Edward Leigh on the Goodness of God

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism   in God is Good

So much concerning the affections attributed to God, his virtues follow; which as they their seat in man, in the will and affections; so it is not inconvenient for methods sake to refer them to the same in God. Gods virtues are his essence considered, as it always worketh orderly, firstly, and agreeably to perfect reason. They are not things differing from his essence as in us, but we must conceive them according to our capacity and hand them distinctly.

By virtues we understand first in general the idea of virtue, or the chiefest moral perfection, by which God is in himself absolutely the best, and in respect of which all virtues of angels and men are only slender shadows and representations. For God is Summon bonum, the chief good, and most perfect goodness, both metaphorically and morally; so that his nature and will is the first rule of goodness and rectitude, with which, as far as things agree, so far they are, and are called good. H is the cause of all goodness in the creatures, which have so much goodness as God works and keeps in them.

God’s goodness, is an essential property whereby he is infinitely, and of himself good, and the author and cause of all goodness in the creature.

God’s goodness is considered as he is good in himself, yea, goodness itself, Exod. 34:6. Psal. 119:68. or as he is good to his creatures, which is his bounty, which being referred to his creatures, either as having goodness communicated to them, in his love; or has being in misery, is his mercy, or as having deserved no good thing at the hands of God, but rather contrary, is his grace.

Goodness is the perfection of things for which they are desirable; good and appertible are convertible: What is good is to be desired. God is to be desired of all, he is the chiefest good.

The properties of which are these:
1. It is propter se amabile, to be desired for itself; so only God.
2. It is able to satisfy the soul, and that satisfaction which it gives is perpetual. In God there is both satiety and stability; satisfaction of the appetite, and continuance of that satisfaction.
2. God is causally good, worketh all goodness in the creature, and doth good to them, Psal. 33:5.
3. Eminently and absolutely good, the only good. There is a goodness in the creature, its nature is good, but goodness I not its nature; so there is none good but God; viz. Essentially, originally.

Our Saviour Matt 19:17. reproved one for calling him good; not that he is not so essentially, but because he thinking him to be no more than a Prophet, did yet call him so. God is the only good essentially, independently; comparatively to God the creature is not good; as a drop is no water compared to the Ocean.

The Scripture proves God’s goodness,

1. Affirmatively, when affirmed that God is good, and commends his goodness.
2. Negatively, when it denies that there is any evil in him, Psal. 92:16, Deut. 32:4.
3. Symbolically, when it celebrates the riches of his goodness, Rom. 2:4.
4. Effectively, when it affirms that all the works of God are good, Gen. 1:31. It was said of every thing particularly when it was mad, The Lord saw that it was good, yea, very good; that is, commodious for the comfort of man, and all other creatures. He made all things good, therefore he is good himself. This may be proved by the goodness which still remains in the creatures; each creature hath yet remaining in him a power and fitness to do much good, and brings much comfort to man, as daily experience proves; therefore he, that notwithstanding the rebellion of man hath continued yet much good in the world, surely good; the beasts do good to their young, man to his children; this power they receive from God.
5. God is to be loved, honored, praised, and served by man, therefore he is good; or else, he were not worthy this respect from the creature.

The goodness of God is either considered ad intra and absolutely, or else ad extra and respectively. For the first, God in himself is good.

This appears:
1. In reckoning up all the kinds of good things that are; for there is 1, Bonum utile the profitable good: now how happy must they needs be who have him which can command all things; if thou hast him, thou hast all things else in him. 2. There is bonum jucundum, taste and see how sweet he is, At thy right are pleasures for evermore. 3. Bonum honestum, he is the holy God, the Author of all holiness, and the exemplar of it.
2.This goodness of his cannot be increased, it being his essence, it cannot be made better; for God has in him, not only all the actual, but all the possible goodness that is in the creatures; any creature still may be better; thy riches honors, comforts may be better, but thy God cannot be a better God; therefore we should infinitely affect him more than all creatures.
3. It is independent goodness, he is omnis boni bonum; hence he is said to be the only good essentially and immutably.
4. It is essential; the essence and goodness of the creatures is different; goodness in the angels the perfectest creature, is a superadded-quality to them, they may be good, but ill bonus suo bonest, He is good with his own goodness, he cannot e good if he be not good.
5.It is unlimited goodness, infinite, without all bounds, above all that can be conceived, he being essentially so, and not limited to this or that being, neither in his goodness.
6. It is unmixed goodness, 1 John 1:5. he is light, and there is no darkness in him, not the least evil of sin.
7. It is the samplar and form of all goodness in the creatures: so far a thing is good as it doth resemble him.

All the good of the creature is in God always:
1. Eminently, as you consider it in its kind, without imperfection.
2. Efficiently, as he is the Author and cause of all the good hath.
3. Exemplarily, as he is the rule and pattern of all goodness.
4. Finally, as he the chiefest good of all creatures, so that all terminate their desires in him.

Secondly, God is good respectively in what he doth to the creature: that appeareth in the good things bestowed upon them. He giveth to all liberally, especially the rational creatures, as men and angels, partake of his goodness, being made capable of enjoying him for ever. 2. In the evil he keeps off from the elect; as he will withhold no good things, so he will no evil befall them.
Object. God is infinitely good (say the Arminian) therefore he cannot but naturally will good to his creatures.

Sol. It doth not follow; for out of his goodness he made the world, his goodness freely communicated, not out of necessity, then it will follow that he is naturally made the world. 2. God is infinitely just, therefore he also naturally wills the perdition of all sinners, which they will not admit. 3. He is infinitely good in himself, not therefore so to his creatures, for so he should will all good to them, and actually communicate it and so should save all. Notwithstanding God’s goodness of nature, suffered man to fall; but yet he was so good that he would not have suffered it, unless he could have showed as much goodness to man another way; and indeed Christ is a greater good to us by faith, then Adam’s innocency could have been; but yet since that evil is come into the world how many calamities might befall thee, did not God’s goodness prevent it? that the earth swallows thee not up tis God’s goodness. The goodness of God is so great, that no creature should suffer punishment, but that the justice of God doth require the same, or else some greater good may be drawn from thence, Ezek. 33:11.

Object. How doth it agree with God’s goodness, that it is said Psal. 18:17. With the froward he will show himself froward?
Answ. In the general, the meaning is only, that God’s judgements shall agree with men’s manners, and David shows how God is in himself, but relatively how he is to us.

We should 1. Love God because of his goodness, for it is the proper object of love. That which is the chief good, ought to be the principal object of all powers of our souls. God is the principal good: O that we could account him so, and accordingly carry ourselves toward him. Sine summo bono nil bonnum, there is no good thing, without the chiefest good, Psal. 73:25,26.

2. To imitate him, to be good as he is good, be like our heavenly Father, good to all, summa religionis est imisariquem colis Aug. de Civ.Dei l.8.c.27. It is a chief point of all Religion to imitate him whom we worship, Rom. 12:9, Cleave to that which is good, we should still be doing or receiving good.

3. God’s goodness will support his children in their calamities, Nehem. 1:7. and arm them against poverty, and the fear of death itself. I do not fear to die (said Ambrose) because we have a good Lord. Nec pudes vivere, nec piget mori, qui bonum habemus Dominum.

We are much to be blamed for slighting, despising or neglecting him the fountain of all goodness. Man is the most loathsome creature that hateth, and foolish that slighteth his chief good.

Here is the ground of thankfulness to God’s people, which enjoy the goodness of God in part here in the creature, and hereafter shall immediately and fully. God is especially good to some, whom he has chosen to life eternal.

We see the great evil ofsin; nothing is so opposite to this attribute of God’s goodness as sin; the Devils are not evil as creatures, but as sinful.

Edward Leigh, A System or Body of Divinity, (Printed by William Lee, at the Sign of the Turk’s-head in Fleet-street over against Fetter-lane, 1654), 172-175.

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