The End for Which God Created the World by Jonathan Edwards
This dissertation was originally part one of a two part work, the second being A Dissertation Concerning The Nature Of True Virtue. They both appear in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 1, and this particular work (not True Virtue) appears in God’s Passion for His Glory, with significant helps to understanding Edwards and this particular work.
This is a very difficult book to read, especially in the beginning. Edwards was the most brilliant philosopher America has ever produced, and some would say the greatest theologian as well. It takes severe effort to work through his very detailed definitions and then the logic he works through using those definitions. The first half of the book is primarily philosophical, and the second half he addresses everything that Scripture has to say about his subject.
There is much here to stretch the mind. For example, for God to be morally good, He MUST delight in Himself above all things:
“The moral rectitude of the disposition, inclination, or affection of God CHIEFLY consists in a regard to HIMSELF, infinitely above his regard to all other beings; in other words, his holiness consists in this.” (Ch.1, S.1, D.4)
“And thus it is fit it should be, if it be fit he should thus love himself, and prize his own valuable qualities; that is, it is fit that he should take delight in his own excellencies being seen, acknowledged, esteemed and delighted in.” (Ch. 1, S.3)
Edwards argues thoroughly for these points, expands upon them, draws out their implications, and answers objections. Then, he moves on to Scripture. As much as I enjoyed the philosophical part, I enjoyed the Scriptural part all the more, as Edwards produces verse after verse after verse showing clearly from Scripture everything he has argued for from reason, and more. It was like light was streaming from these verses with a clarity I had never seen before, and it came rushing to a climax in the final paragraph:
“God, in glorifying the saints in heaven with eternal felicity, aims to satisfy his infinite grace or benevolence, by the bestowment of a good infinitely valuable, because eternal: and yet there never will come the moment, when it can be said, that NOW this infinitely valuable good has been actually bestowed. END”
and Edwards drops the mic.
This is one of the best books I have ever read. John Piper recommends that if you can’t make it through the whole thing, at least read Chapter 1: Sections 3 and 4, and Chapter 2.