Archive for the ‘God is Good’ Category


Alvah Hovey (1820-1903) on Divine Benevolence

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism


III. Benevolence. By this, we mean that God desires the welfare of his creatures, with a desire most powerful and most pure. In proof of this may be alleged[:]

(1) The testimony of Scripture (Ps. lvii. 11 ; cxlv. 9; ciii. 11- 13 ; cxxxvi. 1-26; Isa. xlix. 14-16; Matt. v. 45; vii. 11; Luke xii. 7; John iii. 16; 1 John iv. 8, 18; 1 Tim. ii. 4; 2 Cor. xiii. 11; Ezek. xviii. 23; xxxiii. n).

(2) The testimony of reason. The moral perfection of God, and the predominance of happiness over misery in the animal world, may be insisted upon in this connection. It may now be remarked, (a) That the grace of God is his benevolence as exercised towards the guilty or the undeserving, (b) That the mercy of God is his benevolence, as exercised towards those who are miserable, as well as guilty. (c) That the patience of God is his benevolence, as exercised in forbearing to punish the guilty without delay, (d) That the wisdom of God is his omniscience, exercised with righteousness and benevolence in securing the best ends by the best means.

Alvah Hovey, A Manual of Christian Systematic and Christian Ethics (Boston: [Henry A. Young] 1877), 94-95. [Some reformatting and underlining mine.]


(2.4) Consider another point. “How good is God to Israel, to them that are right in heart!” Is God not good to all men, then? He is certainly good to all, because He is the Savior of all men, especially of the faithful. And so the Lord Jesus came that He might save what was lost;1 He came, indeed, to take away the sin of the world,2 to heal our wounds. But not all men desire the remedy, and many avoid it; else the sore may be stung by the drugs and lose its virulence. For that reason, He heals those that arc willing and does not compel the unwilling. Therefore, those who desire the remedy regain their health. But those who resist the physician3 and do not seek him out, cannot perceive his goodness, for they do not experience it. Now one who is healed is also restored to health, and thus the physician is good to those whom he has restored to health. Accordingly, God is good to those whose sins He has forgiven. But if someone has a sin that is incurable from a sore on his spirit, how can he value the physician as good, when he is avoiding Him? And therefore, as I said earlier, the Apostle aptly explained that God, who wishes all men to be saved,”4 is good to all men. And the special favor of God’s goodness is reserved most of all for the faithful, who receive the assistance of His good will and of His grace. But also, when the psalmist said, "How good is God to Israel, to them that are right in heart" he conveyed the sentiment of those who do not know how to entertain any other opinion concerning God, except that He is good toward all things and is in all.

Ambrose, “The Prayer of Job and David,” in Seven Exegetical Works, trans. Michael P. McHugh (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1972), 371-372.[Underlining mine; footnote values modified; footnote content original.]


1Cf. Luke 19.10.

2Cf. John 1.29 .

3The motif of Christ as physician occurs very frequently in Ambrose. For a listing of the relevant passages, see Gryson 287 n. 157, and add the passing reference to the good physician in The Prayer of Job and David 2.3.10, above. Studies have been done on this theme as it appears, most notably, in Augustine, but none as yet on its use by Ambrose.

41 Tim. 2.4.


Richard Stock (1569-1626) on God’s Goodness

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism


Quest. What is the goodness of God, and of the divine essence?

Ans. The answer is: It is a communicable attribute, whereby it is absolute, in and of itself, good, liberal, and bountiful, communicating good to the creature.1 This being the description, we must open the several parts, and first, the answer says that god is good, liberal, &c., (and this is true). But yet to express the extension of that we have in hand, I say further that he is goodness itself. God is an accident, and no accident is in God. God is good, and whatsoever is in God is good. God is good, and such a good as has no evil annexed to it, as that which is truly heat is not mixed with any cold, and that which is essentially sweet, is not mixed with any sorrow, so God is such, as that whatsoever is in him is essential. Thus we find in Scripture, as in Psal. 52:1, “Why boast thou thyself, thou cruel man? Seeing the goodness of God,” &c. Rom. 2:4, “The bountifulness of God,” that is the goodness of God, so the Apostle speaks, 2 Thess. 1:11. Secondly, I call it a communicable attribute, because this goodness is in some proportion in man, though not as it is in God, therefore, we call it communicable, not that there is goodness in man, as it is in God, but a goodness whereby we resemble the divine nature, as the Apostle Peter says. The next thing, that he is good, in, and of himself. The ground is this, that which Christ speaks, Matt. 19:17, “Why call thou me good? There is none good but God.” There are good men, but these are none eternally and essentially good, but God. There is a created goodness, and there is an uncreated goodness, and, therefore, we say, he is good in and of himself, and is good to the creatures, and this the Learned a relative goodness. This goodness is the extension (not essentially relative, as it is in the three persons is here meant), but a relative between the creature and God, and this is the same Gen. 1:13, “And he looked upon all that he had made, and behold it was very good,” so in many other things, Psal. 118:1, “Praise the Lord because he is good, and his mercy,” &c., he is good showing mercy, that is, his bountifulness continues for ever, Psal. 73:1, “However, God is good to Israel.” The goodness of God admits this division, some is spiritual, some temporal, some general, and some particular. Common goodness he shows to all, but his special he shows but to some, Esai. 34:11, “The Lord is a sun and shield, and he will give grace, and glory: what to every man? No: but to the pure in heart. So Christ says, Matt. 7:10, “If a son ask his father bread, will he give him a stone? If you being evil, can give good things to your children, how much shall your heavenly Father give his Holy Spirit to those that ask him?” As Luke 11:13, so Matt. 5:35, “he makes the sun to shine upon the just and the unjust.” So Acts 14:7, “He has not left himself without witness, in that he has filled our hearts with good and gladness,” that as we know the goodness of the tree by the fruit thereof, so we know this goodness of God by the fruits thereof in the creatures, and so we have this description proved.

The next question is:

Quest. Why is it said that he communicates goodness, and is good to all creatures?

Answ. The answer is, because what goodness soever is begun, and continued in any, is from God, and the cause is in him only. It is not the creature’s own goodness, Psal. 30:11, “The goodness of God has made my mountain strong,” where he shows that this estate and condition wherein he was, was nothing from himself, all came from God. Therefore, when as Esau asked Jacob, how he came by that wealth, Gen. 33:11, “The Lord has been good to me,” &c., therefore, I have all merely of this goodness, and hereupon, Jacob says, Gen. 33:11 “I am less than the least of all thy mercies,” when he calls God’s goodness, his mercy, because it comes from the mercy of God, 2 Sam. 7:8, “Lord, what am I?” says David, “or what is my father’s house?” &c. So every man may say, whatsoever he is, whatsoever he has, “Lord what I am, that thou have brought me to this,” &c. So, whatsoever any man has, it comes from the goodness of God.

There be many uses of this point, but we will content ourselves with some.

Use 1. The first use, is briefly this: It teaches us that of the Apostle Saint James is true, James 1:13, “God tempts no man, God is not tempted,” why? His goodness is such, that which is good itself, has no evil mixed with it, honey has no sorrow in it, the sun has no darkness, God nothing but goodness, so that this is true, “God tempts no man,” the ground why man is tempted, is in himself, not in God, because there is no evil in God. Tempting is when there is some setting upon, and receiving an assault, with rejection. How can a man cast darts into the sun? God being good in himself, &c., cannot tempt nor be tempted.

Use 2. Secondly, this teaches us that we should not sin against this God. The reason is, because he is good, nay, because he is goodness, therefore, we ought not, this should be a restraint to us. How does every man condemn wrongs done to a poor innocent, that he has done no evil? So if we see a man full of goodness brought to misery, every man will cry out of them, that brought him to it, and do we so in respect of men, ought we not so to reason in respect of God? that if God be so good in himself why should I commit this wickedness, against him? When Satan tempts, the world provokes, &c. What should be the answer, if I should commit such a wickedness, you yourselves, and Satan would accuse me, for sinning against such a good God? And, indeed, the devil entices to sin, for nothing, but to accuse us when we have sinned. Therefore, get the behind me, Stan, shall I sin against this God? that is not only so good in himself, but is good to al his creatures, look which way though will, thou cannot but see the goodness of God. Oh what ingratitude! what impiety were this, for a man to offend this God, so that is so good in himself, and good to all creatures? And why has God shown thee this goodness? but because he would have thee good to him. S. Bernard has this saying, for a man to do good for good, his natural, and for a man to do evil for good is diabolical. Now then, if here be but so much as common reason, we will return good for good, but to return evil for God is devilish. And the more any man has received, the more good he ought to be, as Salvian says, “God has given us good, then we ought to be good to him again,”2 remember what good thou have in thy creation, redemption and renewing. Let every man, therefore, labor after this manner, to answer the goodness of God, that herein may be his comfort, for when we are best to ourselves, when we return good again, and worst to ourselves, when we return evil. Therefore, we ought thus to approve our goodness to him, and have this ever upon our hearts: how does the goodness of God call for obedience, that we may glorify God here, and then by him, we may be glorious in the life to come.

Richard Stock, A Stock of Divine Knowledge. Being a Lively Description of the Divine Nature. Or, the Divine Essence, Attributes, and Trinity Particularly Explained and Profitably Applied. The First showing Us What God is: The Second, what We Ought to be (London: Printed by T.H. for Philip Nevil, and are to be sold at his Shop in Ivie Lane, at the Signe of the Gun, 1641), 148-154.

[Some spelling modernized; some sentence restructuring; footnotes mine; and underlining mine.]



1Stock repeatedly extends his sentences with colons and then semi-colons. Most of these sentence extensions I have converted into proper sentences.

2The difficulty with Stock and other early English literature of this period is identifying the end of a quotation. Here I have simply guessed based on the punctuation.


Louis Berkhof (1873-1957) on the Goodness of God

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism


1. THE GOODNESS OF GOD. This is generally treated as a generic conception, including several varieties, which are distinguished according to their objects. The goodness of God should not be confused with His kindness, which is a more restricted concept. We speak of something as good, when it answers in all parts to the ideal. Hence in our ascription of goodness to God the fundamental idea is that He is in every way all that He as God should be, and therefore answers perfectly to the ideal expressed in the word "God." He is good in the metaphysical sense of the word, absolute perfection and perfect bliss in Himself. It is in this sense that Jesus said to the young ruler: "None is good save one, even God," Mark 10:18. But since God is good in Himself, He is also good for His creatures, and may therefore be called the fons omnium bonorum. He is the fountain of all good, and is so represented in a variety of ways throughout the Bible. The poet sings: "For with thee is the fountain of life; in thy light shall we see light," Ps. 36:9. All the good’ things which the creatures enjoy in the present and expect in the future, flow to them out of this inexhaustible fountain. And not only that, but God is also the summum bonum, the highest good, for all His creatures, though in different degrees and according to the measure in which they answer to the purpose of their existence. In the present connection we naturally stress the ethical goodness of God and the different aspects’ of it, as these are determined by the nature of its objects.

a. The goodness of God toivards His creatures in general. This may be defined as that perfection of God which prompts Him to deal bountifully and kindly with all His creatures. It is the affection which the Creator feels towards His sentient creatures as such. The Psalmist sings of it in the well known words’: "Jehovah is good to all; and His tender mercies are over all His works.

. . . The eyes of all wait for thee; and thou gives them their food in due season. Thou opens thy hand, and satisfies the desire of every living thing," Ps. 145:9,15,16. This benevolent interest of God is revealed in His care for the creature’s welfare, and is suited to the nature and the circumstances of the creature. It naturally varies in degree according to the capacity of the objects to receive it. And while it is not restricted to believers, they only manifest a proper appreciation of its blessings, desire to use them in the service of their God, and thus enjoy them in a richer and fuller measure. The Bible refers to this goodness of God in many passages’, such as Ps. 36:6 ; 104:21; Matt. 5:45 ; 6:26; Luke 6:35 ; Acts 14:17.

Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1969), 70-71. [Some spelling modernized; italics original; and underlining mine.]

John Brown:

Q. How is the goodness of God usually distinguished?
A. Into his absolute and relative goodness.

Q. Wherein do them differ?
A . His absolute goodness is an essential property in himself, is the fountain; but his relative goodness is that kindness which flows out from that flows out from that fountain upon his creatures.

Q. How is God’s relative goodness distinguished?
A. Into his common goodness, which Be exercises towards all his creatures good and bad, and his special goodness, which he exercises towards his elect only, Ps. cxlv.

Q. What are some branches of God’s common goodness?
A. The exercise of his long-suffering patience towards sinful men, his giving them the offers of salvation and space to repent of their sin, with corn, wine, oil, fruitful seasons, and other temporal blessings, Rom. ii. 4.

Q What are the branch of God’s special goodness?
A. Saving gram, and eternal glory, Psal. xxiv. 11.

Q What are the properties of God’s special goodness?
A. It is unspeakably great, sweet, satisfying, seasonable, unchangeable, and everlasting, Psal. xxxi. 19.

Q Where is this goodness laid up for the elect?
A. In Christ, in whom all fullness dwells, Col. i 29.

John Brown, An Essay Towards an Easy, Plain, Practical, and Extensive Explication of the Assembly’s Shorter Catechism (New York: Robert Carter, 1846), 39.