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der 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.
II. 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 impos' sible 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 af 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 from 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 rests 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 thousands 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 ceaseth 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 concerning 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
insufficient, or rather an insolent reason hath the audacity to oppose to it.
III. Our notion of the goodness of God should agree with the holiness of his designs. I mean, that it would imply a contradiction to suppose that a Being, who is supremely holy, should have a close communion of love with unholy creatures, considered as unholy and unconverted. By this principle, we exclude the dreadful consequences that weakness and wickedness have been used to infer from the doctrine under our consideration. We oppose this principle to the execrable reasoning of those libertines who say, (and alas ! how many people, who adopt this way of reasoning, mix with the saints, and pretend to be saints themselves !) Let us continue in sin that grace may abound, Rom. vi. 1. With the same principle the prophet guards the text, Like as a father pitieth his children, so doth the Lord pity,--whom? Them who establish their crimes on the mercy of God?-God forbid! So doth the Lord pity them that fear him. This truth is so conformable to right reason, so often repeated in the holy seriptures, and so frequently enforced in this pulpit, that none but those who wilfully deceive themselves can mistake the matter: and for these reasons we dismiss this article.
IV. The love of God is in perfect harmony with the independence of his principles. Interest is the spring that moves, and very often the effect that destroys human friendships. It must be allowed, however, that though principles of interest may appear low and mean, yet they often deserve pity more than blame. It would be extremely difficult for a debtor, if he were oppressed by a merciless creditor, to love any person more than him, who should be both able and willing to free him from the oppressor's iron rod. It would be strange if a starving
man were not to have a more vehement love for him who should relieve his necessities, than for any
While our necessities continue as pressing as they are in this valley of tears, principles of interest will occupy the most of our thoughts, and will direct the best of our friendships. Disinterested love seems to be incompatible with the state of indigent creatures.
But God forbid we should entertain similar notions of the Deity! God is supremely happy. His love to his creatures is supremely disinterested. Indeed what interest can he have in loving us? Were this world, which hath existed but a little while, to cease to exist; were all the beings upon earth, material and immaterial, to return to their non-entity; were God to remain alone, he would enjoy infinite happiness; in possessing himself he would possess perfect felicity. Every beast of the forest is his, and the cattle upon a thousand hills, Psal. 1. 10. sacrificial flesh affords no nourishment to him; clouds of fragrant incense communicate no odours to him; he is not entertained with the harmony of the music that is performed in his honor; for our goodness extendeth not to him, Psal. xvi. 2. The praises of seraphims can no more augment the splendor of his glory, than the blasphemies of the damned can diminish it.
V. The love of God to his creatures agrees with the immutability of his will. There is but little reality, and less permanency, in human love. The names of steadiness, constancy, and equanimity, an indeliable image, an everlasting impression, a perpetual idea, an endless attachment, an eternal friendship, all these are only names, only empty, unmeaning sounds, when they are applied to those sentiments, which the most faithful friends entertain for each other.