Monday Miscellanies: Happiness and the End of Creation

A guest post by Jonathan Edwards

87. Happiness

‘Tis evident that the end of man’s creation must needs be happiness, from the motive of God’s creating the world, which could be nothing else but his goodness. If it be said that the end of man’s creation might be that He might manifest his power, wisdom, holiness or justice, so I say too. But the question is, why God would make known his power, wisdom, etc. What could move him to will, that there should be some beings that might know his power and wisdom? It could be nothing else but his goodness.

This is the question: what moved God to exercise and make known these attributes? We are not speaking of subordinate ends but of the ultimate end, of that motive into which all others may be resolved. ‘Tis a very proper question, to ask what attribute moved God to exert his power, but ’tis not proper to ask what moved God to exert his goodness; for this is the notion of goodness, an inclination to show goodness. Therefore such a question would be no more proper than this, [namely] what inclines God to exert his inclination to exert goodness—which is nonsense, for it is an asking and answering a question in the same words. God’s power is shown no otherwise than by his powerfully bringing about some end. The very notion of wisdom is, wisely contriving for an end; and if there be no end proposed, whatever is done is not wisdom. Wherefore, if God created the world merely from goodness, every whit of this goodness must necessarily ultimately terminate in the consciousness of the creation; for the world is no other way capable of receiving goodness in any measure. But intelligent beings are the consciousness of the world; the end, therefore, of their creation must necessarily be that they may receive the goodness of God, that is, that they may be happy.

It appears also from the nature of happiness, which is the perception of excellency; for intelligent beings are created to be the consciousness of the universe, they they may perceive what God is and does. This can be nothing else but to perceive the excellency of what he is and does. Yea, he is nothing but excellency; and all that he does, nothing but excellent.

92. End of Creation

How then can it be said that God has made all things for himself, if it is certain that the highest end of the creation was the communication of happiness? I answer, that which is done for the gratifying of a natural inclination of God may very properly be said to be done for God. God takes complacence [satisfaction] in communicating felicity [happiness], and he made all things for this complacence. His complacence in this, in making [us] happy, was the end of the creation. Revelation 4:11, “For thy pleasure they are and were created.” See No. 581.