God’s God-Centeredness 1

From Jonathan Edwards

In the last section I observed some things which are actually the consequence of the creation of tire world, which seem absolutely valuable in themselves, and so worthy to be made God’s last end in his work. I now proceed to inquire, how God’s making such things as these his last end, is consistent with his making himself his last end, or his manifesting an ultimate respect to himself in his acts and works. Because it is agreeable to the dictates of reason, that in all his proceedings he should set himself highest; therefore, I would endeavour to show, how his infinite love to and delight in himself, will naturally cause him to value and delight in these things: or rather, how a value to these things is implied in his value of that infinite fulness of good that is in himself.

Now, with regard to the first of the particulars mentioned above—God’s regard to the exercise of those attributes of his nature, in their proper operations and effects, which consist in a sufficiency for these operations—it is not hard to conceive that God’s regard to himself, and value for his own perfections, should cause him to value these exercises and expressions of’ his perfections; inasmuch as their excellency consists in their relation to use, exercise, and operation. God’s love to himself, and his own attributes, will therefore make him delight in that which is the use, end, and operation of these attributes. If one highly esteem and delight in the virtues of a friend, as wisdom, justice, &c. that have relation to action, this will make him delight in the exercise and genuine effects of these virtues. So if God both esteem and delight in his own perfections and virtues, he cannot but value and delight in the expressions and genuine effects of them. So that in delighting in the expressions of his perfections, he manifests a delight in himself; and in making these expressions of his own perfections his end, he makes himself his end.
And with respect to the second and third particulars, the matter is no less plain. For he that loves any being, and has a disposition highly to prize and greatly to delight in his virtues and perfections, must from the same disposition be well pleased to have his excellencies known, acknowledged, esteemed, and prized by others. He that loves any thing, naturally loves the approbation of that thing, and is opposite to the disapprobation of it. Thus it is when one loves the virtues of a friend. And thus it will necessarily be, if a being loves himself and highly prizes his own excellencies; and thus it is fit it should be, if it be fit he should thus love himself, and prize his own valuable qualities; that is, it is fit that he should take delight in his own excellencies being seen, acknowledged, esteemed, and delighted in. This is implied in a love to himself and his own perfections; and in making this his end, he makes himself his end.
And with respect to the fourth and last particular, viz. God’s being disposed to an abundant communication, and glorious emanation, of that infinite fulness of good which he possesses, as of his own knowledge, excellency and happiness, in the manner he does; if we thoroughly consider the matter, it will appear, that herein also God makes himself his end, in such a sense, as plainly to manifest and testify a supreme and ultimate regard to himself.
Merely in this disposition to cause an emanation of his glory and fulness—which is prior to the existence of any other being, and is to be considered as the inciting cause of giving existence to other beings—God cannot so properly be said to make the creature his end, as himself. For the creature is not as yet considered as existing. This disposition or desire in God, must be prior to the existence of the creature, even in foresight. For it is a disposition that is the original ground even of the future, intended, and foreseen existence of the creature. God’s benevolence, as it respects the creature, may be taken either in a larger or stricter sense. In a larger sense, it may signify nothing diverse from that good disposition in his nature to communicate of his own fulness in general; as his knowledge, his holiness, and happiness; and to give creatures existence in order to it. This may be called benevolence, or love, because it is the same good disposition that is exercised in love. It is the very fountain from whence love originally proceeds, when taken in the most proper sense; and it has the same general tendency and effect in the creature’s well-being. But yet this cannot have any particular present or future created existence for its object; because it is prior to any such object, and the very source of the futurition of its existence. Nor is it really diverse from God’s love to himself; as will more clearly appear afterwards.

But God’s love may be taken more strictly, for this general disposition to communicate good, as directed to particular objects. Love, in the most strict and proper sense, presupposes the existence of the object beloved, at least in idea and expectation, and represented to the mind as future. God did not love angels in the strictest sense, but in consequence of his intending to create them, and so having an idea of future existing angels. Therefore his love to them was not properly what excited him to intend to create them. Love or benevolence, strictly taken, presupposes an existing object, as much as pity a miserable suffering object.

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