A Dissertation Concerning The End For Which God Created The World (eBook)

by Jonathan Edwards

in ePub, .mobi & .pdf formats

TO avoid all confusion in our inquiries and reasonings concerning the end for which God created the world, a distinction should be observed between the chief end for which an agent or efficient exerts any act and performs any work, and the ultimate end. These two phrases are not always precisely of the same signification; and though the chief end be always an ultimate end, yet every ultimate end is not always a chief end. 

A chief end is opposite to an inferior end; an ultimate end is opposite to a subordinate end. A subordinate end is something that an agent seeks and aims at in what he does; but yet don't seek it, or regard it at all upon its own account, but wholly on the account of a further end, or in order to some other thing which it is considered as a means of. Thus when a man that goes a journey to obtain a medicine to cure him of some disease, and restore his health, the obtaining that medicine is his subordinate end; because 'tis not an end that he seeks for itself, or values at all upon its own account; but wholly as a means of a further end, viz. his health: separate the medicine from that further end, and it is esteemed good for nothing; nor is it at all desired. 

An ultimate end is that which the agent seeks in what he does for its own sake; that he has respect to, as what he loves, values and takes pleasure in on its own account, and not merely as a means of a further end: as when a man loves the taste of some particular sort of fruit, and is at pains and cost to obtain it, for the sake of the pleasure of that taste, which he values upon its own account, as he loves his own pleasure; and not merely for the sake of any other good, which he supposes his enjoying that pleasure will be the means of. 

Some ends are subordinate ends not only as they are subordinated to an ultimate end, but also to another end that is itself but a subordinate end: yea, there may be a succession or chain of many subordinate ends, one dependent on another, one sought for another: the first for the next; and that for the sake of the next to that, and so on in a long series before you come to anything that the agent aims at and seeks for its own sake: as when a man sells a garment to get money—to buy tools—to till his land—to obtain a crop—to supply him with food—to gratify his appetite. And he seeks to gratify his appetite on its own account, as what is grateful in itself. Here the end of his selling his garment is to get money; but getting money is only a subordinate end: 'tis not only subordinate to the last end, his gratifying his appetite; but to a nearer end, viz. his buying husbandry tools: and his obtaining these is only a subordinate end, being only for the sake of tilling land: and the tillage of land is an end not sought on its own account, but for the sake of the crop to be produced: and the crop produced is not an ultimate end, or an end sought for itself, but only for the sake of making bread: and the having bread is not sought on its own account, but for the sake of gratifying the appetite. 

Here the gratifying the appetite is called the ultimate end; because 'tis the last in the chain, where a man's aim and pursuit stops and rests, obtaining in that the thing finally aimed at. So whenever a man comes to that in which his desire terminates and rests, it being something valued on its own account, then he comes to an ultimate end, let the chain be longer or shorter; yea, if there be but one link or one step that he takes before he comes to this end. As when a man that loves honey puts it into his mouth for the sake of the pleasure of the taste, without aiming at anything further. So that an end which an agent has in view may be both his immediate and his ultimate end, his next and his last end. That end which is sought for the sake of itself, and not for the sake of a further end, is an ultimate end; it is ultimate or last, as it has no other beyond it for whose sake it is, it being for the sake of itself: so that here, the aim of the agent stops and rests (without going further) being come to the good which he esteems a recompense of its pursuit for its own value. 

Here it is to be noted that a thing sought may have the nature of an ultimate, and also of a subordinate end, as it may be sought partly on its own account, and partly for the sake of a further end. Thus a man in what he does may seek the love and respect of a particular person, partly on its own account, because 'tis in itself agreeable to men to be the objects of others' esteem and love: and partly, because he hopes through the friendship of that person to have his assistance in other affairs; and so to be put under advantage for the obtaining further ends. 

A chief end or highest end, which is opposite not properly to a subordinate end but to an inferior end, is something diverse from an ultimate end. The chief end is an end that is most valued; and therefore most sought after by the agent in what he does. 'Tis evident that to be an end more valued than another end is not exactly the same thing as to be an end valued ultimately, or for its own sake. This will appear, if it be considered 

1. That two different ends may be both ultimate ends, and yet not be chief ends. They may be both valued for their own sake, and both sought in the same work or acts, and yet one valued more highly and sought more than another: thus a man may go a journey to obtain two different benefits or enjoyments, both which may be agreeable to him in themselves considered, and so both may be what he values on their own account and seeks for their own sake; and yet one may be much more agreeable than the other: and so be what he sets his heart chiefly upon, and seeks most after in his going a journey. Thus a man may go a journey partly to obtain the possession and enjoyment of a bride that is very dear to him, and partly to gratify his curiosity in looking in a telescope, or some new-invented and extraordinary optic glass: both may be ends he seeks in his journey, and the one not properly subordinate or in order to another. One may not depend on another; and therefore both may be ultimate ends: but yet the obtaining his beloved bride may be his chief end, and the benefit of the optic glass, his inferior end. The former may be what he sets his heart vastly most upon, and so be properly the chief end of his journey. 

2. An ultimate end is not always the chief end, because some subordinate ends may be more valued and sought after than some ultimate ends. Thus for instance, a man may aim at these two things in his going a journey; one may be to visit his friends, and another to receive a great estate, or a large sum of money that lies ready for him, at the place to which he is going. The latter, viz. his receiving the sum of money, may be but a subordinate end: he may not value the silver and gold on their own account, but only for the pleasure, gratifications and honor; that is the ultimate end, and not the money which is valued only as a means of the other. But yet the obtaining the money, may be what is more valued, and so an higher end of his journey, than the pleasure of seeing his friends; though the latter is what is valued on its own account, and so is an ultimate end. 

But here several things may be noted: 

First, that when it is said that some subordinate ends may be more valued than some ultimate ends, 'tis not supposed that ever a subordinate end is more valued than that ultimate end or ends to which it is subordinate; because a subordinate end has no value, but what it derives from its ultimate end: for that reason it is called a subordinate end, because it is valued and sought, not for its own sake or its own value, but only in subordination to a further end, or for the sake of the ultimate end, that it is in order to. But yet a subordinate end may be valued more than some other ultimate end that it is not subordinate to, but is independent of it, and don't belong to that series, or chain of ends. Thus for instance: if a man goes a journey to receive a sum of money, not at all as an ultimate end, or because he has any value for the silver and gold for their own sake, but only for the value of the pleasure and honor that the money may be a means of—in this case it is impossible that the subordinate end, viz. his having the money, should be more valued by him than the pleasure and honor for which he values it. It would be absurd to suppose that he values the means more than the end, when he has no value for the means but for the sake of the end, of which it is the means: but yet he may value the money, though but a subordinate end, more than some other ultimate end to which it is not subordinate and with which it has no connection. For instance, more than the comfort of a friendly visit, which was one end of his journey. 

Secondly, not only is a subordinate end never superior to that ultimate end to which it is subordinate, but the ultimate end is always (not only equal but) superior to its subordinate end, and more valued by the agent; unless it be when the ultimate end entirely depends on the subordinate, so that he has no other means by which to obtain his last end, and also is looked upon as certainly connected with it—then the subordinate end may be as much valued as the last end; because the last end, in such a case, does altogether depend upon, and is wholly and certainly conveyed by it. As for instance, if a pregnant woman has a peculiar appetite to a certain rare fruit that is to be found only in the garden of a particular friend of hers, at a distance; and she goes a journey to go to her friend's house or garden, to obtain that fruit: the ultimate end of her journey, is to gratify that strong appetite; the obtaining that fruit, is the subordinate end of it. If she looks upon it, that the appetite can be gratified by no other means than the obtaining that fruit, and that it will certainly be gratified if she obtains it, then she will value the fruit as much as she values the gratification of her appetite. 

But otherwise, it will not be so: if she be doubtful whether that fruit will satisfy her craving, then she will not value it equally with the gratification of her appetite itself; or if there be some other fruit that she knows of that will gratify her desire, at least in part; which she can obtain without such inconvenience or trouble as shall countervail the gratification; which is in effect frustrating her of her last end, because her last end is the pleasure of gratifying her appetite, without any trouble that shall countervail, and in effect destroy it. Or if it be so, that her appetite cannot be gratified without this fruit, nor yet with it alone, without something else to be compounded with it—then her value for her last end will be divided between these several ingredients as so many subordinate, and no one alone will be equally valued with the last end. 

Hence it rarely happens among mankind that a subordinate end is equally valued with its last end; because the obtaining of a last end rarely depends on one single, uncompounded means, and is infallibly connected with that means: therefore, men's last ends are commonly their highest ends. 

Thirdly, if any being has but one ultimate end in all that he does, and there be a great variety of operations, his last end may justly be looked upon as his supreme end; for in such a case, every other end but that one is an end to that end, and therefore no other end can be superior to it. Because, as was observed before, a subordinate end is never more valued than the end to which it is subordinate. 

Moreover, the subordinate effects, events or things brought to pass, which all are means of this end, all uniting to contribute their share towards the obtaining the one last end, are very various; and therefore, by what has been now observed, the ultimate end of all must be valued more than any one of the particular means. This seems to be the case with the works of God, as may more fully appear in the sequel. 

From what has been said to explain what is intended by an ultimate end, the following things may be observed concerning ultimate ends in the sense explained. 

Fourthly, whatsoever any agent has in view in anything he does, which he loves, or which is an immediate gratification of any appetite or inclination of nature, and is agreeable to him in itself, and not merely for the sake of something else, is regarded by that agent as his last end. The same may be said of avoiding of that which is in itself painful or disagreeable: for the avoiding of what is disagreeable is agreeable. This will be evident to any, bearing in mind the meaning of the terms. By last end being meant that which is regarded and sought by an agent, as agreeable or desirable for its own sake; a subordinate, that which is sought only for the sake of something else. 

Fifthly, from hence it will follow that, if an agent in his works has in view more things than one that will be brought to pass by what he does, that are agreeable to him, considered in themselves, or what he loves and delights in on their own account—then he must have more things than one that he regards as his last ends in what he does. But if there be but one thing that an agent seeks, as the consequence of what he does that is agreeable to him, on its own account: then there can be but one last end which he has in all his actions and operations. 

But only here a distinction must be observed of things which may be said to be agreeable to an agent, in themselves considered in two senses. (1) What is in itself grateful to an agent, and valued and loved on its own account, simply and absolutely considered, and is so universally and originally, antecedent to and independent of all conditions, or any supposition of particular cases and circumstances. And (2) what may be said to be in itself agreeable to an agent, hypothetically and consequentially: or, on supposition or condition of such and such circumstances or on the happening of such a particular case. Thus, for instance: a man may originally love society. An inclination to society may be implanted in his very nature: and society may be agreeable to him antecedent to all presupposed cases and circumstances: and this may cause him to seek a family. And the comfort of society may be originally his last end in seeking a family. But after he has a family, peace, good order and mutual justice and friendship in his family may be agreeable to him, and what he delights in for their own sake: and therefore these things may be his last end in many things he does in the government and regulation of his family. 

But they were not his original end with respect to his family. The justice and peace of a family was not properly his last end before he had a family, that induced him to seek a family, but consequentially. And the case being put of his having a family, then these things wherein the good order and beauty of a family consist become his last end in many things he does in such circumstances. In like manner we must suppose that God before he created the world had some good in view, as a consequence of the world's existence, that was originally agreeable to him in itself considered, that inclined him to create the world, or bring the universe with various intelligent creatures into existence in such a manner as he created it. But after the world was created, and such and such intelligent creatures actually had existence, in such and such circumstances, then a wise, just regulation of them was agreeable to God, in itself considered. And God's love of justice, and hatred of injustice, would be sufficient in such a case to induce God to deal justly with his creatures, and to prevent all injustice in him towards them. But yet there is no necessity of supposing that God's love of doing justly to intelligent beings, and hatred of the contrary, was what originally induced God to create the world, and make intelligent beings; and so to order the occasion of doing either justly or unjustly. The justice of God's nature makes a just regulation agreeable, and the contrary disagreeable, as there is occasion, the subject being supposed and the occasion given: but we must suppose something else that should incline him to create the subjects or order the occasion. 

So that perfection of God which we call his faithfulness, or his inclination to fulfill his promises to his creatures, could not properly be what moved him to create the world; nor could such a fulfillment of his promises to his creatures be his last end in giving the creatures being. But yet after the world is created, after intelligent creatures are made, and God has bound himself by promise to them, then that disposition which is called his faithfulness may move him in his providential disposals towards them: and this may be the end of many of God's works of providence, even the exercise of his faithfulness in fulfilling his promises. And may be in the lower sense his last end. Because faithfulness and truth must be supposed to be what is in itself amiable to God, and what he delights in for its own sake. Thus God may have ends of particular works of providence, which are ultimate ends in a lower sense, which were not ultimate ends of the creation. 

So that here we have two sorts of ultimate ends; one of which may be called an original and independent ultimate end; the other consequential5 and dependent. For 'tis evident, the latter sort are truly of the nature of ultimate ends: because, though their being agreeable to the agent, or the agent's desire of them, be consequential on the existence, or supposition of proper subjects and occasion; yet the subject and occasion being supposed, they are agreeable and amiable in themselves. We may suppose that to a righteous Being, the doing justice between two parties with whom he is concerned, is agreeable in itself, and is loved for its own sake, and not merely for the sake of some other end: and yet we may suppose, that a desire of doing justice between two parties, may be consequential on the being of those parties, and the occasion given. 

Therefore I make a distinction between an end that in this manner is consequential, and a subordinate end. 

It may be observed that when I speak of God's ultimate end in the creation of the world in the following discourse, I commonly mean in that highest sense, viz. the original ultimate end. 

Sixthly, it may be further observed that the original ultimate end or ends of the creation of the world is alone that which induces God to give the occasion for consequential ends by the first creation of the world, and the original disposal of it. And the more original the end is, the more extensive and universal it is. That which God had primarily in view in creating, and the original ordination of the world, must be constantly kept in view, and have a governing influence in all God's works, or with respect to everything that he does towards his creatures. 

And therefore, 

Seventhly, if we use the phrase "ultimate end" in this highest sense, then the same that is God's ultimate end in creating the world, if we suppose but one such end, must be what he makes his ultimate aim in all his works, in everything he does either in creation or providence. But we must suppose that in the use which God puts the creatures to that he hath made, he must evermore have a regard to the end for which he has made them. But if we take "ultimate end" in the other lower sense, God may sometimes have regard to those things as ultimate ends, in particular works of providence, which could not in any proper sense be his last end in creating the world. 

Eighthly, on the other hand, whatever appears to be God's "ultimate end" in any sense of his works of providence in general, that must be the ultimate end of the work of creation itself. For though it be so that God may act for an end that is an ultimate end in a lower sense, in some of his works of providence, which is not the ultimate end of the creation of the world: yet this doth not take place with regard to the works of providence in general. But we may justly look upon whatsoever has the nature of an ultimate end of God's works of providence in general, that the same is also an ultimate end of the creation of the world; for God's works of providence in general are the same with the general use that he puts the world to that he has made. And we may well argue from what we see of the general use which God makes of the world to the general end for which he designed the world. Though there may be some things that are ends of particular works of providence, that were not the last end of the creation, which are in themselves grateful to God in such particular emergent circumstances; and so are last ends in an inferior sense: yet this is only in certain cases, or particular occasions. But if they are last ends of God's proceedings in the use of the world in general, this shows that his making them last ends don't depend on particular cases and circumstances, but the nature of things in general, and his general design in the being and constitution of the universe. 

Ninthly, if there be but one thing that is originally, and independent on any future supposed cases, agreeable to God, to be obtained by the creation of the world, then there can be but one last end of God's work, in this highest sense: but if there are various things, properly diverse one from another, that are, absolutely and independently on the supposition of any future given cases, agreeable to the Divine Being, which are actually obtained by the creation of the world, then there were several ultimate ends of the creation, in that highest sense.


Table of Contents

Introduction. Containing Explanations of Terms, and General Positions

Chapter One. Wherein Is Considered What Reason Teaches Concerning This Affair 

SECTION I. Some Things Observed in General Which Reason Dictates 

SECTION II. Some Farther Observations Concerning Those Things Which Reason Leads Us to Suppose God Aimed At in the Creation of the World, Showing Particularly What Things That Are Absolutely Good Are Actually the Consequence of the Creation of the World 

SECTION III. Wherein It Is Considered How, on the Supposition of God's Making the Forementioned Things His Last End, He Manifests a Supreme and Ultimate Regard to Himself in All His Works 

SECTION IV. Some Objections Considered Which May Be Made against the Reasonableness of What Has Been Said of God's Making Himself His Last End

Chapter Two. Wherein It Is Inquired, What Is to Be Learned from Holy Scriptures Concerning God's Last End in the Creation of the World 

SECTION I. The Scriptures Represent God as Making Himself His Own Last End in the Creation of the World 

SECTION II. Wherein Some Positions Are Advanced Concerning a Just Method of Arguing in This Affair from What We Find in Holy Scriptures 

SECTION III. Particular Texts of Scripture That Show That God's Glory Is an Ultimate End of the Creation 

SECTION IV. Places of Scripture That Lead Us to Suppose That God Created the World for His Name, to Make His Perfections Known; and That He Made It for His Praise 

SECTION V. Places of Scripture from Whence It May Be Argued That Communication of Good to the Creature Was One Thing Which God Had in View as an Ultimate End of the Creation of the World 

SECTION VI. Wherein Is Considered What Is Meant by the "Glory of God" and the "Name of God" in Scripture, When Spoken of as God's End in His Works 

SECTION VII. Showing That the Ultimate End of the Creation of the World is But One, and What That One End Is 

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