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John Dick (1764-1833) on God’s Geneal Love and Goodness

May 15, 2008

Dick on the defitions of Goodness, Love, Grace and Mercy:

The remaining part of this lecture will be devoted to some remarks upon the goodness of God in redemption. As manifested in this work, it is expressed by the terms, love, grace, and mercy, which exhibit it under different as aspects. Love is the same with benevolence or good will, a desire for the happiness of others giving rise to the use of due means for accomplishing it. Mercy presupposes suffering, and is goodness exercised in relieving the miserable. Grace denotes its freeness, and represents ita objects as guilty beings, who were utterly unworthy of it. It is also called the philanthropy of God, because he has passed by angels, and extended his favour to man. John Dick, Lectures on Theology (New York: M.W. Dodd, 1850), 1:248-249.

Dick on God’s general love and goodness to all:

From the review of the perfections of God, it farther appears, that he is an all-sufficient Being; and this implies, that he is all-sufficient to himself, and all sufficient to his creatures.

He is all-sufficient to himself. As the first of Beings, he could receive nothing from another, nor be limited by the power of another. Being infinite, he is possessed of all possible perfection. When he existed alone, he was all to himself. His understanding, his love, his energies, found all adequate object in himself. Had he stood in need of any thing external, he would not have been independent, and therefore would not have been God. He created all things, and is said to have created them for himself; but it was not that any defect might be supplied by them, but that he might communicate life and happiness to angels and men, and admit them to the contemplation of his glory. He demands the services of his intelligent creatures, whom he has endowed with powers which qualify them for the duties enjoined : but he derives no benefit from their good offices, and all the advantage redounds to themselves. “I will take no bullock out of thy house, nor he-goats of thy folds.” “If I were hungry, I would not tell thee; for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof.”1 With respect to moral duties, which have a greater intrinsic value than sacrifices and gifts, hear how the Scripture speaks: “Can a man be profitable unto God, as he that is wise may be profitable unto himself? Is it any pleasure to the Almighty that thou art righteous? or is it gain to him that thou makest thy ways perfect?”2 He expects glory from his creatures; but is he like a poor mortal, who lives upon the admiration and praise of his fellows? The glory which he requires, is merely the devout acknowledgment of the infinite excellencies which he possessed before there was an eye to behold them, or a tongue to speak of them; and what are the thanksgivings and adoration of ten thousand worlds to him, who pronounces them all to be vanity, and less than nothing? He makes use of instruments and means to accomplish his ends; not, however, from a deficiency of power, but in some cases, to display it more strikingly through the inadequacy of the means, and in all, to maintain the order of the created system, and the dependence which he has established of one thing upon another. He loves his creatures, but there is no mixture of selfishness in his love: he desires their happiness, but it is from benevolence, and not from any respect to his own. An infinitely perfect Being has all his resources in himself. Creatures can give him nothing, because all that they possess is already his; and they can take nothing from him whose existence is necessary and immutable.

God is all-sufficient to his creatures. They live in him, and more in him. His arm sustains, his goodness supplies, and his wisdom guides them. It is owing to his care that the universal system is upheld, and its laws continue to operate for the general good. All the happiness which is enjoyed by creatures of different kinds, emanates from hie bounty. Happiness of the most common kind, the happiness which is experienced through the medium of the senses, is the fruit of his beneficence. He has created objects to delight the eye, the ear, the smell, and the taste; he gives a relish to life, and crowns it with abundant blessings. The all-sufficiency of God appears in the ample, and I may say, profuse distribution of good. All are furnished with the means of enjoyment; not even the meanest creature is neglected. And this bounty is never exhausted; it is continued from day to day, and from year to year: when a new generation come forward, the store-house of Providence is as well replenished for them, as it was for their, predecessors.

The all-sufficiency of God may be considered in relation to man, and to the better part of his nature, the soul. Its true happiness consists in the enjoyment of God. His favour is life, and his loving-kindness is better than life. He is called the “portion of the soul,” to intimate that the impressions of his love, the manifestations of his glory, are the chief objects of its desire, and tho source of its highest satisfaction. Hence his favour is preferred by the saints to the choicest and most abundant earthly delights. “There be many that say, Who will shew us any good? Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us. Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased.”3 He who is possessed of this portion, has better reason than the philosopher who had made an important discovery in science, to exclaim in a transport of joy, ‘I have found it, I have found it.’ He has found that good, of which the wise men of ancient times talked and dreamed, but the nature of which they did not understand; that good which the soul of man was created to enjoy, and for which it feels a thirst that all the waters of creation could not quench; that good which is comprehensive of all good, with which no other is worthy to be compared, after which no other will be desired, and which will continue in every stage of our existence to impart joy ever full and ever new. So satisfied is he who has obtained it, that he envies no man, however prosperous, because he knows no man who has such reason to he happy as himself, but he who has been equally prudent in his choice. He never says to the worldly man, “Oh that my condition were like thine, that I were rich, and crowned with honours as thou art!” but wishing him to share in his blessedness, which admits of being communicated without suffering diminution, he earnestly invites him to become a partaker: ”O taste and see that the Lord is good.” In the absence of external comforts, in poverty, diction, and destitution, when no ray of earthly hope breaks the gloom, and all is lost that the heart once loved, and the world still prizes, he is inspired with triumphant joy by the thought of his interest in God : b6Although the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.”4 Although heaven and earth were annihilated, and nature presented a universal blank, the Christian would not be forlorn. He could say, while surrounded by the dreadful vacuity, ‘My inheritance is entire. They have perished, but thou, O Lord, shalt endure; they have vanished away, but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail. Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth whom I desire besides thee.’ John Dick, Lectures on Theology (New York: M.W. Dodd, 1850), 1:282-283.


 

1Ps. 1:9-12.
2Job 23:2.3.
3Psalm 4:6,7.
4Hab. 3:17,18.

 

 

 

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