Glory of God
Glory Of God.
In numerous passages of Scripture it is said that God has done certain acts for His own glory (e.g. Isaiah 13), that man should glorify God (1Sa 6:5; 1Co 6:20; 1Co 10:31, etc.). But how can man "glorify" the Supreme Being, who is absolutely glorious in holiness and perfection? To this question infidels answer that it is "absurd to suppose that God is a 'vain' being; that so insignificant a creature as man can bring to God any kind of pleasure or satisfaction; or that God would demand from man a fictitious 'glory' which he does not require, and by which he could not feel flattered without exhibiting weakness, and consequently imperfection." All this argument is based on the misconception of a word. It is in the nature of an intellectual and free being, like God, to act in view of a certain aim and motive. But God can have no higher aim, no object more worthy of himself, than to exert his perfections, his power, his wisdom, and especially his benevolence. Hence the creation of beings endowed with sense, intellect, and freedom, and susceptible of feeling affection, esteem, thankfulness, and obedience. God willed, as says St. Augustine, the existence of beings to whom he could manifest his love. Hence, also, God has estalalished physical and moral laws, and made the happiness of reasonable beings to depend from their submission to these President Edwards treats this point with profound insight. "It is," he says, "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 an existence, a reality infinitely worthy to be, and worthy to be valued and regarded by him to whom it belongs to order that to be which, of all things possible, is the fittest and best. If existence is more worthy than defect and nonentity, and if any created existence is in itself worthy to be, then knowledge or understanding is a thing worthy to be; and if any knowledge, then the most excellent sort of knowledge, viz. that of God and his glory. The existence of the created universe consists as much in it as in any thing; yea, this knowledge is one of the highest, most real, and substantial parts of all created existence, most remote from nonentity and defect. As there is an infinite fullness of all possible good in God, a fullness of every perfection, of all excellency and beauty, and of infinite happiness, and as this fullness is capable of communication or emanation ad extra, so it seems a thing amiable and valuable in itself that it should be communicated or flow forth, that this infinite fountain of good should send forth abundant streams, that this infinite fountain of light should, diffusing its excellent fullness, pour forth light all around — and as this is in itself excellent, so a disposition to this, in the Divine Being, must be looked upon as a perfection or an excellent disposition, such an emanation of good is, in some sense, a multiplication of it; so far as the communication or external stream may be looked upon as any thing besides the fountain, so far it may be looked upon as an increase of good. And if the fullness of good that is in the fountain is in itself excellent and worthy to exist, then the emanation, or that which is as it ware an increase, repetition, or multiplication of it, is excellent and worthy to exist. 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, so it should flow out in communicated holiness. And as there is an infinite fullness of joy and happiness, so these should have an emanation, and become a fountain flowing out in abundant streams, as beams from the sun. From this view it appears in another way to be a thing in itself valuable that there should be such things as the knowledge of God's glory in other beings, and a high esteem of it, love to it, and delight and complacence in it; this appears, I say, in another way, viz. as these things are but the emanations of God's own knowledge, holiness, and joy. Thus it appears reasonable to suppose that it was what God had respect to as an ultimate end of his creating the world, to communicate of his own infinite fullness of good; or, rather, it was his last end, that there might be a glorious and abundant emanation of his infinite fullness of good ad extra, or without himself; and the disposition to communicate himself, or diffuse his own fullness, which we must conceive of as being originally in God as a perfection of his nature, was what moved him to create the world" (page 219)... . "God and the creature, in this affair of the emanation of the divine fullness, are not properly set in opposition, or made the opposite parts of a disjunction. Nor ought God's glory and the creature's good to be spoken of as if they were properly and entirely distinct. This supposeth that God's having respect to his glory, and the communication of good to his creatures, are things altogether different; that God's communicating his fullness for himself, and his doing it for them, are things standing in a proper disjunction and opposition; whereas, if we were capable of having more full and perfect views of God and divine things, which are so much above us, it is probable it would appear very clear to us that the matter is quite otherwise, and that these things, instead of appearing entirely distinct, are implied one in the other — that God, in seeking his glory, therein seeks the good of his creatures. Because the emanation of his glory (which he seeks and delights in, as he delights in himself and his own eternal glory) implies the communicated excellency and happiness of his creatures. And in communicating his fullness for them, he does it for himself; because their good, which he seeks, is so much in union and communion with himself. God is their good. Their excellency and happiness is nothing but the emanation and expression of God's glory. God, in seeking their glory and happiness, seeks himself, and in seeking himself, i.e., himself diffused and expressed (which he delights in, as he delights in his own beauty and fullness), he seeks their glory and happiness" (Dissertation on the End of God in Creation, § 2, 3).
In thus manifesting his power, wisdom, holiness, and goodness, we say that God has established his "glory;" and so, also, when men acknowledge and worship these divine perfections, they "glorify" God. In this language there is nothing absurd or injurious to the divine majesty. In Scripture the object of divine revelation is stated sometimes to be the sanctification of man, sometimes the glory of God, as these are identical, whether considered from the divine or the human point of view. Moreover, it is an effect of the divine wisdom, holiness, and goodness, that man should find happiness in virtue, not in vice; in submission to the physical and moral laws established by God, not in violating them. And when man submits to these laws he glorifies God, since he renders homage to the divine perfections. Hence it cannot be wrong to say that the glory of God consists in the submission of all creatures to his law, and that the glory of all reasonable creatures consists in absolute submission to God. If we are to recognize the glory of God a one of his rights, as one of his regal prerogatives, it takes eo ipso the form of a duty, which becomes obligatory for us. The heavens declare the glory of God, but they only declare it to reasonable beings, for the glory of God is only realized when its revelation is understood by moral beings, willingly received by them, and independently reflected. "The Lord hath made all things for himself" (Pr 16:4). Not that he made "all things" for his own use, to supply his own wants, or to increase his own essential happiness, but that he made all in accordance with the requirements of his divine perfections, and so as better to manifest his glory. When the adversaries of Christianity reproach it with making God like unto man, supposing him vain, thirsting for praise and incense, they fall themselves into the very error which they denounce. They say: "If man seeks for glory, it is because he needs it; because he is weak, hence, if God seeks his own glory, it is also from need and weak., ness. This is pure sophistry: man is weak and poor because finite; God is self-sufficient because essentially happy and perfect; and it is on account of this very perfection that he acts for his glory, because he could not have any higher or more worthy aim.
"But," it is said, "to speak of 'glory' accruing from man to God is as if a nest of ants should imagine themselves working for the glory of some great king." This comparison is absurd. God did not need to create man, to give him laws, to promise him rewards and punishments, yet he has done so. No king could do this towards insects. It was not unworthy of God to create reasonable beings, neither is it any less worthy of him to take care of his creatures, to take an interest in their actions; the one is no more difficult for him than the other; it is all done by a simple act of his will. Philosophers may do their utmost to degrade man under pretense of rendering him independent, but there is implanted in man a feeling stronger than all, their sophisms which assures him that he is the child of God, and that the grandeur of the supreme Being does not consist in a sort of philosophical pride and absolute indifference, but in the power and will to do good to all his creatures. It is one of God's great gifts to man that the creature finds his highest happiness, both for this world and the next, in working for the "glory" of his Maker. St. Paul says, 1Co 10:31, "Whether, therefore, ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all for the glory of God." In this passage (compared with 1Pe 4:11) we find the broad ethical law laid down, viz. all our actions should tend to the greater glory of God, which is done when every action does not merely conform to his commandment, but is really inspired by God the Holy Ghost. Chrysostom, in his New-Year sermon at Antioch (A.D. 387, on 1Co 10:31), by a series of isolated examples, shows that the most insignificant things can be made to glorify God. This ethical doctrine has been distorted by the Roman Catholic Church, which substantially puts the glory of the Church in place of the glory of God. President Edwards, Works (N.Y. 4 volumes), 2:204 sq.; Farindon, Sermons, 2:502; Beveridge, Works, 5:349; Tillotson, Sermons, 11:29; Sharp (Abp., Works, 3:211; Dwight, Theology, 1:393; Bergier, Dictionnaire de Theologie, 3:138; Herzog, Real-Encykl. 3:707 sq.