Charles Hodge (1797-1878) on the glory of God being the great end of all things

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“The Scriptures teach, (1.) That the glory of God is the end to which the promotion of holiness, and the production of happiness, and all other ends are subordinate. (2.) That, therefore, the self-manifestation of God, the revelation of his infinite perfection, being the highest conceivable, or possible good, is the ultimate end of all his works in creation, providence, and redemption. (3.) As sentient creatures are necessary for the manifestation of God’s benevolence, so there could be no manifestation of his mercy without misery, or of his grace and justice, if there were no sin. As the heavens declare the glory of God, so He has devised the plan of redemption, “To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places, might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God.” (Eph. iii. 10.) The knowledge of God is eternal life. It is for creatures the highest good. And the promotion of that knowledge, the manifestation of the manifold perfections of the infinite God, is the highest end of all his works. This is declared by the Apostle to be the end contemplated, both in the punishment of sinners and in the salvation of believers. It is an end to which, he says, no man can rationally object. “What if God, willing to show his wrath (or justice), and to make his power known, endured with much long suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: and that He might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had afore prepared unto glory.” (Rom. ix. 22, 23.) Sin, therefore, according the Scriptures, is permitted, that the justice of God may be known in its punishment, and his grace in its forgiveness. And the universe, without the knowledge of these attributes, would be like the earth without the light of the sun.

The glory of God being the great end of all things, we are not obliged to assume that this is the best possible world for the production of happiness, or even for securing the greatest degree of holiness among rational creatures. It is wisely adapted for the end for which it was designed, namely, the manifestation of the manifold perfections of God. That God, in revealing Himself, does promote the highest good of his creatures, consistent with the promotion of his own glory, may be admitted. But to reverse this order, to make the good of the creature the highest end, is to pervert and subvert the whole scheme; it is to put the means for the end, to subordinate God to the universe, the Infinite to the finite. This putting the creature in the place of the Creator, disturbs our moral and religious sentiments and convictions, as well as our intellectual apprehensions of God, and of his relation to the universe.”

– Charles Hodge (1797-1878), Systematic Theology, Vol. I, p. 435-436

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