The Goodness of God
God indeed is necessarily good, affective, in regard of his nature; but freely good, effective, in regard of the effluxes of it to this or that particular subject he pitcheth upon. He is not necessarily communicative of his goodness, as the sun of its light, or a tree of its cooling shade, that chooseth not its objects, but enlightens all indifferently, without any variation or distinction; this were to make God of no more understanding than the sun, to shine not where it pleaseth, but where it must. He is an understanding agent, and hath a sovereign right to choose his own subjects. It would not be a supreme goodness, if it were not a voluntary goodness. It is agreeable to the nature of the highest good to be absolutely free, to dispense his goodness in what methods and measures he pleaseth, according to the free determinations of his own will, guided by the wisdom of his mind, and regulated by the holiness of his nature. He is not to ‘give an account of any of his matter,’ Job xxxiii. 13; ‘He will have mercy of whom he will have mercy, and he will have compassion on whom he will have compassion,’ Rom. ix. 15. And he will be good to whom he will be good; when he doth act, he cannot but act well; so it is necessary; yet he may act this good or that good to this or that degree; so it is free. As it is the perfection of his nature, it is necessary; as it is the communication of his bounty, it is voluntary. The eye cannot but see if it be open, yet it may glance on this or that colour, fix upon this or that object, as it is conducted by the will. God necessarily loves himself, because he is good, yet not be constraint, but freedom, because his affection to himself is from a knowledge of himself; he necessarily loves his own image, because it is his image, yet freely, because not blindly, but from motions of understanding and will. What necessity could there be upon Him to resolve to communicate his goodness? It could not be to make himself better by it; for he had a goodness incapable of any addition; he confers a goodness on his creatures, but reaps not a harvest of goodness to his own essence from his creatures. What obligation could there be from the creature to confer a goodness on him to this or that degree, for this or that duration? If he had not created a man nor angel, he had done them no wrong; if he had given them only a simple being he had manifested a part of his goodness, without giving them a right to challenge any more of him; if he had taken away their beings after a time when he had answered his end, he had done them no injury; for what law obliged him to enrich them, and leave them in that being wherein he invested them, but his sole goodness? Whatever sparks of goodness any creature hath are the free effusions of God’s bounty, the offspring of his own inclination to do well, the simple favour of the donor, not purchased, not merited by the creature. God is as unconstrained in his liberty, in all his communications, as infinite in his goodness, the fountain of them.
(Works, Vol. 2, pp. 290-1)