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Discourses upon the existence and attributes of God (Volume 2) online

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First, God's judgments in the world, do not infringe his goodness;

1, The justice of God is a part of the goodness of his nature.
God himself thought so, when he told Moses he would make all his
goodness pass before him (Exod. xxxiii. 19) : he leaves not out in
that enumeration of the parts of it, his resolution, by no means to
clear the guilty, but to visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the
children (Exod. xxxiv. 7). It is a property of goodness to hate evil,
and, therefore, a property of goodness to punish it : it is no less
righteousness to give according to the deserts of a person in a way
of punishment, than to reward a person that obeys his precepts in a
way of recompense. Whatsoever is righteous is good ; sin is evil ;
and, therefore, whatsoever doth witness against it, is good ; his good-
ness, therefore, shines in his justice, for without being just he could
not be good. Sin is a moral disorder in the world : every sin is in-
justice : injustice breaks God's order in the world ; there is a neceS"
sity tlierefore of justice to put the world in order. Punishment
orders the person committing the injury, who, when he will not be
in the order of obedience, must be in the order of suffering for God's
honor. The goodness of all things which God pronounced so, con-
sisted in their order and beneficial helpfulness to one another : when
this order is inverted, the goodness of the creature ceaseth : if it be
a bad thing to spoil this order, is it not a part of Divine goodness to
reduce them into order, that they may be reduced in some measure
to their goodness? Do we ever account a governor less in goodness,
because he is exact in justice, and punisheth that which makes a
disorder in his government ? and is it a diminution of the Divine
goodness, to punish that which makes a disorder in the world ? As
wisdom without goodness would be a serpentine craft, and issue in
destruction ; so goodness without justice would be impotent indul-
gence, and cast things into confusion. When Abel's blood cried
out for engeance against Cain, it spake a good thing; Christ's
blood speaking better things than the blood of Abel, implies thai
Abel's blood spake a good thing ; the comparative implies a positive
(Heb. xii. 24). If it were the goodness of that innocent blood to de-
mand justice, it could not be a badness in the Sovereign of the world
to execute it. How can God sustain the part of a good and right-
eous judge, if he did not preserve human society? and how would
it be preserved, without manifesting himself by public judgments
against public wrongs ? Is there not as great a necessity that good-
ness should have Instruments of judgment, as that there should be


prisons, bridewells, and gibbets, in a good commonwealth ? Did not
the thunderbolts of God sometimes roar in the ears of men, thej
would sin with a higher hand than thej do, fij more in the face of
God- make the world as much a moral, as it was at first a natural
chaos: the ingenuity of men would be damped, if there were not
something to work upon their fears, to keep them in their due order.
Impunity of the innocent person is worse than any punishment. It
is a misery to want medicines for the cure of a sharp disease ; and a
mark of goodness in a prince to consult for the security of the politi-
cal body, by cutting off a gangrened and corrupting member : and
what prince would deserve the noble title of good, if he did not re-
strain, by punishment, those evils which impair the public welfare ?
Is it not necessary that the examples of sin, whereby others have
been encouraged to wickedness, should be made examples of justice,
whereby the same persons and others may be discom-aged from what
before they were greedily inclined unto ? Is not a hatred of what
is bad and unworthy, as much a part of Divine goodness, as a love
to what is excellent, and bears a resemblance to himself? Could he
possibly be accounted good, that should bear the same degree of
affection to a prodigious vice, as to a sublime virtue ? and should
behave himself in the same manner of carriage to the innocent and
culpable ? could you account him good, if he did always with plea-
sure behold evil, and perpetually suffer the oppressions of the inno-
cent under unpunished wickedness? How should we know the
goodness of the Divine nature, and his affection to the goodness of
his creature, if he did not by some acts of severity witness his impla-
cable aversion against sin, and his care to preserve the good govern-
ment of the world ? If corrupted creatures should always be ex-
empt from the effects of his indignation, he would declare himself
not to be infinitely good, because he would not be really righteous.
No man thinks it a natural vice in the sun, by the power of its
scorching heat, to dry up and consume the unwholesome vapors of
the air ; nor are the demonstrations of Divine justice any blots upon
his goodness, since they are both for the defence and glory of his
holiness, and for the preservation of the beauty and order of the

2. Is it not part of the goodness of God to make laws, and annex
threatenings ; and shall it be an impeachment of his goodness to
support them ? The more severe laws are made for deterring evil,
the better is that prince accounted in making such provision for the
welfare of the community. The design of laws, and the design of
upholding the honor of those laws by the punishment of offenders,
is to promote goodness and restrain evil ; the execution of those
laws must be therefore pursuant to the same design of goodness
which first settled them. Would it not be contrary to goodness, to
suffer that which was designed for the support of goodness, to be
scorned and slighted ? It would neither be prudence nor goodness,
but folly and vice, to let laws, which were made to promote virtue,
be broken with impunity. Would not this be to weaken virtue,
and give a new life and vigor to vice ? Not only the righteousness
of the law itself, but the wisdom of the Lawgiver would be exposed


to coutcmpt, if the violations of it remained uncontrolled, and the
violence offered by men passed unpunished. None but will ac-
knowledge the Divine precepts to be the image of the righteousne^g
of God, and beneficial for the common good of the world (Kom. vii.
12): " The law is holy, just, aud good," and so is every precept of
it ; the law is for no other end, but to keep the creature in subjection
to, and dependence on God ; this dependence could not be preserved
without a law, nor that law be kept in reputation, without a penaltj ;
nor would that penalty be significant without an execution. Every
law loseth the nature of a law, without a penalty ; and the penalty
loseth its vigor, without the infliction of it : how can those laws at-
tain their end, if the transgressions of them be not punished ? Would
not the wickedness of the men's hearts be encouraged by such a kind
of uncomely goodness ? and all the threatenings be to no other end,
than to engender vain and fruitless fears in the minds of men ? Is
it good for the majesty of God to suffer itself to be trampled on by
his vassals ? to suffer men, by their rebellion, to level his law with
the wickedness of their own hearts ; and by impunity slight his own
glory, and encourage their disobedience ? Who would give any
man, any prince, any father, that should do so, the name of a good
governor ? If it were a fruit of Divine goodness to make laws, is it
contrary to goodness to support the honor of them ? It is every
whit as rational and as good to vindicate the honor of his laws by
justice, as at first to settle them by authority ; as much goodness to
vindicate it from contempt, as at first to enact it ; as it is as much
wisdom to preserve a law, as at first to frame it : shall his precepts
be thought by him unworthy of a support, that were not thought by
him unworthy to be made ? The same reason of goodness that led
him to enjoin them, will lead him to revenge them. Did evil appear
odious to him, while he enacted this law ; and would not his good-
ness, as well as his wisdom, appear odious to him, if he did never
execute it ? Would it not be a denial of his own goodness, to be
led by the foolish and corrupt judgment of his creatures, and slight
his own law, because his rebels spurn at it ? Since he valued it be-
fore they could actually contemn it, would he not misjudge his own
law and his own wisdom, discount from the true value of them, con-
demn his own acts, censure his precepts as unrigliteous, and there-
fore evil and injurious? remove the differences between good and
evil, look upon vice as virtue, and wickedness as righteousness, if
he thought his commands unworthy a vindication ? How can there
be any support to the honor of his precepts, without sometimes exe-
cuting the severity of his threatenings ? And as to his threatenings
of punishment for the breach of his laws, are they not designed to
discourage wickedness, as the promises of reward were designed to
encourage goodness ? Hath he not multiplied the one, to scare men
from sin, as well as the other, to allure men to obedience ? Is not
the same truth engaged to support the one, as well as the other ; and
how could he be abundant in goodness, if he were not abundant in
truth (Exod. xxxiv. 6) ? both are linked together ; if he neglected
his truth, he would be out of love with his own goodness ; since it
cannot be manifested in performing the promises to the obedient, if"


it be not also manifested in executing his threatenings upon the re-
bellious. Had not God annexed threatenings to his laws, he would
have had no care of his own goodness. The order between God and
the creature, wherein the declaration of his goodness consisted, might
have been easily broken by his creature; man would have freed
himself from subjection to God; been unaccountable to him, had
this consisted with that infinite goodness whereby he loves himself,
and loves his creatures. As therefore the annexing threatenings to
his law, was a part of his goodness ; the execution of them is so fax
from being a blemish, that it is the honor of his goodness. The re-
wards of obedience, and the punishment of disobedience, refer to the
same end, viz. the due manifestation of the valuation of his own law,
the glorifying his own goodness, which enjoined so beneficial a law
for man, and the support of that goodness in the creatures, which by
that law he demands righteously and kindly of them.

3. Hence it follows, That not to punish evil, would be a want of
goodness to himself. The goodness of God is an indulgent good-
ness, in a way of wisdom and reason; not a fond goodness, in a
way of weakness and folly : would it not be a weakness, always to
bear with the impenitent ? a want of expressing a goodness to good-
ness itself? Would not goodness have more reason to complain, for
a want of justice to rescue it, than men have reason to complain, for
the exercise of justice in the vindication of it ? If God established
all things in order, with infinite wisdom and goodness, and God
silently beheld, forever, this order broken, would he not either
charge himself with a want of power, or a want of will, to preserve
the marks of his own goodness ? Would it be a kindness to himself
to be careless of the breaches of his own orders ? His throne would
shake, yea, sink from under him, if justice, whereby he sentenceth,
and judgment, whereby he executes his sentence, were not the sup-
ports of it (Ps. Ixxxix. 14). "Justice and judgment are the habita-
tion of thy throne, P"n, the stability or foundation of thy throne.
So, Ps. xcii. 2. Man would forget his relation to God ; God would
be unknown to be sovereign of the world, were he careless of the
breaches of his own order (Ps. ix. 16). " The Lord is known by the
judgments which he executes;" is it not a part of his goodness, to
preserve the indispensable order between himself and his creatures ?
His own sovereignty, which is good, and the subjection of the crea-
ture to him as sovereign, which is also good ; the one would not be
maintained in its due place, nor the other restrained in due limits,
without punishment. Would it be a goodness in him to see good-
ness itself trampled upon constantly, without some time or other
appearing for the relief of it ? Is it not a goodness to secure his OAvn
honor, to prevent further evil ? Is it not a goodness to discourage
men by judgments, sometimes, from a contem[>t and ill use of his
bounty; as well as sometimes patiently to bear with them, and wait
upon them for a reformation ? Must God be bad to himself, to be
kind to his enemies ? And shall it be acounted an unkinduess, and
a mark of evil in him, not to suffer himself to be always outraged
and defied? The world is wronged by sin, as welJ as God is injured
by it. How could God be good to himself, if he righted not hi?


own lienor? or be a good govej-nor of the world, if he did not some-
times witness against the lojuries it receives sometimes from the
works of his hands? Would he be good to hiniself, as a God, to be
careless of his own honor ? or good, as the Rector of the world, and
■>e regardless of the world's confusion ? That God should give an
eternal good to that creature that declines its duty, and despiseth
his sovereignty, is not agreeable to the goodness of his wisdom, or
that of his righteousness. It is a part of God's goodness to love him-
self. Would he love his sovereignty, if he saw it daily slighted,
"without sometimes discovering how much he values the honor of it?
Would he have any esteem for his own goodness, if he beheld it
trampled upon, without any will to vindicate it ? Doth mercy de-
serve the name of cruelty, because it pleads against a creature that
hath so oflen abused it, and hath refused to have any pity exercised
towards it in a righteous and regular way? Is sovereignty destitute
of goodness, because it preserves its honor against one that would
not have it reign over him ? Would he not seem, by such a regard-
lessness, to renounce his own essence, undervalue and undermine
his own goodness, if he had not an implacable aversion to whatso-
ever is contrary to it? If men turn grace into wantonness, is it not
more reasonable he should turn his grace into justice ? All his attri-
butes, which are parts of his goodness, engage him to punish sin ;
without it, his authority would be vilified, his purity stained, his
power derided, his truth disgraced, his justice scorned, his wisdom
slighted ; he would be thought to have dissembled in his laws ; and be
judged, according to the rules of reason, to be void of true goodness.
4. Punishment is not the primary intention of God. It is his
goodness that he hath no mind to punish ; and therefore he hath put
a bar to evil, by his prohibitions and threatenings, that he might

Erevent sin, and, consequently, any occasions of severity against
is creature.? The principal intention of God, in his law, was
to encourage goodness, that he might reward it; and when, by
the commission of evil, God is provoked to punish, and takes the
sword into his hand, he doth not act against the nature of his
goodness;, but against the first intention <>f his goodness in his pre-
cepts, which was to reward; as a good judge principally intends,
in the exercise of his ofiice, to protect good men from violence, and
maintam the honor of the laws, yet, consequently, to punish bad
men, witho J.t which the protection of the good would not be secured,
nor the honor of the law be supported ; and a good judge, in the ex-
ercise of his of&ce, doth principally intend the encouragement of the
good, and wisheth there Vv'ere no wickedness that might occasion
punishment ; and, when he doth sentence a malefactor, in order to
the execution of him, he doth not act against the goodness of his
nature, but pursuant to the duty of his place, but wisheth he had no
occasion for such severity. Thus God seems to speak of himself
(Isa. xxviii. 21); he calls the act of his wrath his " strange work, his
strange act ;" a work, not against his nature, as the Governor of the
world, but against his first intention, as Creator, which was to mani-
feat his goo-iness ; therefore he moves with a slow pace in thone acts.

f Ziu'iiDvecius, de Sat,isf;ift. Part T. cap. i. pp 3, 4.


bnngs out his judgments witli relentings of heart, and seems to cast
out his thunderbolts with a trembling hand : " He doth not afflict
willingly, nor grieve the children of men" (Lam. iii. 33) ; and there-
fore he " delights not in the death of a sinner" (Ezek. xxxiii. 11) ;
not in death, as death ; in punishment, as punishment ; but as it re-
duceth the suffering creature to the order of his precept, or reduceth
him into order under his power, or reforms others who are specta-
tors of the punishment upon a criminal of their own nature ; God
only hates the sin, not the sinner ; he desires only the destruction
of the one, not the misery of the other ; the nature of a man doth not
displease him, because it is a work of his own goodness, but the na-
ture of the sinner displeaseth him, because it is a work of the sinner's
own extravagance. T Divine goodness pitcheth not its hatred prima-
rily upon the sinner, but upon the sin : but since he cannot punish
the sin without punishing the subject to which it cleaves, the sinner
falls under his lash. Whoever regards a good judge as an enemy to
the malefactor, but as an enemy to his crime, when he doth sentence
and execute him ?

5. Judgments in the world have a goodness in them, therefore
they are no impeachments of the goodness of God.

(1.) A goodness in their preparations. He sends not judgments
without giving warnings ; his justice is so far from extinguishing his
goodness, that his goodness rather shines out in the preparations of
his justice; he gives men time, and sends them messengers, to per-
suade them to another temper of mind, that he may change his hand,
and exercise his liberality where he threatened his severity. When
the heathen had presages of some evil upon their persons or countries,
they took them for invitations to repentance, excited themselves to
many acts of devotion, implored his favor, and often experimented it.
The Ninevites, upon the proclamation of the destruction of their city
by Jonah, fell to petitioning him, whereby they signified, that they
thought him good, though he were just, and more prone to pit}^ than
severity ; and their humble carriage caused the arrows he had ready
against them to drop out of his hands (Jonah iii. 9, 10). When he
brandislieth his sword, he wishes for some to stand in that gap, to mol-
■ lify his anger, that he might not strike the fatal blow (Ezek. xxxii. 30) ;
" I sought for a man among them that should make up the hedge, and
stand in the gap before me in the land, that I should not destroy it."
He was desirous that his creatures might be in a capacity to receive
the marks of his bounty.'" This he signified, not obscurely, to Moses
(Exod. xxxii. 10), when he spoke to him to let him alone, that his
anger might wax hot against the people, after they had made a
golden calf and worshipped it. " Let me alone," said God : not that
Moses restrained him, saith Chrysostom, who spake nothing to him,
but stood silent before him, and knew nothing of the people's idola-
try; but God w(»uld give him an occasion of praying for them, that
he might exercise his mercy towards them ; yet in such a manner,
that the people, being struck with a sense of their crime, and the
horror of Divine justice, they might be amended for the future, when
they should understand that their death was not averted by their

■I Suarfz, Vol. I. de Deo, lib. iii. cap. 7. p. 146. ' Cressel. Anthol Decad. II. p. 162.

VOL. II. — 1«;


own merit or intercession, but by Moses, his patronage of them, and

pleading for them ; as we see sometimes masters and fathers angry
with their servants and children, and preparing themselves to punish
them, but secretly wish some friend to intercede for them, and take
them out of their hands: there is a goodness shining in the prepara-
tions of his judgments.

2. A goodness in the execution of them. They are good, as they
shew God disaffected to evil, and conduce to the glory of his holi-
ness, and deter others from presumptuous sins (Deut. x. 3) : "I will
be gloriiied in all that draw near unto me ; — in his judgment upon
Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, for ofieriug strange fire. By
them God preserves the excellent footsteps of his own goodness iii
his creation and his law, and curbs the licentiousness of men, and
contains them within the bounds of their duty. " Thy judgments are
good," saith the Psalmist (Ps. cxix ; xxxix); z.e. thy judicial pro-
ceedings upon the wicked ; for he desires God there to turn away,
by some signal act, the reproach the wicked cast upon him. Can
there be any thing more miserable than to live in a world full of
wickedness, and void of the marks of Divine goodness and justice to
repress it ? Were there not judgments in the world, men would for-
get God, be insensible of his government of the world, neglect the
exercises of natural and christian duties ; religion woiild be at its
last gasp, and expire among them, and men would pretend to break
God's precepts by God's authority. Are they not good, then, as
they restrain the creature from further evils ; affright others from
the same crimes which they were inclinable to commit ? He strikes
some, to reform others that are spectators ; as Apollonius tamed
pigeons by beating dogs before them. Punishments are God's
gracious warnings to others, not to venture upon the crimes which
they see attended with such judgments. The censers of Corah,
Dathan, and Abiram, were to be wrought into plates for a covering
of the altar, to abide there as a memento to others, not to approach
to the exercise of the priestly ofl&ce without an authoritative call
from God (Numb. xvi. 88, 40) ; and those judgments exercised in
the former ages of the world, were intended by Divine goodness for
warnings, even in evangelical times. Lot's wife was turned into a
pillar of salt, to prevent men from apostasy ; that use Christ himself
makes of it, in the exhortation against "turning back" (Luke xvii.
32, 33). And (Ps. Ivui. 10) : " The righteous shall wash his feet in
the blood of the wicked." When God shall drench his sword in the
blood of the wicked, the righteous shall take occasion from thence,
to purify themselves, and reform their ways, and look to the paths
of their feet. Would not impunity be hurtful to the world, and
men receive encouragement to sin, if severities sometimes did not
bridle them from the practice of their inclinations ? Sometimes the
einner himself is reformed, and sometimes removed from being an
example to others. Though thunder be an affrightening noise, and
lightning a scaring flash, yet they have a liberal goodness in tiiem,
in shattering and consuming those contagious vapors which burden
and infect the air, and thereby render it more clear and healthful.
Again, there are few acts of Divine justice upon a people, but are in


tte very execution of tliem attended Avitli demonstrations of liis
goodness to others ; he is a protector of his own, while he is a re-
venger on his enemies ; when he rides upon liis horses in anger
against some, his chariots are "chariots of salvation" to others (Hab.
iii. 8). Terror makes way for salvation; the overthrow of Pharaoh
and the strength of his nation, completed the deliverance of the Is-
raeli tes. Had not the Egyptians met with their destruction, the Is-
raelites had unavoidably met with their ruin, against all the promises
God had made to them, and to the defamation of his former justice,
in the former plagues upon their oppressors. The death of Herod
was the security of Peter^ and the rest of the maliced christians.
The gracious deliverance of good men is often occasioned by some
severe stroke upon some eminent persecutor ; the destruction of the
oppressor is the rescue of the innocent. Again, where is there a
judgment but leaves more criminals behind than it sweeps away,
that deserved to be involved in the same fate with the rest ? More
Egyptians were left behind to possess and enjoy the goodness of
their fruitful land, than they were that were hurried into another
world by the overflowing waves ; is not this a mark of goodness as

Online LibraryStephen CharnockDiscourses upon the existence and attributes of God (Volume 2) → online text (page 33 of 75)