« PreviousContinue »
increasing communication of himself through eternity, is an increasing knowledge of God, love to him, and joy in him. And it is to be considered, that the more those divine communications increase in the creature, the more it becomes one with God : for so much the more is it united to God in love, the heart is drawn nearer and nearer to God, and the union with him becomes more firm and close : and, at the same time, the creature becomes more and more conformed to God. The image is more and more perfect, and so the good that is in the creature comes for ever nearer and nearer to an identity with that which is in God. In the view therefore of God, who has a comprehensive prospect of the increasing union and conformity through eternity, it must be an infinitely strict and perfect nearness, conformity, and oneness. For it will for ever come nearer and nearer to that strictness and perfection of union which there is between the Father and the Son. So that in the eyes of God, who perfectly sees the whole of it, in its infinite progress and increase, it must come to an eminent fulfilment of Christ's request, in John xvii. 21, 23. “That they all may be one, as thou Father art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us; I in them and thou in me, that they may be made perfect one." In this view, those elect creatures, which must be looked upon as the end of all the rest of the creation, considered with respect to the whole of their eternal duration, and as such made God's end, must be viewed as being, as it were, one with God. They were respected as brought home to him, united with him, centering most perfectly, and as it were swallowed up in him: so that his respect to them finally coincides, and becomes one and the same, with respect to himself. The interest of the creature is, as it were, God's own interest, in proportion to the degree of their relation and union to God. Thus the interest of a man's family is looked upon as the same with his own interest ; because of the relation they stand in to him ; his propriety in them, and their strict union with him. But God's elect creatures, with respect to their eternal duration, are infinitely dearer to God, than a man's family is to him. What has been said shews, that as all things are from God, as their first cause and fountain; so all things tend to him, and in their progress come nearer and nearer to him through all eternity; which argues, that he who is their first cause is their last end.*
* This remark must be understood with limitation; as expressing the effect of benevolent influence, but not the effect of justice on a moral system. W.
Some objections considered, which may be made against the
reasonableness of what has been said of God making himself his last end.
Object. I. Some may object against what has been said as being inconsistent with God's absolute independence and immutability : particularly, as though God were inclined to a communication of his fulness, and emanations of his own glory, as being his own most glorious and complete state. It may be thought that this does not well consist with God being selfexistent from all eternity; absolutely perfect in himself, in the possession of infinite and independent good. And that, in general, to suppose that God makes himself his end, in the creation of the world, seems to suppose that he aims at some interest or happiness of his own, not easily reconcileable with his being perfectly and infinitely happy in himself. If it could be supposed that God needed any thing; or that the goodness of his creatures could extend to him ; or that they could be profitable to him ; it might be fit, that God should make himself, and his own interest, his highest and last end in creating the world. But seeing that God is above all need, and all capacity of being made better or happier in any respect; to what purpose should God make himself his end ; or seek to advance himself in any respect by any of his works? How absurd is it to suppose that God should do such great things, with a view to obtain what he is already most perfectly possessed of, and was so from all eternity; and therefore cannot now possibly need, nor with any colour of reason be supposed to seek ?
Answer 1. Many have wrong notions of God's happiness, as resulting from his absolute self-sufficience, independence, and immutability. Though it be true, that God's glory and happiness are in and of himself, are infinite and cannot be added to, and unchangeable, for the whole and every part of which he is perfectly independent of the creature; yet it does not hence follow, nor is it true, that God has no real and proper delight, pleasure or happiness, in any of his acts or communications relative to the creature, or effects he produces in them; or in any thing he sees in the creatures' qualifications, disposi. tions, actions and state.
God may have a real and proper pleasure or happiness in seeing the happy state of the creature; yet this may not be different from his delight in himself; being a delight in his own infinite goodness; or the exercise of that glorious pro. pensity of his nature to diffuse and communicate himself, and
so gratifying this inclination of his own heart. This delight which God has in his creatures' happiness, cannot properly be said to be what God receives from the creature. For it is only the effect of his own work in, and communications to the creature ; in making it, and admitting it to a participation of his fulness. As the sun receives nothing from the jewel that receives its light, and shines only by a participation of its brightness.
With respect also to the creature's holiness; God may have a proper delight and joy in imparting this to the creature, as gratifying hereby his inclination to communicate of his own excellent fulness. God may delight, with true and great pleasure, in beholding that beauty which is an image and communication of his own beauty, an expression and manifestation of his own loveliness. And this is so far from being an instance of his happiness not being in and from himself, that it is an evidence that he is happy in himself, or delights and has pleasure in his own beauty. If he did not take pleasure in the expression of his own beauty, it would rather be an evidence that he does not delight in his own beauty ; that he hath not his happiness and enjoyment in his own beauty and perfection. So that if we suppose God has real pleasure and happiness in the holy love and praise of his saints, as the image and communication of his own holiness, it is not properly any pleasure distinct from the pleasure he has in himself; but it is truly an instance of it.
And with respect to God's being glorified in those perfections wherein his glory consists, expressed in their corresponding effects,-as his wisdom in wise designs and well contrived works, his power in great effects, his justice in acts of righteousness, his goodness in communicating happiness,--this does not argue that his pleasure is not in himself, and his own glory; but the contrary. It is the necessary consequence of his delighting in the glory of his nature, that he delights in the emanation and effulgence of it.
Nor do these things argue any dependence in God on the creature for happiness. Though he has real pleasure in the creature's holiness and happiness, yet this is not properly any pleasure which he receives from the creature. For these things are what he gives the creature. They are wholly and entirely from him. His rejoicing therein is rather a rejoicing in his own acts, and his own glory expressed in those acts, than a joy derived from the creature. God's joy is dependent on nothing besides bis own act, which he exerts with an absolute and independent power. And yet, in some sense, it can be truly said, that God has the more delight and pleasure for the holiness and happiness of his creatures. Because God would be less happy, if he was less good: or if he had
not that perfection of nature which consists in a propensity of nature to diffuse his own fulness. And he would be less happy, if it were possible for him to be hindered in the exercise of his goodness, and his other perfections, in their proper effects. But he has complete happiness, because he has these perfections, and cannot be hindered in exercising and displaying them in their proper effects. And this surely is not because he is dependent; but because he is independent on any other that should hinder him.
From this view it appears, that nothing which has been said is in the least inconsistent with those expressions in scripture that signify,“ man cannot be profitable to God,” &c. For these expressions plainly mean no more than that God is absolutely independent of us; that we have nothing of our own, no stock from whence we can give to God: and that no part of his happiness originates from man.
From what has been said it appears, that the pleasure God hath in those things which have been mentioned, is rather a pleasure in diffusing, and communicating to, than in receiving from the creature. Surely it is no argument of indigence in God, that he is inclined to communicate of his infinite fulness. It is no argument of the emptiness or deficiency of a fountain, that it is inclined to overflow. Nothing from the creature alters God's happiness, as though it were changeable either by increase or diminution. For though these communications of God—these exercises, operations, and expressions of his glorious perfections which God rejoices in-are in time; yet his joy in them is without beginning or change. They were always equally present in the divine mind. He beheld them with equal clearness, certainty and fulness, in every respect, as he doth now. They were always equally present; as with him there is no variableness or succession. He ever beheld and enjoyed them perfectly in his own independent and immutable power and will.
Ans. 2. If any are not satisfied with the preceding answer, but still insist on the objection, let them consider whether they can devise any other scheme of God's last end in creating the world, but what will be equally obnoxious to this objection in its full force, if there be any force in it. For if God had any last end in creating the world, then there was something in some respect future, that he aimed at, and designed to bring to pass by creating the world; something that was agreeable to his inclination or will ; let that be his own glory, or the happiness of his creatures, or what it will. Now, if there be something that God seeks as agreeable, or grateful to him, then, in the accomplishment of it, he is gratified. If the last end which he seeks in the creation of the world be truly a thing grateful to him, (as certainly it is, if it be truly his end, and truly the object of his will,) then it is what he takes a real delight and pleasure in. But then, according to the argument of the objection, how can he have any thing future to desire or seek, who is already perfectly, eternally, and immutably satisfied in himself? What can remain for him to take any delight in, or to be further gratified by, whose eternal and unchangeable delight is in himself, as his own complete object of enjoyment? Thus the objector will be pressed with his own objection, let him embrace what notion he will of God's end in the creation. And I think he has no way left to answer but that which has been taken above.
It may therefore be proper here to observe, that let what will be God's last end, that he must have a real and proper pleasure in. Whatever be the proper object of his will, he is gratified in. And the thing is either grateful to him in itself, or for something else for which he wills it ; and so is his further end. But whatever is God's last end, that he wills for its own sake; as grateful to him in itself, or in which he has some degree of true and proper pleasure. Otherwise we must deny any such thing as will in God with respect to any thing brought to pass in time, and so must deny his work of creation, or any work of his Providence to be truly voluntary. But we have as much reason to suppose that God's works in creating and governing the world are properly the fruits of his will, as of his understanding. And if there be any such thing at all, as what we mean by acts of will in God; then he is not indifferent whether his will be fulfilled or not. And if he is not indifferent, then he is truly gratified and pleased in the fulfilment of his will. And if he has a real pleasure in attaining his end, then the attainment of it belongs to his happiness ; that in which God's delight or pleasure in any measure consists. To suppose that God has pleasure in things that are brought to pass in time, only figuratively and metaphorically, is to suppose that he exercises will about these things, and makes them his end only metaphorically.
Answ. 3. The doctrine that makes God's creatures and not himself to be his last end, is a doctrine the farthest from having a favourable aspect on God's absolute self-sufficience and independence. It far less agrees therewith than the doctrine against which this is objected. For we must conceive of the efficient as depending on his ultimate end. He depends on this end in his desires, aims, actions, and pursuits ; so that he fails in all his desires, actions, and pursuits, if he fails of his end. Now if God himself be his last end, then in his dependence on his end he depends on nothing but himself. If all things be of him, and to him, and he the first and the last, this shews him to be all in all. He is all to himself. He out of himself in what he seeks ; but his desires and pursuits as