an intelligence, who comprehended plans of all possible worlds; who compared them all together; who chose the best, not only in preference to the bad, but to the less good; who knew all that could result frorn the various modifications of matter, not only of the matter which composeth our earth, but of the immense matter that composeth all bodies, which are either in motion or at rest, in the immensity of space, which lie beyond the reach of our senses, or the stretch of our imaginations, and of which, therefore, we can form no ideas. Explain to us the wisdom of a God, who knew all that could result from the various modifications of spirits, not only of those human spirits which have subsisted hitherto, or of those which will subsist hereafter, in this world, but of the thousands of the ten thousand times ten thousanıls that stand before him, Dan. vii. 10. · Canst thou by searching find out his power? Explain to us that self-efficient power, which commandeth a thing to be, and it is, which commandeth it not to be, and it ceascth to exist.
The extent of God's mercy is no less impossible to find out than the extent of his other attributes. We are as incapable of determining concerning this, as concerniug any of his other perfections, that it must needs extend hither, but not thither : that it ought to have prevented sin, but not to have given Jesus Christ to die for the salvation of sinners. Our notion of the goodness of God should. agree with the inconceivableness of his nature, and, provided, we have good proofs of what we believe, we ought not to stagger at the objections, which an