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makes a particular request for himself, which though God seems to deny, yet he more than grants. The request is, “I beseech thee, shew me thy glory.” The answer is, “I will make all my goodness pass before thee.” The promise of God here seems to surpass the petition of Moses. He desires a visible display of God's visible glory. This God denies, but promises to give him something better, even a bright display of his moral glory. “I will make all my goodness pass before thee." These words, in this connexion, plainly teach us,
That God necessarily displays all his glory, by displaying all his goodness.
To illustrate this subject, I shall,
I. Consider what is to be understood by the glory of God.
II. Consider what is to be understood by his displayiòg all his goodness.
III. Show, that by doing this, he necessarily displays all his glory.
I. Let us consider what we are to understand by the glory of God. The glory of any moral agent is that intrinsic moral excellence, which renders him worthy of approbation and esteem. This is never seated in the understanding, but in the heart. There is no moral excellence in a man's intellectual powers, but only in his disposition to employ them to some valuable purpose. All intrinsic moral excellence lies in the heart. Here we always look for it, and here only can we ever find it. A man who possesses a good heart, or a truly benevolent disposition, is a man of real worth. Such is our idea of the glory of a finite, rational, moral agent. And since we derive our first ideas of glory from rational and benevoient creatures, we are obliged to consider the glory of God to be of the
same nature with the glory of other moral beings. Accordingly, we must suppose, that the glory of God is that intrinsic moral excellence, which is seated in his heart, and which renders him worthy of the supreme love and homage of all his intelligent creatures. As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he: and as God thinketh in his heart, so is he. God is love. And in this consists his real, intrinsic, supreme, moral excellence and glory. I proceed,
II. To consider what is to be understood by God's displaying all his goodness. His promise to Moses is very singular and very significant. “I will make all my goodness pass before thee.” That God may dis- . play all his goodness, he must do two things.
1. He must display his goodness to as high a degree as possible. Though there be no degrees of goodness in God himself, yet there must be degrees of displaying it to creatures of limited capacities. God, who knows all things, knows the highest degree, to which his goodness can be displayed. He is perfectly ac quainted with the capacities of all his creatures, and with all the ways of displaying his goodness to the view of their minds. And unless he gives them as clear and full a display of his goodness, as they are capable of beholding, it cannot be said, with propriety, that he displays all his goodness. But when he displays as much of his goodness as they are capable of comprehending, then he may be said in that respect, to display all his goodness.
2. God's displaying all his goodness further implies his displaying it in all its branches, and agreeably to the various natures and characters of his dependent creatures. In particular,
1. It implies displaying his benevolence towards all sensitive natures. Nothing more is necessary to render any ereature the proper object of benevolence, than a mere capacity of enjoying happiness and suffering pain. And as all the creatures of God possess this capacity; so they are all the objects of his benevolent feelings. He hears the young ravens when they cry. He opens his hand and satisfies the desire of every liva ing thing. He is good unto all; and his tender mercies are over all his works. He regards with a benev. olent eye, the highest angel, and the lowest insect. His perfect goodness is perfect benevolence towards all the proper objects of benevolence. And it is impossi·ble, that he should display all his goodness, without displaying universal benevolence towards all his creatures, whether rational or irrational, whether virtuous ar vicious. Mere benevolence has no respect to character, but only to capacity. And, therefore, God displays his benevolent regards to the lowest as well as the highest, and to the worst as well as to the best, of his creatures.
2. In order to display all his goodness, God must display his complacency towards all holy beings. The goodness of the Deity naturally and necessarily inclines him to love goodness, wherever he sees it. Those creatures, therefore, who are virtuous and holy, are the objects of his complacency and delight. He not only desires their happiness, but loves their characters. Accordingly we read; “The righteous Lord loveth righteousness. The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him. The Lord loveth the righteous." And to Zion it is said, “The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty: he will save thee, he will rejoice over thee with joy: he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing." God loved Moses, and manifested his love to him, 'by conversing freely with him, as a man converses with his friend. John was the beloved disciple of Christ, who allowed him to lean on his bosom. And Christ says, all that love him are loved of his Father. God loves all who bear his moral image, from the highest seraph to the lowest saint. Hence he cannot display all his goodness, without displaying his love of complacency towards all amiable, holy, virtuous beings.
3. Another branch of divine goodness is grace towards the guilty and ill-deserving. This God explicitly declares is implied in his goodness, and must be manifested in displaying it. “I will make all my goodness pass before thee; and I will be gracious to whom I' will be gracious, and will shew mercy to whom I will shew mercy.” The goodness of God as it respects sinners, is grace, or mercy, or compassion, or that disposition, which leads him to pardon their offences. Perfect goodness is perfect grace to the guilty. So it is more fully represented in the chapter succeeding the text, where we have an account of God's displaying his goodness agreeably to his promise to Moses. "And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed; The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin.” God's forgiving goodness, or pardoning love, lay at the foundation of the work of redemption. All the blessings of the gospel, and even the gospel itself, took their rise from this branch of divine goodness, which is more celebrated in Scripture, than any other beauty in the divine character. Our Savior declares, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.99 Paul says in the fifth of Romans, “God commendeth his love towards us, in that while we were yet sịnner
Christ died for us. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound; that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteous. ness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” And he celebrates divine grace in stronger terms still, in the second of Ephesians. “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ: by grace are ye saved; and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness towards us through Christ Jesus.” Such a display of divine grace is absolutely necessary,
. in order to give a full display of divine goodness. It ' must be observed,
4. That another branch of God's goodness is distributive justice, or a disposition to punish impenitent sinners according to their deeds. Such vindictive justice God manifested, when he made all his goodness pass before Moses. Having proclaimed himself as forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin, he adds, "And that will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon
the children's children unto the third and fourth generation.” This must mean his punishing the impenitent, because it is set in contrast with his forgiving the penitent. And God often declares, that he has not only a right, but a disposition to punish incorrigible sinners. “See now that I, even I am he, and there is no God with me. I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal;— If I whet my glittering sword, and mine hand take hold of judgment; I will render vengeance to mine enemies, and will reward them that hate me.” To this the Apostle refers, when he says to christians,