Charnock: The Goodness of God Is Most Fully Revealed in Salvation

by Paul Tautges | February 6, 2013 2:42 pm

By purist definition, “no one is good except God alone” (Luke 18:19). As creatures made in His image all mankind is the recipient of His goodness (Mark 5:45). However, it is only believers in Jesus Christ who fully experience It. For, it is on the cross where the goodness of God was most fully displayed. The Puritan Stephen Charnock has this to say about this aspect of God’s goodness.

God’s goodness is revealed in His works of creation and redemption. Implicit in Charnock’s treatise is the threefold distinction, arising out of God’s…goodwill or benevolent love toward the elect in eternity; God’s well-doing or beneficent love in terms of His will to redeem the elect; and God’s love of delight and friendship that has in view the rewards accruing from redemption. These aspects of God’s love have a correlation to His immanent, transient, and applicatory words ad extra. Before considering God’s goodness in redemption, Charnock shows God’s goodness in creation. Regarding Adam’s state in the garden of Eden, God displayed His goodness to Adam in terms of the gracious reward given for a due debt. Adam owed to God obedience, but ‘the article on God’s part, of giving perpetual blessedness to innocent man, was not founded upon rules of strict justice and righteousness, for that would have argued God to be a debtor to man.’ The reward offered by God—immortality or eternal lire—far exceeded what Adam was able to merit, which testifies to God’s goodness in creation. Goodness was also the ‘spring of redemption’; in fact, it was ‘pure goodness,’ for God was not required to redeem fallen mankind. His goodness provides the reason for God to set upon the work of redeeming men and women through His Son. This goodness exceeds that of the goodness revealed in creation, for ‘there is more of his bounty expressed in that one verse, ‘So God loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son’ (John 3:16), than there is in the whole volume of the world: it is an incomprehensible so; a so that all the angels in heaven cannot analyse.’ The fact of redemption leads Charnock to the provocative conclusion that the goodness shown to the elect was ‘a greater goodness to us, than was for a time manifested to Christ himself.’ God valued redemption of the elect so much that He sentenced His own Son to humiliation on earth so that all who belong to Christ may be exalted in heaven.

[Excerpted from A Puritan Theology[1], edited by Joel Beeke and Mark Jones.]

  1. A Puritan Theology:

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