The Goodness Of God

Adapted From A Sermon By

George Burder

The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.

(Psalm 145:9)

Verse 9 of the Psalm we have read states that: The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.

In considering the glorious perfections of God, his goodness must by no means be omitted; for though all his perfections are his glory, yet his goodness is particularly so called; for when Moses, the man of God, earnestly desired to behold a grand display of the glory of Jehovah, the Lord said in answer to his petition, “I will make all my goodness pass before you;” (Exodus 33:19) showing by this that he himself accounted his goodness to be his glory, and it includes that mercy, grace, patience, and truth, which are afterwards mentioned.(Exodus 34:6)

When his goodness relieves the miserable, it is mercy; when it bestows favors on the worthless, it is grace; when it bears with provoking rebels, it is patience; when it gives promised blessings, it is truth; when it supplies needy beings, it is generosity; and this is the principal view we will now take of it.

The goodness of God is a very comprehensive term; it includes all the forms of his kindness shown to men, whether considered as creatures, as sinners, or as believers: but this morning we will consider the goodness, mercy, and love of God distinctly. All might, indeed, be encompassed in one word; but as these attributes are so comforting and encouraging, and as our happiness is so much concerned in them, it may be for our advantage to view each of them separately; and though there should be some degree of sameness, or repetition, in our so doing, any repetition will not be tiresome but hopefully rather helpful. We will therefore take a view of the goodness of God, as it respects creatures; the mercy of God, as it regards sinners: and the love of God, as it relates to believers. Now, by the goodness of God, we mean,

That disposition of the divine Being which always inclines him to the happiness of his creatures, as far as is consistent with his other perfections.

The goodness of God is generally distinguished into Absolute and Relative. By absolute goodness is meant that essential property of his nature which he had in himself from eternity before any creatures were formed and without regard to creatures. His relative goodness is that perfection exercised towards his creatures; it is his generous disposition to do them good and make them happy. Both are included in that Scripture “You are good and do good.” (Psalm 119:68) God is infinitely, eternally, unchangeably good in himself; so that it may be truly said, “No one is good except God alone,” (Mark 10:18) none good in comparison of him; none good originally, absolutely, perfectly, immutably, like him.

But it is his goodness as imparted, as communicating good to his various and innumerable creatures, which we are now to contemplate. For this purpose he made the world, and placed in it a variety of creatures which might be capable of receiving his goodness in a variety of ways, according to the distinct capacities of their respective natures; but especially man, a rational creature, capable of knowing his benefactor and of glorifying him for his generosity. It is the goodness of God to man, mainly, that we will now consider.

1. Observe then in the first place, the goodness of God to man in the formation of his body, in the powers of his mind, and in that state of holiness and happiness in which he was originally placed.

The human body is indeed “fearfully and wonderfully made;” (Psalm 139:14) it cannot be surveyed without astonishment; every limb, every sense, every faculty, bears the clearest marks of the beneficent hand which produced it! The outward form of man is evidently far superior to that of the brutes. His extensive dexterity, his upright posture, his creativity, his capacities of action and of enjoyment, give him a vast preeminence above all other creatures on earth; his supremacy over them is admitted almost by them all—so that with little difficulty they are brought to spend their lives in his service.

But it is in the powers of his mind;—in his possession of a thinking, reasoning, immortal principle, that we perceive his main superiority. The brutes have some advantages above us in their speed and in the quickness of their senses; but it is “the breath of the Almighty, that makes man understand, and teaches us more than the beasts of the earth.” (Job 32:8, 35:11) Anyone who reflects on his own powers, his perception, his imagination, his judgment, his memory, must recognize their great value. These are sources of unspeakable enjoyment, usefulness, and happiness; providing a gratification, always at hand, and infinitely superior to the grosser pleasures of sense, which are often dearly purchased, which soon fade, and, if overly indulged, are sure to destroy us.

It is a wonderful privilege granted to man that he is capable of knowing his God; and, while all other creatures are merely passive subjects of his goodness, man can reflect upon the generosity of his Maker —can “taste and see that the Lord is good,” (Psalm 34:8) and give to him the glory due to his name.

God has also made us immortal. Other creatures have but limited sources of pleasure; they enjoy them but for a short time; they die and perish: but man is born to live forever. If he is to be the inhabitant of another world his days are to run parallel with those of God himself; and, if saved by grace, his happiness will be inconceivably great and never come to an end.

Look back also and reflect on the goodness of God to man in his original state. He made man “in his own image,” (Genesis 1:27) that is, in the image of his own wisdom, purity, and holiness, by which he was qualified to glorify his Maker on earth, and to enjoy superior bliss in his immediate presence in a future state. Surely the goodness of God was wonderfully displayed in the formation of man! Indeed, the Creator himself surveying all his wonderful and excellent works and especially man, the master, and the masterpiece of them all, pronounced the whole to be “good”—to be “very good!”(Genesis 1:31)

2. Consider also, the ample provision made for the comfort of man. The world was made for him. “The earth he has given to the children of man.”(Psalm 115:16) As man was made for the honor of God, so the world was made for the support and delight of man, and to assist him in the performance of his service to God. The sun and the moon were ordained to give him light; the grass is a beautiful carpet spread for his feet; the heavens are a splendid canopy stretched over his head; the trees provide him with delicious food; the earth produces wholesome grain; the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fishes of the sea, furnish his table in immense variety with pleasant and nourishing food. His garments, whether for necessity or ornament, are borrowed from the innocent sheep, the silk-worm, and the cotton-tree; the sturdy ox, and the generous horse, have contributed their labor to lessen his toil, and enabled him, with comparative ease, to cultivate the earth, and perform his journeys. The diversified beauties of nature,—the hills, the dales, the rocks, and rivers, and seas, delight his organs of vision; the birds of the air ravish his ears with their musical notes, and the flowers of the garden delight his nose with their fragrant odors. “Lord! what is man that you are mindful of him!” (Psalm 8:4) Would that men would “thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!” (Psalm 107:31)

3. The goodness of God to man was demonstrated in placing him in so agreeable a state originally, and in giving him so holy and good a law. The commandment which he gave him was not hard and difficult. No more was required of him than what was written on his heart and which he was fully able to perform. Obedience was easy and pleasant to him; it was the condition on which his own happiness and that of all his posterity depended; and the threat of death was a further instance of the goodness of God; because it was calculated to preserve him in his integrity by the fear of ruin to himself and all his race.

4. The goodness of God is apparent in preserving the order of the universe for the welfare of man. He who first created, still “upholds the universe.” (Hebrews 1:3) The heavenly bodies perform their appointed revolutions with the most astonishing punctuality; and a regular succession of the seasons is secured by the promise and providence of God. And so we have “seedtime and harvest, summer and winter.” (Genesis 8:22) Of God, the psalmist says: “You visit the earth and water it; you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; you provide their grain, for so you have prepared it. You water its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges, softening it with showers, and blessing its growth. The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy, the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy.” (Psalm 65:11) Even the inferior creatures are the objects of his care. “The young lions roar for their prey, seeking their food from God.” (Psalm 104:21) All animals “look to you, to give them their food in due season. When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.” (Psalm 104:27) In a word, “the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord.” (Psalm 33:5)

5. To the same goodness we must thankfully ascribe our defense against innumerable evils and dangers, seen and unseen. “O Lord, You preserve man and beast!” (Psalms 36:6 NKJV) Our greatest danger is from invisible enemies. What would evil spirits carry out were they permitted? Satan “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour;” (1 Peter 5:8) we are therefore taught to pray, “deliver us from evil,” or rather, “from the evil one.”(Matthew 6:13) The malice of evil spirits is plain from the case of Job, whose character, property, family, health, and life, they assailed; and whose security Satan himself ascribes to the Almighty in those remarkable words, “Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has?” (Job 1:10) The goodness of God is our shield and our defense.

Our security from wicked men is likewise from him. We too often see what wicked men would do if they were permitted; but he sets bounds to their raging and cruel passions, as well as to the stormy billows of the ocean. He “stills the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples.” (Psalm 65:7) Without this restraint, how would murders, adulteries, robberies, perjuries, and oppression, super-abound in the world! Men would become, as the prophet speaks, “like the fish of the sea,”(Habakkuk 1:14) destroyers of each other,—“like crawling things that have no ruler.”(Habakkuk 1:14) And this should make us thankful for the wholesome laws, and the just government of the country in which we live. It is by the instrumentality of the magistrate, that the peace and order of society are preserved: without this there would be no safety to our persons or property,—the world would be like a howling wilderness, infested by lions, and tigers, and serpents: but the “shields of the earth belong to God” (Psalm 47:9)—they are the effects and instruments of his goodness, and let this be acknowledged with gratitude by every man, sitting under his vine and his fig tree, without fear. (Micah 4:4)

Let us, likewise, ascribe to his goodness whatever remains of that social order and good behavior which until recently prevailed in this and in other civilized countries, and which contribute so much to the comfort of life. There are some faint traces of the moral law on the hearts of men in general: and we owe still more to the common influence of Christian truth, Christian worship, and Christian example, upon multitudes of persons who, it may be feared, are not real and serious Christians. But, considering man as a fallen creature, we ought to be thankful that the state of things is no worse than it is, and ascribe to his goodness whatever is moral, decent, peaceable, and commendable among men:—the kindness of parents, the dutifulness of children, the diligence of workers, the fidelity of husbands and wives, the obedience of citizens, and the justice of magistrates, all are the effects of divine goodness.

Our daily exemption from surrounding evils is also the fruit of divine goodness. The earth was cursed for man’s sake; (Genesis 3:17) and Sin opened the flood-gates of Misery. That we are preserved, so generally as we are, and for many years together, from painful, debilitating, and dangerous diseases; from storms and tempests, lightning, earthquakes, and floods, should be the theme of our daily praise. Nor should we lose sight of those timely deliverances which are granted to the afflicted. The arts of medicine and surgery, the provision of soothing and healing remedies and effective pain relievers, the emergency response provisions which abound in our land, the hope of relief that is still provided to a great degree by our legal system; all these benefits, through whatever channel they flow, must be traced to their original source! and that source is the goodness of God.

6. To form a just estimate of the God’s generosity, we ought to remember that it is bestowed upon unworthy and sinful creatures. God, who is infinitely holy, and who hates sin with a perfect hatred, might justly withdraw from his rebellious creatures all the tokens of his favor. This is in fact the natural tendency of men. Men are used to feed their prisoners with “meager rations of bread and water;”(1 Kings 22:27) and, “if a man finds his enemy, will he let him go away safe?” (1 Samuel 24:19)—but the great and blessed God treats his bitterest enemies with kindness; and the generous conduct which he demands of us, is no other than that which is constantly observed by himself—“if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head:”(Romans 12:20) it is in this way that he melts down his hardened enemies, and subdues them with his love. Those, therefore, who have had a just view of themselves as guilty sinners, have expressed their admiration of God’s generosity in the strongest terms. In this way, Jacob, when considering the intervention of Providence in his favor, exclaims, “I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown!” (Genesis 32:10) and David, reflecting on the kindness of Heaven, in raising him to a crown, cries, “Who am I, O Lord God, that you have brought me thus far!” (2 Samuel 7:18)

And so we have considered a brief overview of the goodness of God to man, in his original formation;—in the powers of his body and mind; in the ample provision made for his support and comfort; in the preservation of the world; his deliverance from innumerable evils,—and his enjoyment of innumerable blessings. All these are great, unspeakably great; but there is yet another display of his goodness which exceeds any one of these; which exceeds them all put together; which exceeds all the powers of language, even the limits of our imagination—it is the redemption of the world by Jesus Christ—concerning this it is said—said by the lips of the Redeemer himself—“God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) “There is more of his bounty,” says an eminent writer, “expressed in that one sentence, than there is in the whole volume of the world. It is an incomprehensible word—So: a word that all the angels of heaven cannot analyze. Few comment upon, or understand the dimensions of this so. In creation, he formed an innocent creature of the dust of the ground; in redemption, he restores a rebellious creature by the blood of his Son. It is greater than the goodness manifested in creation, in regard of the difficulty of bringing it about; in regard of its immense cost; in regard of man’s deserving of the contrary; it was greater goodness than was shown to the angels who stood.” But as this must be the subject of a future sermon, we will not now enlarge upon it. For the present, let us endeavor to make some practical use of the doctrine of divine goodness.

1. Let God be praised for his goodness. This is the fruit of acknowledgment which he demands and expects of us; and how frequently does the writer of the 107th Psalm, in which the displays of divine generosity are related, exclaim, “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!” (Psalm 107:1) Sad it is that ungrateful man should need to be repeatedly urged to this reasonable and pleasant duty!

Let us not be satisfied with a general view of the goodness of God. Let every one of us review the blessings of God to ourselves in particular. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy.” (Psalm 103:1-5) Let us review our own history, and trace the streams of mercy from our very beginnings, childhood, and youth: in the kind cares of parents, now perhaps numbered with the dead; in the advantages of early education and beneficial restraint; in preservation from disabling disease; in deliverance from some threatening danger. How many thousands of times has your table been spread with the good creatures of God! how many refreshing and comfortable meals have you enjoyed! how many thousand nights of safe and comfortable rest! how often has he restored you from pain and sickness! what favorable turns took place in your affairs! but time would fail to enumerate all his benefits: Take care to not forget them!

2. If such be the goodness of God, how base is the ingratitude of man! God himself complains of this. “The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master's crib, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.” (Isaiah 1:3) The goodness of God is awfully abused by sinners. The goodness of God should excite the love of our hearts, and secure the obedience of our lives; but how is it perverted by sin! how is it abused to the purposes of luxury, of impurity, of intemperance, of the neglect of church! (Hebrews 10:25) How do men, like Jeshurun of old grow fat and kick against God;(Deuteronomy 32:3) and in this way, the bounties of Providence are turned into weapons of rebellion against their Giver, and instruments of destruction to themselves. “Do you thus repay the Lord?” (Deuteronomy 32:6) Do you in this way “presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4) But this cannot be done without dire consequences. God observes with a severe eye and he will revenge the abuses of his kindness with a heavy arm.

3. On the contrary, Let the goodness of God attract our hearts, and engage them to adore, love, obey, and trust in him. How great is his goodness! how great is his generosity! He is infinitely worthy to be supremely loved. Among men the shadow of his goodness excites our esteem and “perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die.” (Romans 5:7) But the supreme Good demands our supreme regard. Let his name be adored;—let his worship be our delight;—let his praise be our pursuit;—let his commandments be our rule;—let his goodness encourage us to pray;—let his goodness invite us to trust in him, for “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble.” (Nahum 1:7) He who gave us Christ will withhold no good thing from them that love him. “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.” (Psalm 34:8) “Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good; sing to his name, for it is pleasant!” (Psalm 135:3)

4. Let us imitate him. Let us endeavor, in our humble measure, to resemble God in the goodness of his disposition, and to imitate him in acts of kindness to our fellow-men. Sufficient objects will ever surround us: “you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them.” (Mark 14:7) “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” (Hebrews 13:16) For this purpose divine providence permits an inequality among men; some have too little; others have somewhat to spare; and it is a high privilege conferred upon any, that they are able and willing to help their neighbors. We ought to remember the saying of our Lord Jesus, “It is more blessed to give than to receive:” (Acts 20:35) and it is Godlike to imitate our Savior, who “went about doing good.” (Acts 10:38) Nor let our favors be confined to the deserving. Our Lord’s direction is this: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:44) “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:10)

Finally. Look forward to the heavenly world, when the goodness of God will be fully displayed, and perfectly enjoyed. Here, we taste that the Lord is good; but it is only a taste.—the feast is reserved for the future and eternal state; and if the foretaste of his goodness on earth is so sweet, what will the complete fruition of it be? If, even now, the believer’s peace is a “peace which surpasses all understanding;” (Philippians 4:7) if the believer's joy is a “joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.” (1 Peter 1:8) what may be expected in that better world, where “God himself will dwell with his people, and be their God” (Revelation 21:3) When God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore.” (Revelation 21:4) Rejoice, then, in hope of this glory of God; for “in his presence there is fullness of joy,—at his right hand there are pleasures forevermore!” (Psalm 16:11)