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They charge conscientious men with timorousness, faint
It is timorousness or blameable fear to dread things without reason, things nowise formidable, which cannot hurt us; such a timorous man is he, that out of fear of men, (of displeasing them, of suffering by them, of their reproach,) &c. transgresseth his duty.
But to fear God is wisdom, soberness, duty, virtue ; it is handsome and honourable, becoming our nature, our condition; the passion of fear was chiefly put in us for this purpose, as its best use.
Is it courage, and not rather madness to provoke, to resist, to challenge, to cope with the Almighty ? is it courage to throw one's self down a precipice, to leap into the infernal lake? is it gallantry to dare transgress all reason and sobriety ? is it brave to be wild and senseless, &c. ?
It is true courage to resist and repel sin assaulting a man with whatever advantages; to dare to do well, although vain men deride, and spiteful men hate us for it.
It is a kind of martyrdom to be ill used by the world for adhering to his duty; and he hath a share in that, Bless
ed are they, who suffer for righteousness. Matt. x. 39. In fine, it is a vain prudence to be thus politic with God; O sogar año whereby we shall lose the whole, or that part which is inrã, a coaire valuable, out of presumption to save a small inconsiderable
If this be prudence, then, as St. Paul saith, is the offence Matt . x. 38. of the cross ceased.
Then our Lord prescribed a foolish condition.
Then were the Apostles very imprudent, who deserted all, and suffered so much for their conscience; being con
tent to secure their spiritual interest, and to obtain the eterLuke x. 42. nal rewards of piety; choosing the better part, which could
not be talcen from them. Jam. iii. 13. What the true wisdom is in such cases St. James hath
told us : Who is a wise man, and endued with knowledge among you ? let him shew. out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.
Gal. v. 11.
xvi. 24. Phil. iji. 8.
OF THE GOODNESS OF GOD.
PSALM cxlv. 9.
The Lord is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all
his works. THE
He goodness of God is a frequented theme; to many SERM. perhaps it may seem vulgar and trite; so that discourse LXVIII. thereon, like a story often told, may be nauseous to their ears: but in truth neither can we speak too much upon
this most excellent subject, nor ought we ever to be weary in hearing about it ; for it is a sign that the palate of our mind is distempered, if we do not with delight and affection relish any mention of divine goodness. Yea, the observation of men's common practice would induce us to think, that either this point is not so well known, or but little believed, or at least not well considered and applied. For how could we be so void of love to God, of gratitude toward him, of faith and hope in him, were we thoroughly persuaded, did we seriously consider, that he is so exceedingly good toward us ? How can we be so insensible of the benefits we enjoy, so distrustful of finding succours and supplies in our need, so dissatisfied and discontented with what befalls us, if we conceive and weigh, that all things do proceed from, are guided and governed by immense goodness? How also, if men have such an opinion of God impressed on their minds, comes it to pass, that they are so little careful to resemble and imitate him in kindness, bounty, and mercy to one ano
SERM. ther? How is it, in fine, that the most powerful argument LXVIII. to all manner of good practice, and the mightiest aggrava
tion of sin, if well known and pondered, hath so little force and efficacy upon us ? From experience therefore this argument may seem scarce sufficiently inculcated. We may add, that discourse upon this attributeo (which above all other attributes doth render God peculiarly admirable and amiable) hath this special advantage beyond other discourses, that it doth, if our hearts conspire therewith, approach most nearly to the formal exercise of the most high and heavenly parts of devotion, praise and thanksgiving ; that it more immediately conduces to the breeding, the nourishing, the augmenting in us the best and noblest of pious affections, love and reverence to God; trust and hope in him; willing resolutions to please and serve him; whence it is consequent, that we cannot too much employ our thoughts, our words, or our attention upon this point. Besides so much reason, we have also good example to countenance us in so doing: we have the precedent of
the holy Psalmist resolving to make it his constant and Ps . lxxxix. continual employment: I will sing, saith he, of the mer
cies of the Lord; with my mouth will I make k nown thy Psal . cxlv. faithfulness to all generations. And, Every day will I
bless thee, and I will praise thy name for ever and ever; (that blessing and praising God, the context shews to have
consisted especially in the declaration of God's great goodPsal
. xcii. ness:) and, It is a good thing, saith he again, to give 1, 2.
thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto thy name, O thou most High: to shew forth thy loving kindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night.. Such were his intentions, and such his judgment about this practice; and we find him in effect true and answerable to them; every song of his, every meditation, every exercise of devotion chiefly harping upon this string, and he earnestly wishes that others would consent and consort with him
-Θιός, ού πολλών όντων, εφ' οίς θαυμάζεται, εδίν έτως ώς το πάντας ευεργέτειν ιδιωσατόν. Νaz. Oral. 26.
therein ; he earnestly exhorts and excites them thereto: O SERM. that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for LXVIII. his wonderful works to the children of men! Praise the Lord, Psal. cvii. O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy 8. cvi. I. endureth for ever. That one example might sufficiently authorize this practice ; but we have innumerable others, and those the highest that can be, to encourage and engage us thereto; even the whole choir of heaven, whose perpetual business and happy entertainment it is to contemplate with their minds, to celebrate with their voices, the immense goodness of God; They have, as it is in the Revelation, Rev. iv. 8. no rest day or night from performing this office. Such is the subject of our discourse; the which our text most plainly and fully expresses ; asserting not only the goodness of God, but the universal and boundless extent thereof; The Lord is good to all, and his tender mercies (or his bowels of affection and pity) are over all his works. And that God indeed is such, we shall first endeavour to declare, then shall briefly apply the consideration thereof to practice.
That God the Lord, and Maker of all things, is of himself, in regard to all his creatures, especially to us men, superlatively good, that is, disposed never without just or necessary cause to harm us, and inclinable to do us all possible and befitting good, the universal frame of nature and the constant course of Providence do afford us sufficient reason to conceive, and most frequent, most express testimonies of holy Scripture do more fully demonstrate. There is no argument from natural effects discernible by us, which proveth God's existence, (and innumerable such there are, every sort of things well studied may afford some,) the which doth not together persuade God to be very kind and benign; careful to impart to us all befitting good, suitable to our natural capacity and condition: and unwilling that any considerable harm, any extreme want or pain should befall us. (I interpose such limitations, for that an absolute, or universal and perpetual exemption from all kinds or all degrees of inconvenience, an accumulation of all sorts of appearing good upon us,
SERM. doth not become or suit our natural state of being, or our LXVIII.rank in perfection among creatures ; neither, all things
being duly stated and computed, will it turn to best account for us.) The best (no less convincing than obvious) arguments, asserting the existence of a Deity, are deduced from the manifold and manifest footsteps of admirable wisdom, skill, and design apparent in the general order, and in the particular frame of creatures; the beautiful harmony of the whole, and the artificial contrivance of each part of the world; the which it is hardly possible that any unprejudiced and undistempered mind should conceive to proceed from blind chance, or as blind necessity. But with this wisdom are always complicated no less evident marks of goodness. We cannot, in all that vast bulk of the creation, and numberless variety of things, discover any piece of mere pomp, or dry curiosity ; every thing seems to have some beneficial tendency; according to which it confers somewhat to the need, convenience, or comfort of those principal creatures, which are endued with sense and capacity to enjoy them. Most of them have a palpable relation to the benefit (to the subsistence or delight) of living creatures; and especially in an ultimate relation to the benefit of man ; and the rest, although their immediate use be not to our dim sight so discernible, may therefore be reasonably presumed in their natural designation to regard the same end. Wherefore as upon consideration of that ample provision, which is made in nature for the necessary sustenance, defence, and relief, for the convenience, delight, and satisfaction of eve.
ry creature, any man, who is not careless or stupid, may Psal. civ.
be induced to cry out with the Psalmist, O Lord, how manifold are thy works ! in wisdom hast thou made them all :
so may he with no less reason and ground after him proPs. xxxii.
nounce and acknowledge; The earth is full of the good5. cxix. 64. ness of the Lord: The earth, O Lord, is full of thy mercy:
Thy mercy is great unto the heavens : Thy mercy is great civ. 10, &c. above the heavens. It is indeed because divine goodness is
Ivii. 10. cviii. 4.
freely diffusive and communicative of itself; because essential love is active and fruitful in beneficence; because
Ixv. 11. ciii. 4.