An End for which God Created the World by Jonathan Edwards (Introduction)
To avoid all confusion in our inquiries concerning the end for which God created the world, a distinction should be observed between the chief end for which an agent performs any work, and the ultimate end. These two phrases are not always precisely of the same signification: and though the chief end be always an ultimate end, yet every ultimate end is not always a chief end. A chief end is opposite to an inferior end: an ultimate end is opposite to a subordinate end.
A subordinate end is what an agent aims at, not at all upon its own account, but wholly on the a account of a further end, of which it is considered as a means. Thus when a man goes a journey
to obtain a medicine to restore his health, the obtaining of that medicine is his subordinate end; because it is not an end that he values at all upon its own account, but wholly as a means of a further end, viz. his health. Separate the medicine from that further end, and it is not at all desired.
An ultimate end is that which the agent seeks, in what he does, for its own sake; what he loves, values, and takes pleasure in on its own account, and not merely as a means of a further end.
As when a man loves the taste of some particular sort of fruit, and is at pains and cost to obtain it, for the sake of the pleasure of that taste which he values upon its own account, as he loves his own pleasure; and not merely for the sake of any other good, which he supposes his enjoying that pleasure will be the means of. Some ends are subordinate, not only as they are subordinated to an ultimate end; but also to another end that is itself but subordinate.
Yea, there may be a succession or chain of many subordinate ends, one dependent on another, one sought for another; before you come to anything that the agent aims at, and seeks for its own sake. As when a man sells a garment to get money — to buy tools — to till his land — to obtain a crop — to supply him with food — to gratify the appetite. And he seeks to gratify his appetite, on its own account, as what is grateful in itself. Here the end of his selling his garment to get money, is only a subordinate end; and it is not only subordinate to the ultimate end — gratifying his appetite — but to a nearer end — buying husbandry tools; and his obtaining these is only a subordinate end, being only for the sake of tilling land. And the tillage of land is an end not sought on its own account, but for the sake of the crop to be produced; and the crop produced is an end sought only for the sake of making bread; and bread is sought for the sake of gratifying the appetite.
Here gratifying the appetite is called the ultimate end; because it is the last in the chain where a man’s aim rests, obtaining in that the thing finally aimed at. So whenever a man comes to that in which his desire terminates and rests, it being something valued on its own account, then he comes to an ultimate end, let the chain be longer or shorter; yea, if there be but one link or one step that he takes before he comes to this end. As when a man that loves honey puts it into his mouth, for the sake of the pleasure of the taste, without aiming at anything further. So that an end which an agent has in view, may be both his immediate and his ultimate end; his next and his last end.
That end which is sought for the sake of itself, and not for the sake of a further end, is an ultimate end; there the aim of the agent stops and rests. A thing sought may have the nature of an ultimate, and also of a subordinate end; as it may be sought partly on its own account, and partly for the sake of a further end.
Thus a man, in what he does, may seek the love and respect of a particular person, partly on its own account, because it is in itself agreeable to men to be the objects of others’ esteem and love; and partly, because he hopes, through the friendship of that person, to have his assistance in other affairs; and so to be put under advantage for obtaining further ends.
A chief end, which is opposite to an inferior end, is something diverse from an ultimate end; it is most valued, and therefore most sought after by the agent in what he does. It is evident, that to be an end more valued than another end, is not exactly the same thing as to be an end valued ultimately, or for its own sake.
This will appear, if it be considered,
1. That two different ends may be both ultimate, and yet not be chief ends. They may be both valued for their own sake, and both sought in the same work or acts; and yet one valued more highly, and sought more than another. Thus a many may go a journey to obtain two different benefits or enjoyments, both which may be agreeable to him in themselves considered; and yet one may be much more agreeable than the other; and so be what he sets his heart chiefly upon. Thus a man may go a journey, partly to obtain the possession and enjoyment of a bride that is very dear to him; and partly to gratify his curiosity in looking in a telescope, or some newly invented and extraordinary optic glass; and the one not properly subordinate to the other; and therefore both may be ultimate ends. But yet obtaining his beloved bride may be his chief end; and the benefit of the optic glass his inferior end.
2. An ultimate end is not always the chief end, because some subordinate ends may be more valued and sought after than some ultimate ends. Thus, for instance, a man may aim at two things in his journey; one, to visit his friends, and another, to receive a large sum of money. The latter may be but a subordinate end; he may not value the silver and gold on their own account, but only for pleasure, gratification, and honor; the money is valued only as a means of the other. But yet, obtaining the money may be more valued, and so is a higher end of his journey than the pleasure of seeing his friends; though the latter is valued on its own account, and so is an ultimate end.
But here several things may be noted:
—First, when it is said, that some subordinate ends may be more valued than some ultimate ends, it is not supposed that ever a subordinate end is more valued than that to which it is subordinate.
For that reason it is called a subordinate end, because it is valued and sought not for its own sake, but only in subordination to a further end. But yet a subordinate end may be valued more than some other ultimate end that it is not subordinate to.
Thus, for instance, a man goes a journey to receive a sum of money, only for the value of the pleasure and honor that the money may be a means of. In this case it is impossible that the subordinate end, viz. his having the money, should be more valued by him than the pleasure and honor for which he values it. It would be absurd to suppose that he values the means more than the end, when he has no value for the means, but for the sake of the end of which it is the means. But yet he may value the money, though but a subordinate end, more than some other ultimate end to which it is not subordinate, and with which it has no connection. For instance, more than the comfort of a friendly visit, which was one ultimate end of his journey.
—Second, the ultimate end is always superior to its subordinate end, and more valued by the agent, unless it be when the ultimate end entirely depends on the subordinate.
If he has no other means by which to obtain his last end, then the subordinate may be as much valued as the last end; because the last end, in such a case, altogether depends upon, and is wholly and certainly conveyed by it.
As for instance, if a pregnant woman has a peculiar appetite to a certain rare fruit that is to be found only in the garden of a particular friend of hers, at a distance — and she goes a journey to her friend’s house or garden, to obtain that fruit — the ultimate end of her journey is to gratify that strong appetite; the obtaining that fruit, is the subordinate end of it. If she looks upon it, that the appetite can be gratified by no other means than the obtaining of that fruit; and that it will certainly be gratified if she obtain it, then she will value the fruit as much as she values the gratification of her appetite.
But otherwise, it will not be so. If she be doubtful whether that fruit will satisfy her craving, then she will not value it equally with the gratification of her appetite itself. Or if there be some other fruit that she knows of, that will gratify her desire, at least in part, which she can obtain without such trouble as shall countervail the gratification — or if her appetite cannot be gratified without this fruit, nor yet with it alone, without something else to be compounded with it — then her value for her last end will be divided between these several ingredients, as so many subordinate ends, and no one alone will be equally valued with the last end.
Hence it rarely happens, that a subordinate end is equally valued with its last end; because the obtaining of a last end rarely depends on one single, uncompounded means, and infallibly connected with it. Therefore, men’s last ends are commonly their highest ends.
–Third, if any being has but one ultimate end, in all that he does, and there be a great variety of operations, his last end may justly be looked upon as his supreme end.
For in such a case, every other end but that one, is in order to that end; and therefore no other can be superior to it. Because, as was observed before, a subordinate end is never more valued than the end to which it is subordinate. Moreover, the subordinate effects, or events, brought to pass, as means of this end, all uniting to contribute their share towards obtaining the one last end, are very various; and therefore, by what has been now observed, the ultimate end of all must be valued more than any one of the particular means. This seems to be the case with the works of God, as may more fully appear in the sequel.
—Fourth, whatsoever any agent has in view in anything he does, which is agreeable to him in itself, and not merely for the sake of something else, is regarded by that agent as his last end.
The same may be said of avoiding that which is in itself painful or disagreeable; for the avoiding of what is disagreeable is agreeable. This will be evident to any bearing in mind the meaning of the terms. By last end being meant, that which is regarded and sought by an agent, as agreeable or desirable for its own sake; a subordinate, that which is ought only for the sake of something else.
—Fifth, from hence it will follow, that, if an agent has in view more things than one that will be brought to pass by what he does, which he loves and delights in on their own account, then he must have more things than one that he regards as his last ends in what he does.
But if there be but one thing that an agent seeks, on its own account, then there can be but one last end which he has in all his actions and operations. But only here a distinction must be observed of things which may be said to be agreeable to an agent, in themselves considered:
(1.) What is in itself grateful to an agent, and valued on its own account, simply and absolutely considered; antecedent to, and independent of all conditions, or any supposition of particular cases and circumstances. And
(2.) What may be said to be in itself agreeable to an agent, hypothetically and consequentially; or, on supposition of such and such circumstances, or on the happening of such a particular case.
Thus, for instance, a man may originally love society. An inclination to society may be implanted in his very nature; and society may be agreeable to him antecedent to all pre-supposed cases and circumstances; and this may cause him to seek a family.
And the comfort of society may be originally his last end, in seeking a family. But after he has a family, peace, good order, and mutual justice and friendship in his family, may be agreeable to him, and what he delights in for their own sake; and therefore these things may be his last end in many things he does in the government and regulation of his family. But they were not his original end with respect to his family. The justice and the peace of a family was not properly his last end before he had a family, that induced him to seek a family, but consequentially. And the case being put of his having a family, then these things wherein the good order and beauty of a family consist, become his last end in many things he does in such circumstances.
In like manner we must suppose that God, before he created the world, had some good in view, as a consequence of the world’s existence, that was originally agreeable to him in itself considered, that inclined him to bring the universe into existence, in such a manner as he created it.
But after the world was created, and such and such intelligent creatures actually had existence, in such and such circumstances, then a wise, just regulation of them was agreeable to God, in itself considered.
And God’s love of justice, and hatred of injustice, would be sufficient in such a case to induce God to deal justly with his creatures, and to prevent all injustice in him towards them. But yet there is no necessity of supposing, that God’s love of doing justly to intelligent beings, and hatred of the contrary, was what originally induced God to create the world, and make intelligent beings; and so to order the occasion of doing either justly or unjustly.
The justice of God’s nature makes a just regulation agreeable, and the contrary disagreeable, as there is occasion; the subject being supposed, and the occasion given. But we must suppose something else that should incline him to create the subjects, or order the occasion.
So that perfection of God which we call his faithfulness, or his inclination to fulfill his promises to his creatures, could not properly be what moved him to create the world; nor could such a fulfillment of his promises to his creatures be his last end in giving the creatures being.
But yet after the world is created, after intelligent creatures are made, and God has bound himself by promise to them, then that disposition, which is called his faithfulness, may move him in his providential disposals towards them; and this may be the end of many of God’s works of providence, even the exercise of his faithfulness in fulfilling his promises, and may be in the lower sense his last end; because faithfulness and truth must be supposed to be what is in itself amiable to God, and what he delights in for its own sake.
Thus God may have ends of particular works of providence, which are ultimate ends in a lower sense, which were not ultimate ends of the creation.
So that here we have two sorts of ultimate ends; one of which may be called, original and independent, the other, consequential and dependent; for it is evident, the latter sort are truly of the nature of ultimate ends; because though their being agreeable to the agent, be consequential on the existence, yet the subject and occasion being supposed, they are agreeable and amiable in themselves.
We may suppose, that, to a righteous Being, doing justice between two parties, with whom he is concerned, is agreeable in itself, and not merely for the sake of some other end: And yet we may suppose, that a desire of doing justice between two parties, may be consequential on the being of those parties, and the occasion given.
It may be observed, that when I speak of God’s ultimate end in the creation of the world, in the following discourse, I commonly mean in that highest sense, viz. the original ultimate end.
—Sixth, it may be further observed, that the original ultimate end or ends of the creation of the world is alone that which induces God to give the occasion for consequential ends, by the first creation of the world, and the original disposal of it. And the more original the end is, the more extensive and universal it is.
That which God had primarily in view in creating, and the original ordination of the world, must be constantly kept in view, and have a governing influence in all God’s works, or with respect to every thing he does towards his creatures. And therefore,
—Seventh, if we use the phrase ultimate end in this highest sense, then the same that is God’s ultimate end in creating the world, if we suppose but one such end, must be what he makes his ultimate aim in all his works, in every thing he does either in creation or providence.
But we must suppose, that, in the use to which God puts his creatures, he must evermore have a regard to the end for which he has made them. But if we take ultimate end in the other lower sense, God may sometimes have regard to those things as ultimate ends, in particular works of providence, which could not in any proper sense be his last end in creating the world.
—Eighth, on the other hand, whatever appears to be God’s ultimate end, in any sense, of his works of providence in general; that must be the ultimate end of the work of creation itself.
For though God may act for an end that is ultimate in a lower sense, in some of his works of providence, which is not the ultimate end of the creation of the world, yet this does not take place with regard to the works of providence in general; for God’s works of providence in general, are the same with the general use to which he puts the world he has made.
And we may well argue from what we see of the general use which God makes of the world, to the general end for which he designed the world. Though there may be some ends of particular works of providence, that were not the last end of the creation, which are in themselves grateful to God in such particular emergent circumstances, and so are last ends in an inferior sense; yet this is only in certain cases, or particular occasions. But if they are last ends of God’s proceedings in the use of the world in general, this shows that his making them last ends does not depend on particular cases and circumstances, but the nature of things in general, and his general design in the being and constitution of the universe.
—Ninth, if there be but one thing that is originally, and independent on any future supposed cases, agreeable to God, to be obtained by the creation of the world, then there can be but one last end of God’s work, in this highest sense.
But if there are various things, properly diverse one from another, that are absolutely and independently agreeable to the Divine Being, which are actually obtained by the creation of the world, then there were several ultimate ends of the creation in that highest sense.
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