On the Goodness of God as manifested in his work
1801

The love of excellence is the best feature in the moral character of Man, and his progress towards perfection will ever depend upon the degree and strength of this love which he may by education and self cultivation be able to attain. He cannot have too much of it. He can never be too enthusiastic in its exercise. It is an account of the good effects upon our own happiness and the welfare of Mankind, that we are commanded to love God with all our powers and affections. But in order to obey this command, it is indespensibly neccessary that we should form for ourselves such a character of God as is altogether lovely.

This character of God we may imperfectly form, from a correct intelligent and enlarged examination and contemplation of his works, as exhibited to our senses on this globe; in which we cannot fail at every glance to discern evidence of his infinite power and wisdom. Mankind have in every age been struck with the power of these two attributes. But not so with his goodness, the most important attribute of all and which exxentially constitutes his moral character; without which we might indeed fear and revere, but never love him.

The belief that this globe existed from all eternity, or never had a beginning; never obtained a foothold in any part of the world, or in any age. Even the infidel writer, of modern times, however, in the pride of argument they may have asserted it but believed or not, for they could not help perceiving that if mankind with their inherently intellectual powers, and natural capacities for improvement, had inhabitied this Earth for millions of years, the present inhabitants would not only be vastly more intelligent than we now find them, but there would be vestiges of the former races, to be found in every inhabitable part of the Globe. Floods and Earthquakes notwithstanding; Unless we adopt Lord Manboddo's supposition that Mankind were originally Monkeys, it is impossible to admit the idea that they could have esixted millions of years without making more discoveries & improvements than the early histories of nations warrant us to believe they had done.

The belief in an uncreated, self existent intelligent first cause, takes possession of our minds whether we will or not, because if Man could not create himself nothing else could; and matter, if it were not external could produce nothing but matter. It could never produce thought nor free will nor consciousness.

There must have been therefore, a time when this globe and its inhabitants did not exist. The question then arises, what gave it existence? We answer God, the great first cause of all things. What is God? We know not. We know him only through his creation and his revelation. What do these teach us? They teach us, first this - incomprehensible power, next his infinite Mind, and lastly his universal benevolence - or Goodness. These terms express all that can know or believe of him; his omnipresence is included in the Idea of infinite power; his omniscience in that of infinite wisdom, and his justice, Mercy, Holiness and truth in that of infinite benevolence or Love. The whole of his attributes may therefore be expressed in three words Power, Wisdom and Goodness and these are inherent self existence eternal and unchangeable. We can only reason from what we know and believe; our knowledge is extremely limited, and our belief often unsound. It is therefore with great humility I venture to ask the question What gave birth to Creation? Which of the qualities that we ascribe to the Universal father, could have induced this Infinitely Holy and consequently Infinitely happy being, to create any thing? So this we are forced to answer - Infinite Goodness. Wisdome alone may contrive; Power alone may create but neither, alone, or united, would suggest or propmt to action; because neither can desire, neither can furnishe motive for itself. The first step in Creation was therefore made by infinite benevolence. Infinite Wisdom next devised the plan to satisfy the wishes of benevolence, and infinite power, executed the work without defect so that the divine mind when contemplating the principles and structure of its glorious work could truly say, - It is Good.

Now as the human Mind is never so happy as when the virtues, are in full exercise; and as love, or the desire of doing good and communicating happiness, constitutes the very essence of ever virtue, It becomes our interest and our duty, to cultivate this principle implanted in us, and which in connection with our intellectual power, made us a faint image of our maker.

How shall we cultivate and strengthen this glorious principle of Love? By endeavouring to obey the first and great commandment. But do we have no power over our love? Love is an effect resulting from a cause. True, but happily for us, God has furnished us with causes in abundance. The Apostle says, "We love God, because He first loved us." This is the only true and natural foundation of love for God - in Man. Love as necessarily begets love, as Hatred begets hatred. Our task is easy! Our duty a pleasure! we have only to look around to scrutinize - to reflect. The proofs of God's love to us are presented at every glance are inhaled with every breath. As the Psalmist say, "His mercies are over all his works."

It is immaterial to the conclusions we aim at, wheth4er the world was created for Man and the other animals or that they were afterwards created and fitted to the world. The result is the same. The wonderful adaptation of one thing to another, and of every thing to the whole, becomes more and more apparant as we search into the work of God; every new discovery that we awade affords us new proof of the wisdom - the foresight - the Goodness of the Creator; which abounds in this little planet of ours, that it is no extravagance of speech to say thousands of ages may pass away and millions of Philosophers may live and die ere the one half of God's goodness to the Human race will be discovered. Yet enough is already known to make every well caught mind and every well tuned heart to rejoice and to adore.

In painting a Magnificent and beautiful Landscape, it is necessary that the artist should select some one point of view and then draw all the parts in accordance with the place selected. For my present piece I shall select Man as the point of reference because we know more of him than any other animal. We feel justified in calling every thing good which administers to his support and to his happiness whether it does so directly or indirectly - and this we have a right to do - even when some of these things occassionally produce evil, or when from a misuse of the bounties of nature, or an absue of her own power, Man educes evil, out of that which was only intended for good.

The first grand object which calls for our wonder and admiration is the Sun. That necessary dispenser of light, life and beauty. That we are placed at the right distance fromit according to the nature of animal & vegetable life on this Globe admits not of a doubt. Its supposed distance is in between 90 and a 100 Millions of Miles from us, and its rays of light consequently strike us in parralel lines, which is what the structure of our eyes require. Had the earth been placed much nearer, say 50 Millions, almost every thing must have had a different construction & nature especially vegitables and Animals; our oceans would be dried up, and our Atmsophere filled with its vapours. Had the Sun been 150 or 200 Millions of Miles from us, Contrary changes would have become necessary, or equally disastrous results would have ensued.

Let us next consider our Atmosphere, which is the breath of life to all animals & vegetables and the principle cause of the diffusion of light, for without ti, the shady side of every object, would be immersed in total pitchy darkness under the brightest rays of the Sun. The weight of this gas is perhaps a 1000 times less than water; It carries in its density however, according to the quantity of Caloric it imbibes. But is not all times so clearly the same in weight that men and other animals can always perform a sufficiency of labour. Had the air been made much lighter we could not have breathed, nor worked in it, we should have tired too soon, with the weight of our bodies; and had it been much heavier, it would have rendered our own bodies and every thing else too light to maintain foothold on the Earth; In case a common breeze should occur; We should all float like feathers before the winds.

Had the aire been too light, the vapour of water could not have ascended to form clouds, to be wafted to distant dry regions - there to descendd in rains; and had it been too heavy - the clouds would have formed in so high a region as always to produce hail or snow. Elasticity is also an infinitely valuable property, for besides enabling us to move through it with more ease - it enables the air to hold in solution or in Mechanical mixture all the various noxious gasses emitted by the Earth; and there undergo the necessary chemical purifications. It is the elasticity of the air which communicates sounds, and gives value to our organs of speecha and hearing. And its transparency renders the organs of sight the most precious of the Senses. In short, the perfect adaptation of our atmosphere to our wants rendersit impossible to wish a change in any of its elementary qualities.

The same wisdom & goodness may be discussed in the formation of water, and its disposition in one great mass surrounding and dividing the great continents from each other, and rendering nation accessible to nation throughout the world.

The ocean, besides enabling the people of every clime to enjoy through the medium of commerce the comfort and business of every other; is capable of affording sustenance for a time to the largest portion of Mankind, should the Earth for a season refuse her usual bounties. It is kept in a state of purity by the tides currents, wind, evaporation and reproduction. Pure water, like pure air has neither taste nor smell, neither does it alter the qualities of our food, as most other drinks do; and herein consist, its infinite value and should call forth our highest gratitude. It is a universal solvent of all articles fit for food, and it is daily necessary as a dilute of our vital fluids, which without it would soo nby the process of vaporization become too thick to support life. It is nxt in importance to air, for the support of organic life and is therefore universal in its existence.

Significant portion regarding the properties of ocean water expunged

I could point out, other blessings God has conferred upon us in the formation of water such as its being the chief cause of the uniform temperature of the animal body and the mitigation of excessive heat or Cold in different regions of the Earth; but my time & space forbid it. Let us pass therefore to the consideration of the Earth itself which is too replete with blessings of the highest order, to allow of doing more than just glancing at some of its grandest features.

In the first place consider the innumerable advantages of its daily rotation; which presents to the kindly influence of the sun nearly every part of the Earth's surface, thereby producing day and night for the exercise and rest, of all animal and vegitable existences; which are all made in perfect harmony and correspondence with these alternations of light and heat to cold and darkness. Next reflect upon the blessings conferred by the direction of the Poles of the Earth, 23 degrees, above, and below the plane of the Earth's orbit or annual track round the Sun. By this simple and therefore beautiful contrivance, our favoured planet is blessed with Summer & Winter and all the varieties of vegitation, which are so necessary to the welfare of Mankind and their mutual and happy dependence upon each other.

Had the earth been so placed that the Sun's perpendicular rays would have constantly struck the equator, there would have been no change of seasons, no periods of rest for vegitables; and unless vegitable life were established upon different principles from those we are acquainted with, this near beautiful world would have been an unsightly and barren waste.

But now different climes have different productions and all being Good, administered by means of commerce, to the welfare and happiness of makind in every region. Here it may be asked, would it not have been better had each country produced every thing; and then there would have been no necessity for enduring the hardships and dnagers of the seas to procure them? I answer No, It would have been vastly worse! because it would have destroyed that dependence upon each other, which is the only hand of brotherhood between nations; It would have prevented the growth of intellect and the general diffusion of knowledge. As it is now, every discovery, every useful invention, every important truth becomes the common property of all, and the whole human race are advancing with acellerated steps to the happy condition originally designed for them. But this could not have been the case had the waters been collected into seperate Lakes and every region abounded with the same productions.

When we observe as far as our knowledge extends, and reflect upon the vast variety of vegitables, every where planted by our beneficent creator and think, that lal without exception possess qualities that are, or may be, useful to men and animals; can we doubt the object of creation? Can we hesitate to say, that happiness was the end and aim of the divine mind? But when we think of the farms of Trees, shrubs, flowers, grapes; their colours, fragrance and beauty, which are presented to our admiring eyes in such endless variety. What are we not bound to believe, respecting the peculiar powers and faculties of Man, and the beneficent designs of the author of his being, in regard to him? All this beauty, this grandeur, this display of Wisdom and goodness is utterly lost, thrown away, upon the irrational animals, who can enjoy only iin conformity to their instincts or appetites, and are wholly incapable of the perception of beauty, of goodness, of wisdom, of Power; and therefore unable to worship and adore. But happily nothing is lost, nothing is made in vain, no beauty, no sublimity, no labour of goodness, is entirely wasted; for an intellectual being is created, whose metnal powers are only limited by his knowledge and whose knowledge may accumulate for ever. This ist hge being for whom creation may be said to exist. This is the being, and the only one we know of, whose happiness may be eternally increasing because it is founded, not upon animality which is limited; but upon intellectuality which is unbounded and eternal. These considerations are nto offered to excite pride in the human heart, but thankfulness; and resignation to the will of God when we suffer under some of those partial evils, designed for universal good.

I cannot quit this part of my subject, without adverting to what may be called the hidden goodness of God. I allude to the minerals of the earth, the occult qualities of plants and those wonderful powers of the elements that are nver in action under the common state of things, but which, by accidental combination or by the ingenuity of man, have been and may yet be discovered, and made subservient to his welfare and happiness.

Fire, or caloric in its active state, must have been very early discovered by the human race and was the greatest discovery and most generally useful ever made. By its means, every part of the Globe has been made habitable. By its means, every metal useful to man has been subjected to his will; its scattered atoms, collected; put into new forms and combinations, and used for the accomplishment of his purposes, wholly unattainable by his native powers. All these minerals were hidden in the bosom of the earth for ages by the Provident foresight of God, who had made the arm and hand of man for the use of tools; by means of which he was destined to hold dominion over all the beasts of the earth and of every living thing, and to control every element and make them all subservient to his use and benefit.

It is delightful also to perdeive the goodness of God in his making these things most common and most abundant, which are most necessary & useful to Man, whether in the animal, vegitable, or mineral Kingdom. Witness the Sheep, the Ox, the Horse, the Dog, among animals; The Grapes, The timber trees, and the most wholesome fruits among vegitables; The Iron, Copper, lead and Coal among minerals, as if purposely provided for the reduction of [men], especially those that are most refractory. Coal [almost] seems made for a substitute for wood after the timber of a country is destroyed in the progress of agriculture, and it is found only, I believe, in an abundance, north of the torrid zone, where it is most wanted.

Let us now turn our attention to the grand evidence of creative power - Animal life. This is a great leap in the work of creation; a wide chasm exists between the highest order of vegitables, and the lowest of animals; It is essential to animal life that it should possess at least one of the senses, that of feeling; and this of necessity implies consciousness and of course some capacity for pleasure and pain.

Notwithstanding something exists, that we call evil in the work of God; not knowing enough of the nature of things and his ultimate designs; yet from the almost infinite predominance of good over incidental evil, we are compelled to acknowledge that happiness in various degrees was the end and aim of creation. This I think is fully proved by the infinite variety and number of animal beings we are now acquainted with, from the mighty whale and elephant down to the Microscopic animalanla all of whom possibly enjoy the same degree of happiness - because where there is less power of enjoyment given, there is also less power of suffering, so that the balance remains equal. Man alone excepted for his happiness, for misery is founded upon spiritual and intellectual principles or laws, essentially diffferent and not dependent upon matter, perhaps, for its continuance.

Had God made no animal smaller than a mouse his Goodness would have been sufficiently apparent; but this would not satisfy his infinite benevolence; He ahs therefore as it were filled up the interstices of creation; and placed living beings wherever it was possible to find food and enjoyment for them.

In casting our eyes over the animal kingdom the first thing we discern is the admirable adaptation, of the parts, qualities and properties of every animal, to the sphere or condition in which he is destined to live, move and enjoy. It is not epossible by the aid of our utmost ingenuity or immagination to suggest an improvement in any of their forms or faculites, nor to take from them any thing, without detriment.

Another consideration, calculated to heighten our admiration of God's Wisdom, and exult our sense of his Goodness, is that notwithstanding the necessity of animals living upon animals; yet no one race (man excepted) can wholly extirpate any other race. This is one proof that his mercies extend over all his works and should have the proper effect, in heightening our devotion - for had the stronger or the more cunning animals, possessed this power, it is easy to see that one race after another would have fallen a sacrifice to its blind fury, until all were destroyed. Man alone possesses this pwer, yet within very limited degrees; and he allown possesses sufficient foresight to limit its exercise.

The comparative sizes of the different animals, are all adjusted to their circumstances, their natures, and their uses, with a Wisdom and foresight truly divine. Could we have our whims gratified we should make sad change in our domestic Animals, such as the Horse, the ox and the Sheep, as is already evinced in what we have been permitted to do with the Canine race. Our Dogs are of all sizes from nearly the size of a Lion down to that of a Kitten. We should have Horses as large as Elephants at the risk of not being able to mount or control them; or so small that they would not be able to carry us. We should probably strive to have our oxen so large that the poor animals in the common state of pasturage would be obliged to feed day and night for support, leaving no time for rumination and sleep.

It is not the power of God stupendous, and inconceivable as it is, that calls forth the sensibilities of our nature; It is the glorious display of his wisdom, continually presented to the enquiring and reflecting mind; and the full conviction that all this wisdome has been extended to produce enjoyment, with as little suffering as possible, consistent with the plan of creation and its durability; that elevates man above himself, and gives him a glimse and a foretaste of that perfection for which his moral and intellectual powers were intended.

But what is Man? We have hitherto examined creation, in reference to his physical powers, wants & enjoyments as an animal, highly favored it is true, with the power of subjecting all others to his ease; but still merely an animal; for whom it would hardly have been worth while to create a world. But perhaps this Idea is founded on human pride; and that if we would examine more closely, and reason more humbly, we might find that Man was made for the ultimate benefit of the other animals; that he was only a very sagacious, Gregarious, omnivorous beast of prey, whose office it was tooact as a balance wheel in the grand machinery of the animal kingdom, for the benevolent purpose of preventing a too great increase of any one order of animals, to the detriment of the others. {It must be allowed, I think, if this is to be the duty assigned him, that he has contrived to perform it to admiration, and that his usefulness in this line is every day extending.}

But it is a fixed maxim with us, that God is good unto all. Let us see if he has been so unto Man himself.

Notwithstanding the admirable form of man, and the perfect adaptation of his powers and faculties, to the particular station he occupies in the great animal family - he is when alone and wholly uninstituted comparatively weak and helpless. {An unarmed, full grown man, in a forest, would not be able to defend himself against a wild cat provided he had no more instruction.}

The wonderful powers of Man depend upon his natural sagacity united with the instruction and aid of his fellows; It is this combination which has enabled the race to conquer and hold in subjection, nearly every other; and in this point of views, he certainly appears more favoured and blessed by his Creator, than any, or all that breathe the vital air. But as Power, Talents, or Privledges do not in themselves constitute happiness, which is the grand object aim at; let us examine the Gifts bestowed upon the Human & brute races a little more in detail and this may lead us to conclusions of the utmost importance.

Happiness is a word that every one understands according to the constitution of his own mind, and the nature variety & strength of his own desires. It is necessary therefore for our present purpose to choose a word which all understand alike, and make it the basis or constituent of Happiness.

The word I shall choose for this purpose, is contentment; which implies "the restriction of all our thoughts views and desires, within the compass of present possession & enjoyment."

Tried by this Text, I fear, the irrational animal will be found more blest than than Man. Perfect health, with them, is perfect happiness and their instincts secure that, in a much higher degree than Man's knowledge & Reason. They think not of the future, therefore they do not fear it. They anticipate nothing; the present is all to them; and if good, they enjoy it without alloy. They are free from avarice Ambition Pride and Shame. And finally, though they fear injury, they do not fear death.

But how is it with Man? Let each one of us answer according to his own experience. Are not our hopes and our fears constantly drawing the mind off, from the present to the future? and whether that future presents good or evil does it not in effect annihilate the present, in which only actual enjoyment is to be found? All beyond the present has no existence except in the immagination.

Man, alone is the only animal who troubles himself about the Past, and the recollection of his misdeeds, give him more pain, than his good actions give him pleasure; because he is conscious that the latter [more and] more than his duty; while the farmer constitutes a change against him, in the Ledger of Morals.

What then are we to conclude? That God is less good to his rational, than to his irrational creatures! God forbid! the very Idea, is impious. We cannot, We ought not, to suppose for a moment, that the infinitely wise and good creator of the living and the dead, bestowed upon the last and most perfect of his works, qualities and powers more calculated to make him miserable than happy. That the creatres which he formed, as it were, in his own image, breathed intooit the breath of life, made it a living soul and then declared it very good, a degree of praise which he had not bestowed upon any other of his works; - that this very being should be the only discontented animal in existence; and this very discontent should be the natural result of his superior endowments, expecially those of intellecutal nature.

But how shall we reconcile contradictory facts? God is good, and yet man is not happy. He is incessantly looking beyond his posessions; forever coveting some unenjoyed good and trampling upon present blessings.

This difficult problem admits of but one solution but it is a solution which unfolds the gretaest and most important truth in nature; a truth that reconciles Man to his maker, and to the world; a truth which solves all mysteries and harmonizes all apparent contradictions.

This glorious truth may be expressed in three words Man is Immortal! His body is but his habitation; his undying intellectual is himself and his moral feelings & capacity constitute his essence, and his worth.

These spiritual qualities in Man, fit him for eternity; every other animal soon arrives at a fixed degree of perfection, of body and mind beyond which it cannot pass; But where can you fix limits to the reasoning power; to the very principle of intelligence? which like gravitation grows stronger and stronger as the material upon which it acts accumulates.

Such is the nature of Man's intellectual power, that even with his present degree of it, his wisdom must continually increase with his knowledge; and his knowledge will forever accumulate by the exercise of observation, reflection and memory. Ignoriance, vice and misery are continuous links in the chain of Moral evil. But Wisdom virtue and happiness are equally connected links in the divine plan of intellectual life. The former is but temporary in its nature, the latter eternal.

How much reason then have we for gratitude, towards the author of our being; who has given us eternal life, and the free uncontrolled power of being happy in proportion to our purity love and Hapiness; qualities which depend upon and must ever increase with our Wisdom and knowledge.

But some of us will ask, If God was infinitely good, why did he permit evil at all? Why did he not make us happy, perfectly happy at once, without the mental training, without making us pass thorugh this life of imbecility and ignorance, of appetites and passions, of Sin and the consequent misery? These questions will be answered differently by different minds. But to me, it appears, nearly impossible to make an intellectual being happy, other than but through the natural effects of acquired knowledge Wisdom and purity upon which are engrafted, veneration, love and adoration. How should we ably live, to enjoy the pleasure of doing good, if there were no suffering to relieve? How to enjoy friendship if there were no occassion for its exercise. The Sins and evils of life, with all its temptations and trials serve to create the virtues of life, by giving the occasions necessary to their existence & action.

There is therefore in reality no such thing as evil in the Creation or Government of God. All is good, for every thing we call evil works together for good. This however will not make it wise for us, to do evil, that good may come of it; for we know not all of the present and nothing of the future, and being without power to control events such a course of conduct would be both presumptious & foolish as well as wicked for in this case we are sure of the evil, but not of the good.

It is not true however as some represent that this life is a life of suffering. We have great and abundant reasons for thanking our creator for our present existenc. The variety & amount of natural good so bountifully bestowed upon us in almost every part of the Gloeb infinitely transcends the amount of natural Evil, so that were it not for the Evils of our creation, The happiness of the whole human race, would as much exceed human misery as the general health exceeds the amount of sickness.

Nevertheless, Man is naturally a restless discontented anima, despising or disregarding common or universal benefits, and valuing only those which are rare and accidental.

This however i just as it should be, for mankind owe their gradual improvement to the operation of this very discontent. We are gifted with faculties that fit us for our present assistance, it is true; but we are also endowed with some, that fit us for another and very different existence, and it is the conscious posession of these powers that has improved mankind with the Idea and the belief of the immortality of the Soul. That we are now only in a first and preparative stage of and endless life and consequently, nothing here, can, or ought, satisfy the aspirations of an immortal spirit.

In this view of human nature, and its intellectual, its moral, its spiritual endowments, we may justly say, If there be no resurrection intoife eternal, we of all animals ,are the most miserable. Our wonderful powers are given us in vain; and our constant endeavours to attain happiness are also vain.

But thanks be to God, whose nature is love, Whose wisdome is infinite, who saw before creation the end & operation of his work, with whom nothing is uncertain, nothing contingent, He, has given us assurances both internal and external, that we shall all pass through those states or processes of purification which are necessary, to fit us, for the full enjoyment of the perfectly happy existence he originally designed for us, whose pain or sorrow shall be known no man for ever. Where discontent shall be swallowed up in Bliss.

Seing that this belief in the ultimate intentions of our creator in regard to the final condition of the human race is forced upon us by the consideration of his attributes as they are displayed in nature and in revelation; and that these attributes forbid us to doubt, that his intentions in giving us so large a share of intellectual power, which in some respects unfit us for happiness here; have been for our future and eternal good and which could best be affected by making us pass through the present life of temptation trial and experience, in which the knowledge of good and evil prepares the soul of Man for the full exercises of those divine qualitiess, of love and Adoration, in which his perfect happiness in a state of purity must ever consist.

What then is our duty, or in other words what is our best policy? For the terms are synonimous; surelty it is to keep God in all our thoughts and forget not the design of our creation, while we do this we shall never act unworthy of our high destination. Let us habituate ourselves, when examining his works, and striving to obtain an insight in to natures laws, to reflect all things to him, to see in Gravitation, in chemical attraction, in vegitable life, in animal life, and in the wonderful operations of intellect only the hand of God, sustaining and moving all. While we do this, we shall never fall into the fatal mistake, of believing matter to be eternal and the laws of matter to be the primary cause of all existence; We shall never worship nature, instead of nature's God. But with our increasing knowledge, we shall elevate our conception of his Goodness heighten our devotion, and strenghten our love.


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