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EXPLAINED AND DEFENDED.
OF MAN'S CHIEF END.
Quest. I. What is the chief and highest end of man?
Answ. Man's chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him for ever. 1. IT is supposed, in this answer, that every intelligent crea
ture, acting as such, designs some end, which excites endeavours to attain it.
2. The ends for which we act, if warrantable, may be considered as to their degree of excellency, and, in proportion to it, are to be pursued by proper means conducing thereto.
3. There is one that may be termed the chief and highest end, as having an excellency and tendency to make us blessed above all others : this consists, as it is observed in this answer, in the glorifying and eternal enjoyment of God, the fountain of blessedness.
If it be enquired with what propriety these may both be called chief and highest, the answer is obvious and easy, viz. That the former is absolutely so, beyond which nothing more excellent or desirable can be conceived ; the latter is the highest or best in its kind, which, notwithstanding, is referred, as a means leading to the other; and both these ends, which, with this distinction, we call chief and highest, are to be particularly considered by us, together with the connexion that there is between them. (a.)
1. We are to consider what it is to glorify God. In order to our understanding of this, let it be premised,
a He who glorifies God intentionally, thereby promotes his own happiness. Oir enjoying God is glorifying him. The two objects coalesce. Vide note on Page 19.
1. That there is a great difference between God's glorifying himself and our glorifying him; he glorifies himself when he demonstrates or shews forth his glory; we glorify him by ascribing to him the glory that is his due: even as the sun discovers its brightness by its rays, and the eye beholds it. God glorifies himself, by furnishing us with matter for praise ; we glorify him when we offer praise, or give unto him the glory due to his name.
2. Creatures are said to glorify God various ways: some things do it only objectively, as by them, angels and men are led to glorify him; thus the heavens declare his glory, Psal. xix. 1. The same might be said of all other inanimate creatures which glorify God, by answering the end of their creation, though they know it not: but intelligent creatures, and particularly men, are said to glorify God actively; and this they do by admiring and adoring his divine perfections : these, as incomprehensible, are the object of admiration ; and accordingly the apostle admires the divine wisdom, Rom. xi. 33. O the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God; how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! and as they are divine, so they are the object of adoration : God is to be admired in all the displays of his relative or manifestative glory; and his work which men behold, is to be magnified, Job xxxvi. 24. But he is to be adored more especially for his essential perfections.
We are to glorify God, by recommending, proclaiming, and setting forth his excellency to others. What we have the highest yalue for, we desire that others may have the same regard to it with ourselves : thus it is observed by the evangelist, that when the disciples received their first conviction that Jesus was the Messiah, they imparted this to others; as Andrew to Peter, and Philip to Nathanael, John i. 41, 45. so the woman
i of Samaria being convinced hereof, endeavoured to persuade all her neighbours to believe in him, as she did, John iv. 28, 29. Thus we glorify God by making mention of his name with reverence, proclaiming his goodness with thankfulness, and inviting others, as the Psalmist does, Psal. xxxiv. 8. to taste and see that he is good.
But since this is a very comprehensive duty including in it the whole of practical religion, it may be considered under the following particulars.
1. We glorify God by confessing and taking shame to ourselves for all the sins we have committed, which is interpretatively to acknowledge the holiness of his nature, and of his law, which the apostle asserts to be haly, just, and good, Rom. vii. 12. This Joshua advises Achan to do; to give glory to God, by making confession to him, Josh. vii. 19. And thus the penia tent thief, who was crucified with our Saviour, glorified God, by confessing that he received the due reward of his deeds, Luke xxiii . 40, 41. So did the Levites, in their prayer
recorded by Nehemiah, when they said to God, Thou art just in all that is brought upon us, for thou hast done right, but we have done wickedly, Neh. ix. 33.
2. By loving and delighting in him above all things, which is to act as those who own the transcendent amiableness of his perfections, as the object of their highest esteem. Thus the Psalmist
says, Psal. lxxiii. 25. Whom have I in heaven but thee; and there is none, or nothing, upon earth, that I desire besides thee.
3. By believing and trusting in him, committing all our concerns, both in life and death, for time and eternity, into his hands: thus Abraham is said to be strong in faith, giving glory to God, Rom. iv. 20. And the apostle Paul, 2 Tim. 12. to have committed his all to him.
4. By a fervent zeal for his honour; and that either for the honour of his truth and gospel, when denied, disbelieved, or perverted; or for the honour of his holiness, or any of his other, perfections, when they are reflected on, or reproached, either by the tongues or actions of those who set themselves against him.
5. By improving our talents, and bringing forth fruit in pro. portion to the means we enjoy; herein, says our Saviour, is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit, John xv. 8.
6. By walking humbly, thankfully, and chearfully before God. Humility acknowledges that infinite distance which is between him and us; retains a due sense of our own unworthiness of all we have or hope for; and owns every thing we re; ceive to be the gift of grace; By the grace of God, says the apostle, I am what I am, 1 Cor. xv. 10. Thankfulness gives him the glory, as the author of every mercy; and accordingly sets a due value on it, in that respect. And to walk chearfully before him, is to recommend his service as most agreeable, whereby we discover that we do not repent that we were engaged therein ; which is what the Psalmist intends, when he says, Psal. c. 2. Serve the Lord with gladness.
7. By heavenly-mindedness; when we desire to be with him to behold his glory. To which we must add, that all this is to be done in the name of Christ, our great Mediator, and by strength derived from him.
8. As we are to glorify God, by yielding obedience to his commanding will, as in the aforesaid instances, so we are to do it by an entire submission to his disposing will; particularly, when under afflictive dispensations of providence, we must own his sovereignty and right to do what he will with us as his qu'ils Matth. *x. 15. and that these afflictions are infinitely less than our iniquities deserve, Ezra is. 13. And we must adore his wisdom and goodness in trying our graces hereby, and dealing with us in such a way ́aś is needful, and that only for a season, 1 Pet. i. 6. And we are to own his goodness in suiting our strength to our burdens, and over-ruling all this for our spiritual advantage. It also consists in an easy, patient, and contented frame of spirit, without the least murmuring or repining thought; concluding, that whatever he does is well done, Psal. cxix. 65. And, which is something more, in rejoicing that we are counted worthy to suffer the loss of all things, yea, even of life itself, if called to it, for his sake; of which we have various instances in scripture, Acts v. 41. Heb. X. 34. Acts xx. 24.
Moreover, we ought to glorify God in all the natural, civil, and religious actions
of life, which are to be consecrated or devoted to him. We enjoy the blessings of life to no purpose if we do not live to the Lord, and thankfully acknowledge that we receive them all from his hand ; and whatever the calling bé, wherewith we are cailed, we must therein abide with him, and see that we have his warrant to engage in it, and expect success from his blessing attending it, or else it will be to no purpose. Thus says Moses, It is the
Lord thy God that giveth thee power to get wealth, Deut. viii. 18. And, in all our dealings with men, we are to consider ourselves as under the inspection of the all-seeing eye of God; to whom we are accountable for all we do, and should be induced hereby, to exercise ourselves always to keep consciences void of offence towards God and man.
As for religious duties, wherein we have more immediately to do with God, we are to glorify him, by taking up a profession of religion in general, as being influenced by his authority, encouraged by his promised assistance, and approving ourselves to him, as the searcher of hearts : and we must take heed that we do not rest in an outward form or shew of godliness, without the power thereof; or in having a name to live without a principal of spiritual life, by which we may be enabled to put forth Living and spiritual actions agreeable thereunto : and all these religious duties must be performed by faith, whereby we depend on Christ, our great Mediator, both for assistance and acceptance; by which means we glorify him, as the fountain of all
grace, in whom alone both our persons and services are accepted in the sight of God, and redound to his glory. And this is to be done at all times; so that when our thoughts are not directly conversant about any of the divine perfections, as it often happens, when we are engaged in some of the more minute, or indifferent actions of life; yet we are to glorify him habitually, as having our hearts right with him; so that whatever we do may refer ultimately to his glory. As every step the traveller takes is toward his journey's end, though it may not be every moment in his thoughts ; so the less important actions of life should be subservient to those that are of greater consequence, in which the honour of God and religion is more immediately concerned ; in which sense we may be said to glorify him therein.
Thus having considered, that it is our indispensible duty to make the glory of God our highest end in all our actions, we might farther add, as a motive to enforce it, that God is the first cause of all things, and his own glory was the end he designed in all his works, whether of creation or providence: and it is certain, that this is the most excellent end we can propose to ourselves; therefore the most valuable actions of life ought to be referred to it, and our hearts most set upon it ; otherwise
; we act below the dignity of our nature; and, while other creatures, designed only to glorify him objectively, answer the end for which they were made, we, by denying him that tribute of praise which is due from us, abuse our superior faculties, and live in vain.
II. The next thing to be considered is what it is to enjoy God.
1. This supposes a propriety in, or claim to him, as our God. We cannot be said to enjoy that which we have no right or claim to, as one man cannot be said to enjoy an estate which belongs to another; so God must be our God in covenant, or we cannot enjoy him; and that he is so, with respect to all that fear him, is evident, inasmuch as he gives them leave to say, Psal. xlviii. 14. This God is our God; and, Psal. Ixvii, 6, God, even our God, shall bless us.
2. To enjoy God, is to have a special gracious communion with him, to converse or walk with him, and to delight in him; as when we can say, 1 John i. 3. Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. This enjoyment of God, or communion with him, is,
(1.) That which we are blessed with in this world, which is but imperfect, as we know and love him but in part, and our communion with biin is often interrupted and weakened, through the prevalency of indwelling sin: and that joy and delight which arises from thence is often clouded and sullied ; and, at best, we enjoy him here but in a mediate way, in and under his ordinances, as agreeable to this present state.
(2.) Believers shall enjoy him perfectly and immediately in heaven, without intermission or abatement, and that for ever; this is called, Seeing him as he is, 1 John iii. 2. and being with him where he is, to behold his glory, John xvii. 24. And in order hereto, their souls shall be made capable or receptive hereof, by the removal not only of all sinful but natural imper, VOL. I.