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Systematic Theology - Volume I
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§ 5. Design of the Creation.

Men have long endeavoured to find a satisfactory answer to the question, Why God created the world? What end was it designed to accomplish? Answers to this question have been sought from the following sources, — (1.) The nature of God himself. (2.) From the nature of his works and the course of history. (3.) From the declarations of the Scriptures. As to the first source, it is to be remarked that the systems which preclude the admission of final causes, as Materialism and Pantheism in all their forms, of course preclude any question as to the design of the creation. The world is the evolution of an unconscious, unintelligent force, which has no design out of itself. To ask what is the design of the world is, in these systems, equivalent to asking what is the design of the being of God; for God is the world and the world is God. Those who admit the existence of an intelligent extramundane God, and who endeavour from his nature to determine the end for which He created the world, have pursued different courses and come to different conclusions. From the absolute self-sufficiency of God it follows that the creation was not designed to meet or satisfy any necessity on his part. He is neither more perfect nor more happy because of the creation. Again it follows from the nature of an infinite Being that the ground (i.e., both the motive and the end) of the creation must be in Himself. As all things are from Him and through Him, so also they are for Him. Some infer from his holiness that the purpose to create arose, so to speak, from the desire to have a field for the development of moral excellence in rational creatures. By far the most common opinion from the beginning has been that the creation is to be referred to the bonitas, goodness, benevolence, or, as the modern Germans at least generally express it, the love of God. As God is love, and the nature of love is to communicate itself, as it must have an object to be enjoyed and rendered blessed, so God created the world that He might rejoice in it and render it blessed. From the time of Leibnitz, who made this idea the foundation of his “Théodicée,” this theory has assumed a more contracted form. He reduced love to mere benevolence, or the desire to promote happiness. Hence the end of the creation was assumed to be the production of happiness. And as God is infinite, not only in benevolence, but also in wisdom and power, this world is necessarily the best possible world for the production of happiness. This theory is very fruitful of consequences. (1.) As all virtue consists in benevolence, happiness must be the highest good. Holiness is good only because it tends to happiness. It has no virtue of its own. (2.) Whatever tends to promote happiness is right. There is no such thing as sin. What we call sin, if a necessary means of the greatest good, becomes virtue. It is evil only so far as it has a contrary tendency. And as under the government of God all sin, past or present, does so cure a greater amount of happiness than would otherwise be possible, there is really no sin in the universe. (3.) This is generalized into the principle that it is right to do evil that good may come. This is the principle on which God acts, according to this theory, and it is the principle on which men are entitled and bound to act; and on which in point of fact they do act. The question which on every occasion their doctrine presents for decision is necessarily, What will be the consequence of a certain act or course of conduct? Will it promote happiness or the reverse? and the answer decides the course to be pursued. The Jesuits have worked out this theory into a science, and are enabled to determine beforehand when murder, perjury, and blasphemy become virtues. As this doctrine revolts the moral sense, its adoption is necessarily degrading. Few principles, therefore, have been so productive of false doctrine and immorality as the principle that all virtue consists in benevolence, that happiness is the highest good, and that whatever promotes happiness is right.

The Scriptural Doctrine as to the Design of Creation.

It is obviously in vain for man to attempt to determine the design of the creation from the nature of God’s works and from the course of his providence. That would require a knowledge of the whole universe and of its history to its consummation. The only satisfactory method of determining the question is by appealing to the Scriptures. There it is explicitly taught that the glory of God, the manifestation of his perfections, is the last end of all his works. This is, (1.) The highest possible end. The knowledge of God is eternal life. It is the source of all holiness and all blessedness to rational creatures. (2.) This in the Bible is declared to be the end of the universe as a whole; of the external world or works of nature; of the plan of redemption; of the whole course of history: of the mode in which God administers his providence and dispenses his grace; and of particular events, such as the choice of the Israelites and all the dealings of God with them as a nation. It is the end which all rational creatures are commanded to keep constantly in view; and it comprehends and secures all other right ends. The common objection, that this doctrine represents God as self-seeking, has already been answered. God, as infinitely wise and good, seeks the highest end; and as all creatures are as the dust of the balance compared to Him, it follows that his glory is an infinitely higher end than anything that concerns them exclusively. For a creature to seek his own glory or happiness in preference to that of God, is folly and sin, because he is utterly insignificant. He prefers a trifle to what is of infinite importance. He sacrifices, or endeavours to sacrifice, an end which involves the highest excellence of all creatures, to his own advantage. He serves the creature more than the Creator. He prefers himself to God. Many theologians endeavour to combine these different views as to the design of the creation. They say that the highest end is the glory of God, and the subordinate end the good of his creatures. Or, they say that the two are the same. God purposes to glorify Himself in the happiness of his creatures; or to promote the happiness of his creatures as a means of manifesting his glory. But this is only to confuse and confound the matter. The end is one thing; the consequences another. The end is the glory of God; the consequences of the attainment of that end are undoubtedly the highest good (not necessarily the greatest amount of happiness), and that highest good may include much sin and much misery so far as individuals are concerned. But the highest good is that God should be known.

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