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TESTIMONY OF FOUR WITNESSES
BY REV. HENRY W. BELLOWS.
PRINTED FOR THE
American Unitarian Association.
BOSTON: JAMES MUNROE & CO., 134 WASHINGTON STREET.
Price 3 Cents.
This is the testimony of the best of created beings, to the character of the Creator. In the judgment of Jesus, who at the same time disclaims the application of the epithet to himself, there is but One, who deserves to be called good, that is God. The goodness of all other beings becomes evil in the presence of the divine goodness, as the light of the brightest fires is dim before the beams of the sun.
There is a courteous way of acknowledging the goodness of God, common among men, which resembles the veneration paid by most subjects to the reigning monarch, and is of a piece with the political fiction, that " the king can do no wrong." It seems irreverent, to many, to inquire into the grounds of their own confidence in God. The idea that God is not good is so shocking, that they will take it for granted he is good. It is so essential to their peace to believe this, that any evidence of it is impertinent. But there are manifest disadvantages attending this hasty and wholesale kind of faith, this easy assent. It after all leaves only a very indistinct impression on the mind, and those who thus readily acknowledge the goodness of God, are still found grievously complaining of what happens under his providence, as if the events of life had no connexion whatever with the divine character.
A practical, sustaining, and vital faith in God's goodness, is based upon a perception of the soul of goodness, which is manifested in the works and ways of God. To make our veneration or love of God worth anything, we must know him, and we can only know him through his works, his providence, and his revelation of himself in the soul, and in Jesus Christ. We must "taste and see that the Lord is good.” We require for our own sakes, evidence of God's goodness. Our acknowledgment of his excellence can do him little good. "God is not worshipped at men's hands as though he needed anything, seeing he giveth life and breath, and all things." But to feel and understand his goodness, is of the utmost concern t'o our happiness and improvement. We are not doing any indignity to our Creator, when we subject his character to the closest scrutiny. " Or your own 'selves,” is his language to us, "judge ye what is right. Are not my ways equal, are not your way's unequal, O house of Israel."
God condescends to explain himself, to interpret the darkness of his providence, to justify his government. Indeed the revelations of his word through inspired messengers, are proofs of his desire to meet the doubts and questionings of his children. Nature and Providence, the works and ways of God, have always laid open before
men, but to these heaven has added direct and supernatural light, that man's heart might have the amplest means of understanding the character of him who made and rules him. Let us then see what reasons we have for believing in the goodness of God.
There are four different sources of the knowledge of God. There are, first, Nature, or the works of God; secondly, the human Soul, the rational and moral image of God; thirdly, Providence, or the ordinary government of God as seen in the workings of human affairs; fourthly and lastly, Revelation, coming to its most luminous point in the person of Christ. From these sources we derive all our knowledge of the divine Being and character. Let us examine briefly these four witnesses to the divine character, Nature, the human Soul, Providence, and Jesus Christ.
I. And first, Nature. In all ages, and among all people, the benignity of nature has been felt and acknowledged. Kind mother, is the affectionate appellation with which Heathen and Christian have greeted her. Nature has won the reverence and love of those who have denied the being and attributes of its great Maker. The atheist has declared her his only God, and a better one than the Christian possesses. The constancy of her laws, the regularity of the seasons, the unfailing fertility of the earth, the richness and variety of its products, the abundance of its provisions against the wants of its numerous tribes of animated beings, the comparative scarcity of injurious substances, and their ministration in skilful hands to the good of man - poisons become the most powerful agents of restoration to healih, under the direction of medical science, - the vast amount of sentient happiness in ani