He loves righteousness and judgment: the earth is full of the goodness of the LORD.
"The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord." When we learn from astronomy something about the grand scale upon which the universe is made, and when, by looking into the mind and heart of man, we behold what powers are hidden there, we ought at once to suspect that the career of man is projected upon a grand scale, and that the "goodness of the Lord" is ready to reveal itself in the phenomenon of human life. The fact that there is "goodness of God" in this world does not warrant us in expecting to find it everywhere. AEneas and his companions roamed through a large forest many a mile before they saw the tree that bore the limb of solid gold. They had become discouraged. Their eyes were weary of the long looking, but at last they saw the yellow among the green, and soon held in their hand the bough before which the gates of heaven were to fly open. The "goodness of God" does not lie easily found; it may not lie on every hand like mere dust or lifeless stone, but all reason and all revelation assure us that somewhere in the great forest the golden bough is growing, and before the patient wanderer through the deep shade suddenly will flash up the magic branch that will open to him all the best gates of earth and sky. Making the assumed character of God our measuring line, the "happy life" of man must be only a kind of high life. There may be tears at last in such a career. All the earth will at least expire in grief, even if it does not live in it. But the life that shall come nearest to happiness, and whose tears shall burn least, and shall mingle ecstasy with sadness, shall always be the "high life" of education and morality. In the arts, those who are entitled to speak in that domain make constant use of the terms "high" and "low art." They seem to mean that the art is "high" when it presents pure and large thoughts, and when the execution by the hand is worthy of the thought. In walking through a gallery not long since, a great critic remarked, "There is fine work, but no subject. The execution is wonderful, the subject contemptible." When we walk along the great scenes of earth, and behold a man absorbed in mere money-getting, or office-seeking, or in vice, we may say there is fine work, but no subject; a fine cutting of good marble to produce a figure of no possible significance. If ever we shall get any good out of these threescore years, it will be by the formula of the artists, and there is a "high life," a doing of good work to bring out good ideas. Indeed, the fine arts are nothing else than a corner of man's continent. They are the soul expressing a part of itself in marble, or painting, or music, or architecture. What sublimity there is in the great architecture of the world, and in the heights and depths of its music! But do these arts consume all that is noble in man? Has he no greatness left? Oh, what narrow, frail creatures we are! A high life is as possible as a high art. Moral beauty is as possible as material beauty; and in his "Dialogue" said, "Great is the destiny of the soul that passes from the beauty of the world to the beauty of God." Let us, however, turn from the theory of earth's goodness to some survey of the fact. Wherever a heart is turned aside from mere sensuality, from the life of a mere brute, this earth has responded to the better aspiration and has shown its willingness to lead onward and upward each nobly ambitious soul. When , and , and Care, and Seneca appealed to earth for something better than the vices of the sensualist, or the bloody fame of a conqueror, our little star heard their petition and covered them with gifts of mind and soul that will always surpass estimate. When Antonine the Pious asked our world if it had no power except that of wickedness, and no pleasure but vice, it answered him by bestowing upon him the crown of piety, and by filling him with the rapture of prayer. Pliny found this world large and beautiful. It was only too full of sublimity. All its truths lay before him as coloured shells upon the beach. In those days there was an illustrious company of mortals to whom earth was by no means small or unworthy. Looking back upon their lives, seeing their greatness of mind and of spirit, and recalling in what homes and in what libraries, and amid what poetry and eloquence and art they passed their days, we cannot but feel that the "goodness of God" lay all around them like a robe of joy and light. They may not have perceived nor felt deeply enough this infinite kindness, but if so that was not the first nor last time wherein the human heart has been happy without knowing from what fountain its joys have come. From these reflections may we not infer that there is in this world, so denounced and so mistrusted, a form of higher life — a life of honour, of education, of love, of Christianity — which may answer all who complain and who distrust, and may make our earth seem all full of the goodness of God? There may be gems hero for us all, only we are seeking for them upon the wrong shore. The past forms of human excellence indicate the fact that happiness cannot be found in things external to the soul. None of the glory of man to which we have alluded has come from property, or from fame, or from transient passions, but from the furniture of the mind and from the impulses and powers of the heart. From a survey of history, from an hour spent over the memory of all the illustrious ones in science and benevolence and religion, from a communion (even the briefest) with such a human-Divine being as Christ, the inference comes irresistibly that when earth is made the theatre of a conscientious and enlightened soul, struggling not toward riches but toward the useful and the good, then it suddenly beams out a star of the first magnitude. It no longer seems a burnt-up world, forsaken and forgotten of its Maker, but seems a chariot, with Christ standing beside the traveller, and with the wheels rolling across the open plain between time and eternity.
(D. Swing, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: He loveth righteousness and judgment: the earth is full of the goodness of the LORD.