Do good in Thy good pleasure unto us, O Lord. Act toward us not as we deserve
but as it becomes Thee, being the God Thou art. So shall we have nothing to fear
in this world or in that which is to come. Amen.
The word good means so many things to so many persons that this brief study of
the divine goodness begins with a definition. The meaning may be arrived at only
by the use of a number of synonyms, going out from and returning by different
paths to the same place.
When Christian theology says that God is good, it is not the same as saying that
He is righteous or holy. The holiness of God is trumpeted from the heavens and
re-echoed on earth by saints and sages wherever God has revealed Himself to men;
however, we are not at this time considering His holiness but His goodness,
which is quite another thing.
The goodness of God is that which disposes Him to be kind, cordial, benevolent,
and full of good will toward men. He is tenderhearted and of quick sympathy, and
His unfailing attitude toward all moral beings is open, frank, and friendly. By
His nature He is inclined to bestow blessedness and He takes holy pleasure in
the happiness of His people.
That God is good is taught or implied on every page of the Bible and must be
received as an article of faith as impregnable as the throne of God. It is a
foundation stone for all sound thought about God and is necessary to moral
sanity. To allow that God could be other than good is to deny the validity of
all thought and end ill the negation of every moral judgment. If God is not
good, then there can be no distinction between kindness and cruelty, and heaven
can be hell and hell, heaven.
The goodness of God is the drive behind all the blessings He daily bestows upon
us. God created us because He felt good in His heart and He redeemed us for the
Julian of Norwich, who lived six hundred years ago, saw clearly that the ground
of all blessedness is the goodness of God. Chapter six of her incredibly
beautiful and perceptive little classic, Revelations of Divine Love, begins,
”This showing was made to learn our souls to cleave wisely to the goodness of
God.” Then she lists some of the mighty deeds God has wrought in our behalf, and
after each one she adds ”of His goodness.”
She saw that all our religious activities and every means of grace, however
right and useful they may be, are nothing until we understand that the
unmerited, spontaneous goodness of God is back of all arid underneath all His
Divine goodness, as one of God’s attributes, is self-caused, infinite, perfect,
and eternal. Since God is immutable He never varies in the intensity of His
loving-kindness. He has never been kinder than He now is, nor will He ever be
less kind. He is no respecter of persons but makes His sun to shine on the evil
as well as on the good, and sends His rain on the just and on the unjust. The
cause of His goodness is in Himself, the recipients of His goodness are all His
beneficiaries without merit and without recompense.
With this agrees reason, and the moral wisdom that knows itself runs to
acknowledge that there can be no merit in human conduct, not even in the purest
and the best. Always God’s goodness is the ground of our expectation.
Repentance, though necessary, is not meritorious but a condition for receiving
the gracious gift of pardon which God gives of His goodness.
Prayer is not itself meritorious. It lays God under no obligation nor puts Him
in debt to any. He hears prayer because He is good, and for no other reason. Nor
is faith meritorious; it is simply confidence in the goodness of God, and the
lack of it is a reflection upon God’s holy character.
The whole outlook of mankind might be changed if we could all believe that we
dwell under a friendly sky and that the God of heaven, though exalted in power
and majesty is eager to be friends with us.
But sin has made us timid and self-conscious, as well it might. Years of
rebellion against God have bred in us, a fear that cannot be overcome in a day.
The captured rebel does not enter willingly the presence of the king he has so
long fought unsuccessfully to overthrow. But if he is truly penitent he may
come, trusting only n the loving-kindness of his Lord, and the past will not be
held against him. Meister Eckhart encourages us to remember that, when we return
to God, even if our sins were as great in number as all mankind’s put together,
still God would not count them against us, but would have as much confidence in
us as if we had never sinned.
Now someone who in spite of his past sins honestly wants to become reconciled to
God may cautiously inquire, ”If I come to God, how will He act toward me? What
kind of disposition has He? What will I find Him to be like?” The answer is that
He will be found to be exactly like Jesus. ”He that hath seen me,” said Jesus,
”bath seen the Father.”
Christ walked with men on earth that He might show them what God is like and
make known the true nature of God to a race that had wrong ideas about Him. This
was only one of the things He did while here in the flesh, but this He did with
beautiful perfection. From Him we learn how God acts toward people. The
hypocritical, the basically insincere, will find Him cold and aloof, as they
once found Jesus; but the penitent will find Him merciful; the self-condemned
will find Him generous and kind. To the frightened He is friendly, to the poor
in spirit He is forgiving, to the ignorant, considerate; to the weak, gentle; to
the stranger, hospitable.
By our own attitudes we may determine our reception by Him. Though the kindness
of God is an infinite, overflowing fountain of cordiality, God will not force
His attention upon us. If we would be welcomed as the Prodigal was, we must come
as the Prodigal came; and when we so come, even though the Pharisees and the
legalists sulk without, there will be a feast of welcome within, and music and
dancing as the Father takes His child again to His heart. The greatness of God
rouses fear within us, but His goodness encourages us not to be afraid of Him.
To fear and not be afraid - that is the paradox of faith.
O God, my hope, my heavenly rest,
My all of happiness below,
Grant my importunate request,
To me, to me, Thy goodness show;
Thy beatific face display,
The brightness of eternal day.
Before my faith’s enlightened eyes,
Make all Thy gracious goodness pass;
Thy goodness is the sight I prize:
might I see Thy smiling face:
They nature in my soul proclaim,
Reveal Thy love, Thy glorious name.