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Howe then proceeds to ask the question of whether the goodness of God accords with giving men merely a temporary existence.  He admits that “strict justice” would “upon the ground of absolute dominion” give God the ground to “what [he] will with [his] own.” However, such a thing would be contrary to abundant goodness of God: both in degree and in continuance.

First, Howe notes the majesty of the nature of humanity and how mismatched it is with current, sublunary existence:

[F]or who sees not, that the nature of man is capable of greater things than he here enjoys? And where that capacity is rescued from the corruption that narrows and debases it, how sensibly do holy souls resent and bewail their present state, as a state of imperfection! With how fervent and vehement desires and groans do they aspire and pant after a higher and more perfect! “We that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened; not for that we would be unclothed, (2 Cor. 5:4, that is not enough, to be delivered out of the miseries of life, by laying down this passive part—is not that which will terminate their desires,) but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.” Theirs are not brutal groans, the complaint of oppressed sensitive nature under a present evil; but rational and spiritual, the expressions of desire strongly carried to pursue an apprehended suitable good.

John Howe, The Works of the Reverend John Howe, Volume 2 (London: William Tegg and Co., 1848), 286-87.[1]  A temporary life, a life ended with material death would be inconsistent with the goodness of God.

It is an interesting observation that those who seek to rest in base materialism – we are splendid accidental machinery, soon to pass into oblivion – must also diminish and deny the obvious exaltation of humanity. On one end, we are little different than animals (although I heard a famous evolutionary scientist express his admiration for our ability to use symbolic language, an attribute for which he admitted he could find no explanation). On the other we are less than the animals, for it would be best if we were removed from the planet so that the I more “natural” beasts could carry on. [2]

[1] In making this observation, Howe was answering the sort of question being asked within this time and place. Hamlet famously makes such observations about the nature of man. Howe seems to be echoing the thoughts of Shakespeare in Act II, scene 2 of Hamlet:

What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason!

how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how

express and admirable! in action how like an angel!

in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the

world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me,

what is this quintessence of dust? man delights not

me: no, nor woman neither, though by your smiling

you seem to say so.

And, in Act IV, scene 4, Hamlet asks

                                What is a man,

If his chief good and market of his time

Be but to sleep and feed? a beast, no more.

Sure, he that made us with such large discourse,

Looking before and after, gave us not

That capability and god-like reason

To fust in us unused.

[2] Stephen Falken: Now, children, come on over here. I’m going to tell you a bedtime story. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin. Once upon a time, there lived a magnificent race of animals that dominated the world through age after age. They ran, they swam, and they fought and they flew, until suddenly, quite recently, they disappeared. Nature just gave up and started again. We weren’t even apes then. We were just these smart little rodents hiding in the rocks. And when we go, nature will start again. With the bees, probably. Nature knows when to give up, David.  – War Games