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SE R MON XI.
The Glory of God the Chief End of Man.
Cor. . 31. Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever
se do, do all to the glory of God.
THESE words contain a general resolution of all cases of conscience and difficulties that had arisen in the Corinthian Church respecting the eating of meats, which had been offered to idols. It was the common practice of the heathen, Arlt to offer meat in their pagan worship on the alters of their gods. and afterwards sell it in the public markets. As this was an osual practice in the city of Corinth, it created no small perplexity among the christians. Wherefore the Apostle enters fully into this subject, and states the duty of every class of chris. tians, the weak and the Atrong, those who thought they might cat these meats, and those who were of a different opinion. And here he sums up the whole matter in this general maxim or rule in our text. This was designed not merely for the direction of this church in a particular instance, but for the government of all christians throughout all generations in the general and habitual conduct of their lives. A principle
uffu rreme respect to the glory of God must reign in the heart, and preside over the whole tenor of their practice. The mere ja wfalness of an adion is not always to be considered, but the expediency of it likewise must be taken into view. There are fome things which are duty without hesitation, but there are many things in which time, place, and a variety of circumstances must be attended to, in order to our determining, whethes the performance of them be for the honor of God.
This rule is laid down by St. Paul as the landard of all our actions. The lowest and most common, as well as the highest and most important. There are no branches of conduct cxempted from this authority. A neglect of or a disrespect to this rule, is as real rebellion against the principles of reason, as those of revelation.
This maxim plainly supposes, that the glory of God, ought to be so much the ground of human actions, that none can be morally good or virtuous, which originate not from this source. Where the heart is destitute of this principle and not governed by it, all must be wrong, vicious, and finful. The chief end of man is to glorify God, and the infallable connection is the en. joyment of him forever.
The do&trine in our text is evidently this, that all our actions ought to be done to the glory of God. This does not suppose we are always to have this object in view, or immediately contemplate it previous to the performance of every action, This would be an impoflible fuppofition. We know not that angels or the spirits of just men made perfect, or that even the man Christ Jesus, called upon this principle to lead him in the performance of every action. It is enough for us sinful and very imperfect creatures to know, that the glory of God, ought to be our habitual and prevalent end, though not continually ex. ercised and brought into view. If this be the habit of the foul, the frame of the heart, and maintain a prevalency in the con
persation, it surely conireas the foul with falvation, notwithlanding all the deviations, relaxations, departures, negligencies, and the whole train of infirmities which are our constant attendants.
When it is here aflirmed that whatsoever we do ought to have a respect to the glory of God, the meaning does not ex. clude a proper and rational regard to ourselves. We ought to love ourselves, for this is the constituted standard of love to our neighbor. We affirm without hesitation that persons ought to regard themselves, their own interest, and the happi. ness of their families and near and dear connections, only let reason and religion fis every thing in its proper place and order.
This apostolic maxim does not mean to exciude, a just rel. pect to the future recompence of reward. If we regard the glory of God and our own future existence, all these things are admitted to their proper situation, both by reason and revelation. The great features of beauty consist in light and shade, and exhibited in proper time and place. That persons own interest should influence them in matters natural, civil, moral and religious, cannot be denied by any person in the exercise of reason, who believes in divine revelation. The passions of hope and fear are continually brought before us to influence our actions, both in the natural and Christian system. The great question is, whether self interest, or the love of God, ought to hold the supreme influence in our conduct. Nature, even corrupted nature, admitting a glimpse of the light of reason over the darkness, points the latter to be the directorial feat. Were this order to be reversed, and the reins surrender. ed to felf-interest, feparate and independant, this would be giving ihe chariot of the sun, of all rectitude and propriety, to the filly, proud and ambitious boy Pliaeton, and throwing the whole world into a blaze. If the leading respect, and the first principles of duty, are perverted from God, nothing but confu.
fion, disorder and unhappiness can follow. If any circumstan. ces could alter this supreme right, it might be altogether aboTiled ; a right which may be impaired, may also be extinguish. ed; and this would reduce heaven to earth; and in this situation all would be hell.
The blessed principle in our text places all things in their proper order, God as supreme, and all intelligent creatures in their respective stations, commanding and diffusing happiness to the utmost extension of creation. The actions of common, civil, and religious life, must all originate from this principle. These give life its value in a fpiritual and moral view, and raise the meanneft actions, even a cup of cold water, to an eternal reward. If any inferior principle leads our conduct, and habitually directs our actions, whether self interest, felf-love, or whatever else, our actions however fplendid and foowy before the world, there is no virtue and goodness in them before God. They are mere tinsel and appearance, and have no reality in
There are three things which form actions for the glory of God. First, they must be lawful ; fecondly, expedient and proper in time and place; thirdly, they must be impregnated with a supreme respect to the honor of God in their perfor. mance. If actions be unlawful no goodness of intention can make them virtuous; if the motives be finister, no perfection of external materiality, can give them value; all must be tinctured with an habitual and predominant respect to God, or be an abomination in the divine right.
These things being observed in illustration of the principio in the text, I proceed to offer fome things farther in conform mation and establishment of its truth.
First, this doctrine is conärmed by all those passages of
Scripture, which declare that christians ought not to live to themselves. Their own individual interest and personal advantage, ought not to be their chief end in life, and the ultimate view in their actions. An aphorism of the gospel is, " that believers should not live to themselves. None of us, “ faith St. Paul, liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself; s for whether we live, we live unto the Lord ; and whether '“ we die, we die unto the Lord ; whether we live therefore of ".die, we are the Lord's." All know that to live to ourselvese is to act under the influence of a principle to please and serve ourselves, or our own corrupt propensities and inclinations, to promote our own separate interest and happinefs, aside from the honor of God. Whether our own individual happiness 'be present or future, in exclusion of a supreme respect to God, the issue will be the same. If we are not to live, and eat and drink for ourselves, it must be for the glory of God. No other idea can enter into the heart of man, of living to God, but living with a view to glorify him.
Secondly, the doctrine of the text is illustrated and estab. lished by all those fcriptures which state it the duty of man to intend the glory of God as the highest end of all his actions. “ If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if
any man miniller, let him do it as of the ability which God “giveth, that God in all things may be glorified, thro' Jesus “ Christ, to whom be praise and dominion forever and ever.” This shows us that the ultimate end of all our adions, ought to be the great Supreme.
Another thing of equal import is asserted with regard to Christians; “ Ye are not your own, for ye are bought with a “price, therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, " which are God's.” Remark here, christians are not their own, but God's, his right and property, not merely by creation but by redemption and fanctification. The inference is, we