« PreviousContinue »
in any one to forego his own interest for the sake of others, is no further excellent, no further worthy the name of generosity than it is a treating things according to their true value ; a prosecuting something most worthy to be prosecuted ; an expression of a disposition to prefer something to selfinterest, that is indeed preferable in itself. But if God be indeed so great, and so excellent, that all other beings are as nothing to him, and all other excellency be as nothing and less than nothing, and vanity in comparison of his ; and God be omniscient, and infallible, and perfectly knows that he is infinitely the most valuable being ; then it is fit that his heart should be agreeable to this, which is indeed the true nature and proportion of things, and agreeable to this infallible and all comprehending understanding which he has of them, and that perfectly clear light in which he views them; and so it is fit and suitable that he should value himself infinitely more than his creatures. 2. In created beings, a regard to selfinterest may propcrly be set in opposition to the public welfare ; because the private interest of one person may be inconsistent with the public good ; at least it may be so in the apprehension of that, person. That, which this person looks upon as his
interest may interfere with, or oppose the general good. .
Hence his private interest may be regarded and pursued in opposition to the public. But this cannot be with respect to the Supreme Being, the author and head of the whole system, on whom all absolutely depend ; who is the fountain of being and good to the whole. It is more absurd to suppose that his interest should be opposite to the interest of the universal system, than that the welfare of the head, heart, and vitals of the natural body, should be opposite to the welfare of the body. And it is impossible that God, who is omniscient, should apprehend the matter thus, viz. his interest, as being inconsistent with the good and interest of the whole.
3. God's seeking himself in the creation of the world, in the manner which has been supposed, is so far from being inconsistent with the good of his creatures, or any
Vol. VI, G
possibility of being so; that it is a kind of regard to himself that inclines him to seek the good of his creature. It is a regard to himself that disposes him to diffuse and communicate himself. It is such a delight in his own internal fulness and glory, that disposes him to an abundant effusion and emanation of that glory. The same disposition, that inclines him to delight in his glory, causes him to delight in the exhibitions, expressions and communications of it. This is a natural conclusion. If there were any person of such a taste and disposition of mind, that the brightness and light of the sun seemed unlovely to him, he would be willing that the sun's brightness and light should be retained within itself: But they, that delight in it, to whom it appears lovely and glorious, will esteem it an amiable and glorious thing to have it diffused and communicated through the World. Here by the way it may be properly considered, whether some writers are not chargeable with inconsistence in this respect, viz. that whereas they speak against the doctrine of God’s making himself his own highest and last end, as though this were an ignoble selfishness in God; when indeed he only is fit to be made the highest end, by himself and all other beings; inasmuch as he is the highest Being, and infinitely greater and more worthy than all others..... Yet with regard to creatures who are infinitely less worthy of supreme and ultimate regard, they (in effect at least) suppose that they necessarily at all times seek their own happiness, and make it their ultimate end in all, even their most virtuous actions : And that this principle, regulated by wisdom and prudence, as leading to that which is their true and highest happiness is the foundation of all virtue and every thing that is morally good and excellent in them. OBJEction 3. To what has been supposed, that God makes himself his end in this way, viz. in seeking that his glory and excellent perfection should be known, esteemed, loved and delighted in by his creatures, it may be objected, that this seems unworthy of Cod. It is considered as below a truly great man, to be much influenced in his conduct, by a desire of popular applause. The notice and admiration of a gazing multitude, would be esteemed but a low end, to be aimed at by a prince or philosopher, in any great and noble enterprize. How much more is it unworthy the great God, to perform his magnificent works, e.g. the creation of the vast universe, out of regard to the notice and admiration of worms of the dust : That the displays of his magnificence may be gazed at, and applauded by those who are infinitely more beneath him, than the meanest rabble are beneath the greatest prince or philosopher.
This objection is specious. It hath a shew of argument: But it will appear to be nothing but a shew....if we consider,
1. Whether or no it be not worthy of God, to regard and value what is excellent and valuable in itself, and so to take Pleasure in its existence. r
I seems not liable to any doubt, that there could be nothing future, or no future existence worthy to be desired or sought by God, and so worthy to be made his end, if no future existence was valuable and worthy to be brought to effect. If when the world was not, there was any possible future thing fit and valuable in itself, I think the knowledge of God’s glory, and the esteem and love of it must be so. Understanding and will are the highest kind of created existence. And if they be valuable, it must be in their exercise. But the highest and most excellent kind of their cxercise, is in some actual knowledge and exercise of will. And certainly the most excellent actual knowledge and will, that can bc in the creature, is the knowledge and the love of God. And the most true, excellent knowledge of God is the knowledge of his glory or moral excellence, and the most excellent exercise of the will consists in esteem and love, and a delight in his glory. If any created existence is in itself worthy to be, or any thing that ever was future is worthy of existence, such a communication of divine fulness, such an emanation and expression of the divine glory is worthy of existence. But if nothing that ever was future was worthy to exist, then no future thing was worthy to be aimed
at by God in creating the world. And if nothing was worthy to be aimed at in creation, then nothing was worthy to be God’s end in creation. If God’s own excellency and glory is worthy to be highly valued and delighted in by him, then the value and esteem hereof by others, is worthy to be regarded by him ; for this is a necessary consequence. To make this plain, let it be considered how it is with regard to the excellent qualities of another. If we highly value the virtues and excellencies of a friend, in proportion as we do so, we shall approve of and like others’ esteem of them ; and shall disapprove and dislike the contempt of them. If these virtues are truly valuable, they are worthy that we should thus approve others' esteem, and disapprove their contempt of them. And the case is the same with respect to any being's own qualities or attributes. If he highly esteems them, and greatly delights in them, he will naturally and necessarily love to see esteem of them in others, and dislike their disesteem. And if the attributes are worthy to be highly esteemed by the being who hath them, so is the esteem of them in others worthy to be proportionably approved and regarded. I desire it may be considered, whether it be unfit that God should be displeased with contempt of him: self. If not, but on the contrary, it be fit and suitable that he should be displeased with this, there is the same reason that he should be pleased with the proper love, esteem and honor of himself. The matter may be also cleared, by considering what it would become us to approve and value with respect to any public society we belong to, e.g. our nation or country. It becomes us to love our country, and therefore it becomes us to value the just honor of our country. But the same that it becomes us to value and desire for a friend, and the same that it becomes us to desire and seek for the community, the same does it become God to value and seek for himself; i. e. on supposition it becomes God to love himself as well as it does men to love a friend or the public; which I think has been before proved.
Here are two things that ought particularly to be adverted to. l. That in God, the love of himself, and the love of the public are not to be distinguished, as in man, because God's being, as it were, comprehends all. His existence, being infinite, must be equivalent to universal existence. And for the same reason that public affection in the creature is fit and beautiful, God's regard to himself must be so likewise. 2. In God, the love of what is fit and decent, or the love of virtue, cannot be a distinct thing from the love of himself. Because the love of God is that wherein all virtue and holiness does primarily and chiefly consist, and God’s own holiness must primarily consist in the love of himself, as was before observed. And if God's holiness consists in love to himself, then it will imply an approbation of, and pleasedness with the esteem and love of him in others ;
for a being that loves himself, necessarily loves love to
himself. If holiness in God consist chiefly in love to himself, holiness in the creature must chiefly consist in love to him. And if God loves holiness in himself, he must love it in the creature. Virtue, by such of the late philosophers as seem to be in thief repute, is placed in public affection or general benevolence. And if the essence of virtue lies primarily in this, then the love of virtue itself is virtuous no otherwise than as it is implied in, or arises from this public affection, or extensive benevolence of mind. Because if a man truly loves the public, he necessarily loves love to the public. Now, therefore, for the same reason, if universal benevolence in the highest sense, be the same thing with benevblence to the Divine Being, who is in effect universal being, it will follow, that love to virtue itself is no otherwise virtuous, than as it is implied in or arises from love to the Divine Being. Consequently God's own love to virtue is implied in love to himself; and is virtuous no otherwise than as it arises from love to himself. So that God’s virtuous disposition, appearing in love to holiness in the creature, is to be resolved into the same thing with love to himself. And consequently whereinsoever he makes virtue his