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Works of Jonathan Edwards, Volume One
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SECT. II.

Some further observations concerning those things which reason leads us to suppose God aimed at in the creation of the world.

From what was last observed, it seems to be the most proper way of proceeding—as we would see what light reason will give us, respecting the particular end or ends, God had ultimately in view in the creation of the world—to consider, what thing or things are actually the effect or consequence of the creation of the world, that are simply and originally valuable in themselves. And this is what I would directly proceed to, without entering on any tedious metaphysical inquiries, wherein fitness, or amiableness, consists; referring what I say to the dictates of the reader’s mind, on sedate and calm reflection.

1. It seems a thing in itself proper and desirable, that the glorious attributes of God, which consist in a sufficiency to certain acts and effects, should be exerted in the production of such effects as might manifest his infinite power, wisdom, righteousness, goodness, &c. If the world had not been created, these attributes never would have had any exercise. The power of God, which is a sufficiency in him to produce great effects, must for ever have been dormant and useless as to any effect. The divine wisdom and prudence would have had no exercise in any wise contrivance, any prudent proceeding, or disposal of things; for there would have been no objects of contrivance or disposal. The same might be observed of God’s justice, goodness, and truth. Indeed God might have known as perfectly that he possessed these attributes, if they never had been exerted or expressed in any effect. But then, if the attributes which consist in a sufficiency for correspondent effects, are in themselves excellent, the exercises of them must likewise be excellent. If it be an excellent thing, that there should be a sufficiency for a certain kind of action or operation, the excellency of such a sufficiency must consist in its relation to this kind of operation or effect; but that could not be, unless the operation itself were excellent. A sufficiency for any work is no further valuable, than the work itself is valuable 195195    “The end of wisdom (says Mr. G. Tennent, in his sermon at the opening of the presbyterian church of Philadelphia) is design; the end of power is action; the end of goodness is doing good. To suppose these perfections no to be exerted would be to represent them as insignificant. Of what use would God’s wisdom be, it had nothing to design or direct? To what purpose his almightiness, if it never brought any thing to pass ? And of what avail his goodness, if it never did any good?” . As God therefore esteems these attributes themselves valuable, and delights in them; so it is natural to suppose that he delights in their proper exercise and expression. For the same reason that he esteems his own sufficiency wisely to contrive and dispose effects, he also will esteem the wise contrivance and disposition itself. And for the same reason, as he delights in his own disposition to do justly, and to dispose of things according to truth and just proportion; so he must delight in such a righteous disposal itself.

2. It seems to be a thing in itself fit and desirable, that the glorious perfections of God should be known, and the operations and expressions of them seen, by other beings besides himself. If it be fit that God’s power and wisdom, &c. should be exercised and expressed in some effects, and not lie eternally dormant, then it seems proper that these exercises should appear, and not be totally hidden and unknown. For if they are, it will be just the same, as to the above purpose, as if they were not. God as perfectly knew himself and his perfections, had as perfect an idea of the exercises and effects they were sufficient for, antecedently to any such actual operations of them, and since. If, therefore, it be nevertheless a thing in itself valuable, and worthy to be desired, that these glorious perfections be actually exhibited in their correspondent effects; then it seems also, that the knowledge of these perfections and discoveries is valuable in itself absolutely considered; and that it is desirable that this knowledge should exist. It is a thing infinitely good in itself, that God’s glory should be known by a glorious society of created beings. And that there should be in them an increasing knowledge of God to all eternity, is worthy to be regarded by him, to whom it belongs to order what is fittest and best. If existence is more worthy than defect and non-entity, and if any created existence is in itself worthy to be, then knowledge is; and if any knowledge, then the most excellent sort of knowledge, viz. that of God and his glory. This knowledge is one of the highest, most real, and substantial parts of all created existence, most remote from non-entity and defect.

3. As it is desirable in itself that God’s glory should be known, so when known it seems equally reasonable it should be esteemed and delighted in, answerably to its dignity. There is no more reason to esteem it a suitable thing, that there should be an idea in the understanding corresponding unto the glorious object, than that there should be a corresponding affection in the will. If the perfection itself be excellent, the knowledge of it is excellent, and so is the esteem and love of it excellent. And as it is fit that God should love and esteem his own excellence, it is also fit that he should value and esteem the love of his excellency. And if it becomes a being highly to value himself, it is fit that he should love to have himself valued and esteemed. If the idea of God’s perfection in the understanding be valuable, then the love of the heart seems to be more especially valuable, as moral beauty especially consists in the disposition and affection of the heart.

4. As there is an infinite fulness of all possible good in God—a fulness of every perfection, of all excellency and beauty, and of infinite happiness—and as this fulness is capable of communication, or emanation ad extra; so it seems a thing amiable and valuable in itself that this infinite fountain of good should send forth abundant streams. And as this is in itself excellent, so a disposition to this in the Divine Being, must he looked upon as an excellent disposition. Such an emanation of good is, in some sense, a multiplication of it. So far as the stream may be looked upon as any thing besides the fountain, so far it may be looked on as an increase of good. And if the fulness of good that is in the fountain, is in itself excellent, then the emanation, which is as it were an increase, repetition, or multiplication of it, is excellent. Thus it is fit, since there is an infinite fountain of light and knowledge, that this light should shine forth in beams of communicated knowledge and understanding; and, as there is an infinite fountain of holiness, moral excellence, and beauty, that so it should flow out in communicated holiness. And that, as there is an infinite fulness of joy and happiness, so these should have an emanation, and become a fountain flowing out in abundant streams, as beams from the sun.

Thus it appears reasonable to suppose, that it was God’s last end, that there might be a glorious and abundant emanation of his infinite fulness of good ad extra, or without himself; and that the disposition to communicate himself, or diffuse his own fulness, 196196    I shall often use the phrase God’s fulness, as signifying and comprehending all the good which is in God natural and moral, either excellence or happiness; partly, because I know of no better phrase to be used in this general meaning; and partly, because I am led hereto by some of the inspired writers, particularly the apostle Paul, who often useth the phrase in this sense. was what moved him to create the world. But here I observe, that there would be some impropriety in saying, that a disposition in God to communicate himself to the creature, moved him to create the world. For an inclination in God to communicate himself to an object, seems to presuppose the existence of the object, at least in idea. But the diffusive disposition that excited God to give creatures existence, was rather a communicative disposition in general, or a disposition in the fulness of the divinity to flow out and diffuse itself. Thus the disposition there is in the root and stock of a tree to diffuse sap and life, is doubtless the reason of their communication to its buds, leaves, and fruits, after these exist. But a disposition to communicate of its life and sap to its fruits, is not so properly the cause of its producing those fruits, as its disposition to diffuse its sap and life in general. Therefore, to speak strictly according to truth, we may suppose, that a disposition in God, as an original property of his nature, to an emanation of his own infinite fulness, was what excited him to create the world; and so, that the emanation itself was aimed at by him as a last end of the creation.


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