The Goodness of God
Mark 10:17-22
And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master…

The words are part of a reply of our Saviour to the young man's petition to Him.

1. God only is originally good, good of Himself. All created goodness is an outlet from this fountain, but Divine goodness hath no spring; God depends upon no other for His goodness: He hath it in, and of, Himself.

2. God only is infinitely good — a boundless goodness that knows no limits.

3. God only is perfectly good because only infinitely good. He is good without indigence, because He hath the whole nature of goodness, not only some beams that may admit of increase of degree.

4. God only is immutably good. There is not such a perpetual light in the sun as there is a fulness of goodness in God (James 1:17).

5. All nations have acknowledged God good.

6. The notion of goodness is inseparable from the notion of a God (Romans 1:20; Psalm 145:6, 7).


1. We mean not the goodness of His essence, or the perfection of His nature. God is thus good because His nature is infinitely perfect.

2. Nor is it the same with the blessedness of God, but something flowing from His blessedness.

3. Nor is it the same with the holiness of God.

4. Or with the mercy of God.

5. By goodness is meant the bounty of God — His inclination to deal well and bountifully with His creatures. This is the most pleasant perfection of the Divine nature.

6. Comprehends all His attributes. All the acts of God are nothing else but the effluxes of His goodness, distinguished by several names, according to the "object it is exercised about. As the sea, though it be one mass of water, yet we distinguish it by several names, according to the shores it washeth and beats upon (Exodus 33:19; Exodus 34:6; Psalm 145:7, 8).


1. He is good by His own essence — not by participation from another. Not a quality in Him, but a nature; not a habit added to His essence, but His essence itself.

2. God is the prime and chief goodness to whom all goodness whatsoever must be referred, as the final cause of all good.

3. His goodness is communicative, diffusive, without which He would cease to be good (Psalm 119:68.) God is more prone to communicate Himself than the sun to spread its beams, or the earth to mount up its fruits, or the water to multiply living creatures.

4. God is necessarily good — inseparable from His nature as holiness.

5. God is freely good. The necessity of the goodness of His nature hinders not the liberty of His actions: the matter of His acting is not at all necessary, but the manner of His acting in a good and bountiful way is necessary as well as free.

6. Communicative with the greatest pleasure. What God gives out of goodness He gives with joy and gladness. He is as much delighted with petitions for His liberality in bestowing His best goodness as princes are weary of the craving of their subjects.

7. Its display was the motive and end of all His works of creation and providence.


1. The more excellent anything is in nature the more of goodness and kindness it hath.

2. He is the cause of all created goodness.

(1) Is not impaired by suffering sin to enter into the world, and man to fall thereby. It is rather a testimony of God's goodness, that He gave man an ability to be happy, than any charge against His goodness, that He settled man in a capacity to be evil. God was first a benefactor to man before man could be a rebel against God.

(2) Is not prejudiced by not making all things the equal subjects of it. Is any creature destitute of the open marks of His goodness, though all are not enriched with those signal characters which He vouchsafes to others (Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31)?

(3) Is not violated by the severe punishment of offenders, and the inflictions He inflicts upon His servants.

(a) God's justice is part of the goodness of His nature. Is it not a part of the goodness of God to make laws and annex threatenings? and shall it be an impeachment of His goodness to support them? Not to punish evil would be a want of goodness.

(b) Sometimes God afflicts men for the temporal and eternal good (1 Corinthians 11:32; Psalm 89:33; Hebrews 12:10).


1. In creation of man — his being and nature; the conveniences He provided for, and gave to man; the world was made and furnished for man; the laws He hath given to man — fitted to his nature and happiness.

2. In redemption.

(1) Goodness was its spring. He was under no obligation to pity our misery, etc.

(2) Exceeds His goodness in creation: in regard to the difficulty of effecting it; its cost; man's desert of the contrary. Greater goodness than was expressed towards the angels — standing or fallen. Greater than was for a time manifested to Christ Himself. He so loved the world that He seemed for a time not to love His Son in comparison of it, or equal with it (John 3:16). The first resolution to redeem, and the means appointed for redemption, could have no other inducement but Divine goodness. In God's giving Christ to be our Redeemer, He gave the highest gift that it was possible for Divine goodness to bestow — greater than worlds or all things purchased by Him: greater because it was His Own Son, not an angel; and this Son given to rescue us by His death.

(3) This goodness is enhanced by considering the state of man in the first transgression, and since: nothing in fallen man to allure God to the expression of His goodness; man was reduced to the lowest condition; every age multiplied provocations; man was utterly impotent; the high advancement of our nature, after it had so highly offended; the covenant of grace made with us, whereby we are freed from the rigour of that of works — its nature and tenor, its confirmation (Hebrews 6:17, 18), its easy, reasonable, and necessary condition; His affectionate method of treating with man to embrace this covenant; the sacraments He hath affixed to this covenant, especially in the Lord's Supper.

(4) By this redemption God restores us to a more excellent condition than Adam had in innocence (John 10:10).

3. In His government — in preserving all things; in the preservation of human society; prescribing rules for it, restraining the passions of men, etc.; in providing Scripture as a rule to guide us, and continuing it in the world; in the conversion of men; in answering prayers; in bearing with the infirmities of His people; in afflictions and persecutions (Psalm 119:71); in temptations.


1. Of instruction. If God be so good —

(1)  How unworthy is the contempt or abuse of His goodness.

(2)  It is a certain argument that man is fallen from his original state.

(3)  There can be no just complaint against God, if men be punished for abusing His goodness.

(4)  Here is a certain argument, both for God's fitness to govern the world, and His actual government of it.

(5)  The ground of all religion is this perfection of goodness.

(6)  Renders God amiable — to Himself, to us.

(7)  Renders Him a fit object of trust and confidence.

(8)  Renders God worthy to be obeyed and honoured.

2. Of comfort.

(1)  In our addresses to Him.

(2)  In afflictions.

(3)  Ground of assurance of happiness.

(4)  Of comfort in the midst of public dangers.

3. Of exhortation.

(1)  How should we endeavour after the enjoyment of a God so good!

(2)  Often meditate on the goodness of God.

(3)  Be thankful for.

(4)  Imitate — in relieving and assisting others in distress, etc.

(Stephen Charnocke, B. D.)I shall show what was commendable in this young man. First — The question asked — What shall I do to inherit eternal life?

I. It is not a question about another man, but himself. Many do not look inward, and are busy about the concernments of others; but here it is not, What shall they do, or what shall others do? but, Good Master, what is my duty? What shall I do to be saved?

II. It is not a curious question, or the proposal of some intricate doubt and nice debate (Titus 3:9 — "Avoid foolish questions").

III. It is not about the body, but the soul.

IV. About his soul. And certainly such a question as this discovers a good spirit.

1. That he was no Sadducee, for he inquires after eternal life, which they denied.

2. It discovers some thoughtfulness about it; his thoughts were more upon the kingdom of heaven than upon a temporal reign.

3. It discovered that he was very sensible of the connection that is between the end and the means, that something must be done in order to eternal life. There are some men who would have heaven and happiness, but are loathe to be at the cost.

4. This question so put discovers that he was sensible that a slight thing would not serve the turn, not a little saying and outward profession.

5. This was the errand and great thing that brought him to Christ to find the way to heaven and true happiness.

V. This question was seriously put: he did not ask it in jest, but in the greatest earnest.Secondly. Let us consider the person by whom it was put.

I. We find him to be a young man. God demands His right of the young man, that his heart be seasoned betimes with grace.

1. Consider how convenient and reasonable it is that God should have our first and best. The flower and best of our days is due to God, who is the best of beings. Under the law the first fruits were God's; the sacrifices were all offered young, and in their strength (Leviticus 2:14). When wit is dulled, ears heavy, body weak, affections spent, is this a fit sacrifice for God? If a man has a great way to go, it is good rising early, in the morning; many set out too late, never any too soon. And for the convenience of it, young men are most capable of doing God service; the faculties of their souls are most vigorous, and the members of their bodies most active. It is not fit to lay the greatest load on the weakest horse; the weak shoulders of old men are not fit for the burden of religion.

2. Consider how necessary it is, because the lusts of youth being boiling hot need the correction of more severe discipline. As the boiling pot sendeth up most steam, so in the fervours of youth there are the strongest inclinations to intemperance and uncleanness.

3. Consider the profit of it.

(1) The work is more easy the sooner it is taken in hand: whereas the longer it is delayed, the more difficult. A twig is easily bowed, but when it is grown into a tree it is not moved. When the disease groweth inveterate, medicines do little good.

(2) You hereby provide for the comfort of old age. If you serve God in your good days, He will help you the better over those evil days wherein there is no pleasure. It will then be no grief of heart to you when old that you were acquainted with God young: whereas, on the other side, the vanities of youth will be the burden of age.

(3) Our great work, that must be once done, is put out of hazard when we think of heaven seriously while we are young. Life is most uncertain, and such a weighty business as this should not be left at peradventures.

II. This man was a rich man, one who had great possessions. This man, though he had enough to live happily in the present world, yet he thinks of the world to come. This is a question rarely moved by men of that sort. They think heaven is a fit notion to entertain the fancies of the poor and afflicted withal, a pleasant thought wherewith to comfort and relieve their sorrows; but this rich man, though he had great possessions, yet he hath his trouble upon him about his salvation.

III. He was a ruler, not a vulgar and obscure plebeian, but a man of eminence and authority, a nobleman (to speak in the English language), or the chief of his family. Thirdly. Here is the manner of his address, and thence you may observe —

1. The voluntariness of it.

2. The earnestness and fervour of his coming — "He came running."

3. Consider his humility and reverence to Christ: he kneeled to him, in token of civil honour and reverence to Him, as an eminent teacher and prophet.

I. But where was his defect?

1. His fault was that he asked in the Pharisee's sense, what good thing he should do. Now the Pharisee's error was double; he thought that men should be saved by their own works, and that those works were in their own power. They were confident of their own merit and strength.

II. His next fault was his love of riches and worldly things, which is a dangerous obstruction and a let to salvation. First: This may serve to humble us. It were a blessed thing for the world if all men went so far as this young man, so as —

1. To have their thoughts taken up about eternal life. The most part of the world never consider whence they are nor whither they go, nor what shall become of them to all eternity. Should a man's thoughts be taken up about furnishing his inn where he tarries but a night and neglect his home?

2. To be sensible, it is no slight matter to have an interest in the world to come. Most men think they shall do well enough for heaven; a small matter will serve the turn for that.

3. To have such a sense as to choose fit means. Many keep up teachers to please their own lusts.

4. To be so concerned as to be in earnest in the means. "Be swift to hear" (St. James 1:19). But we are cold, slack, and negligent.Secondly: To caution us: do not rest in a common work.

1. In a desire of heaven is your only happiness.

2. Do not rest barely in a desire that moveth us to the use of some means, unless it bring us to a perfect resignation to God. This man had a good mind to heaven; he cheapens it, but is not willing to go through with the price.

3. If we would not rest in a common work, there are two things we must take care of, which are opposite to the double defect of this young man — brokenness of heart, and unbounded resignation of ourselves to the will of God; bring yourselves to that, and the thing is done.

(1) Brokenness of heart.

(2) Resignation of yourselves to God's will. He that starves as well as he that surfeits hath his difficulties in the way to heaven. Every man hath a tender part of soul, some carnal affection that he doth allow, reserve, and is loath should be touched; therefore, till there be an unbounded resignation, and we fully throw ourselves at Christ's feet, it is impossible ever we should come to the kingdom of heaven.No; we should be glad to accept of mercy on any terms, and take heaven at God's price.

1. This unbounded resolution must be seriously made (St. Luke 14:26).

2. It must be faithfully performed. There are four points of great weight and moment, which should ever be remembered by them that would make out their gospel qualifications or new covenant plea of sincerity.

(1) That any allowed evil habit of soul or reigning sin is inconsistent with that faith that worketh by love, and only maketh us capable of the great privileges of the gospel.

(2) That the usual bait of reigning sin is the world. The great difficulty of salvation lies in a man's addictedness to worldly things of temporal satisfaction.

(3) That our inclinations to worldly things is various, according to our temper and constitution of men — "As the channel is cut so the river runs" (Isaiah 53:6).

(4) That many times, when pretences are fair, there is a secret reserve in our hearts. The devil seeketh to deceive men with a superficial change and half reformation, and moveth them to take on the profession of religion, and yet secure their fleshly and worldly interest.

(T. Manton, D. D.)We have seen the young man's question: here is Christ's answer; in which observe two things.

1. His expostulation with him — "Why callest thou Me good?"

2. His instruction of him — "There is none good but One, that is God."First: For the expostulation. He doth not simply blame him for giving Him this title, but argueth with him about it.

1. To show He loves no compliment or fair words which proceed not from sound faith and love to Him. As elsewhere (St. Luke 6:46) — "Why Call me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" It is a mockery to give titles to anyone when we do not answer it with suitable endeavours.

2. He takes occasion to draw him from his error of conceiving Him as a mere man. The attribute of good belongeth truly and properly to none but God.

3. Our Lord would teach us by His own example to cast all the honour we receive upon God. This is a common sin, that when God doth any good by His creatures the minds of men stick in the creatures, and never look up to God; and from thence comes idolatry.

4. I suppose the chief reason was to beat down this pharisaical conceit.Secondly: I come to Christ's instruction of him. There is none good but God. And there you have two propositions.

1. That in some sense there is no man good

2. That God only is good.

Doctrine 1: There is no mere man that is absolutely and perfectly good. I shall explain this negatively and affirmatively. First: For the negative part.

1. It is not to be so understood as if in no sense man were good, for it is said in St. Luke 6:45, "A good man out of the good treasure of his heart"; and it is said of St. Barnabas (Acts 11:24) and of Joseph of Aramathea (St. Luke 23:50).

2. This is not so to be understood as if there were no distinction between men, but they were all equal in sin.

3. It is not so to be understood as if it were unlawful wholly to acknowledge that goodness that is in others.Secondly: Positively. How is it then true that no man is good?

1. No man is of himself good, but only by participation of God's goodness. As all the stars derive their light from the sun, so do we derive our poor weak ray wherewith we shine from the Father of lights (St. James 1:17). All the tribute we pay Him we have out of His own exchequer.

2. No man is good, that is, absolutely and perfectly good.

3. No man is good in comparison with God.The consideration of God's holiness and dignity obscureth all the glory and praise of the creature. As when the sun is up the lustre of the stars is no more to be seen than if they were not, so when God is thought on, and we are compared with Him, there are none good, no, not one.

1. This should ever keep us humble, for all the good that is in us, natural and spiritual, is not of ourselves but God (1 Corinthians 4:7).

2. This should keep us in a self-loathing frame and posture of heart, because the good that is in us is so imperfect and mingled with so much evil of sin.

3. This instructeth us, since none is good, where our happiness lieth, not in the plea of innocency, but in the pardon of sin (Psalm 32:1, 2).

Doctrine 2: That God only is good. First, the absolute perfection of His nature and being, which is such as nothing is wanting to it or defective in it, and nothing can be added to it to make it better. In short, God is good, and only good four ways — originally; essentially, infinitely, and immutably.

1. Originally. He is αὐταγαθος, good of Himself.

2. He is essentially good. The goodness of God and the goodness of a creature differs, as a thing whose substance is gold differs from that which is gilded and overlaid with gold. A vessel of pure gold, the matter itself, gives lustre to it; but in a gilded vessel, the outward lustre is one thing, and the substance is another. The essence and being of an angel is one thing, and its holiness another. The holiness may be separated from the essence, for the essence and being of the angels was continued when their perfection and goodness was lost; so man's substance is one thing, his holiness another, but in God His holiness is His being.

3. God is infinitely good. God is an ocean without banks or bottom; the goodness of a creature is but a drop from the ocean, or as a nutshell filled with the water of the sea.

4. God is immutably good: it cannot be diminished or augmented, for in infiniteness there are no degrees — it can never be more than it is or less than it is; for God hath actually all possible perfection.

Use 1. To humble us in our converse with God.

Use 2. To make us thankful.

Use 3. If we would have good wrought in us, let us look up to God.

Use 4. Let us love God, and love Him above all things, for He only is good.He is the chiefest good. Other things are good in subordination to Him. All the goodness that is in the creature is but a spark of that good which is in God. If we find any good there, it is not to detain our affections, but to lead us to a greater good; not to hold us from Him, but to lead us to Him, as the streams lead us to the fountain, and the steps of a ladder are not to stand still upon, but to lead us higher. If the prince should woo us by messengers, and we should leave him and cleave to the messengers, this were extreme folly, and a great abuse and wrong to the prince. By the goodness of the creatures God's end is to draw us to Himself as the chiefest good. Here is goodness in the creature, but it is mixed with imperfection; the goodness is to draw us to God, the imperfection to drive us from the creatures. Many a fair stream is drawn dry or runneth low by being dispersed into several channels, but that which is infinite cannot be lessened.

(T. Manton, D. D.)

Question 1. Why Christ refers the young man to the commandments? To convince him of his impotency, to humble him in the sense of his guilt, to drive him out of himself, and to draw him to seek salvation by a better covenant, or if not, to leave him without excuse.

1. Christ used the same method that God did in giving the law upon Mount Sinai. Why did God give it then but to break a stiff-necked people, trusting to their own strength, by this exact yoke of duty, which neither they nor their fathers were able to bear? (Romans 5:20, 21; Galatians 3:19.)

2. Practical conviction is best, and men never see their unworthiness so much as when they are held to their own covenant, and we are so far to condescend to the burnouts of men as to convince them and condemn them in their own way. As a presumptuous sick man, that is strongly conceited he is able to leave his bed and walk up and down, the best way to confute him is by trial.

3. It was a truth Christ spake. If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments; but we must consider his intention. Though men's trusting in their own works is displeasing to God, yet good works are not displeasing to Him.

Question 2. Why the commandments of the second table are only mentioned?

1. In these the Pharisees conceived themselves to be most perfect, and yet these were a sufficient touchstone whereby to try and discover their unfruitfulness and their imperfection. Certainly if they be defective here, there is no standing by the law. If a man cannot go, surely he cannot run; if he cannot spell, surely he cannot read; if men be defective in the duties of the second table, certainly they are not able to keep the law.

2. These are most plain and easy to be understood, and the sins committed against them are most evident and apparent.

3. In the externals of the first table the Jews seemed very zealous, but negligent they were of the second; and herein they commonly fall who hypocritically make fair shows of devotion and outward respect to God in worship (Isaiah 1:11).Doct. The true way to prepare men for Christ is to cause them to see their misery and impotency by the law. Because every man is apt to flatter himself with a spurious covenant of works of his own making, which is the main let and hindrance to keep him from Christ and salvation. It must be a powerful instrument to prepare men for Christ, because this covenant shuts up a sinner without any hope of relief, unless Christ and grace open the door to him. Let us then see how this law shuts men up.

1. The duty is impossible (Romans 8:3).

2. The penalty is intolerable (
Parallel Verses
And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?

WEB: As he was going out into the way, one ran to him, knelt before him, and asked him, "Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?"

The Excellences of the Young Ruler
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