The Nature of True Virtue – Love to God (Pt. 5)

I. THE ESSENCE OF TRUE VIRTUE

II. HOW LOVE RESPECTS THE DIVINE BEING AND CREATED BEINGS

Love to God (Pt. 1) // Love to God (Pt. 2) // Love to God (Pt. 3) // Love to God (Pt. 4)

The Evidences of Love to God in Love to Others

Now, Edwards must clarify: not every exercise of love may “sensibly (apparently, visually) arise from any exercise of love to God, or an explicit consideration of any similitude, conformity, union or relation to God, in the creature beloved.”[1] One who sees another man exercising love to another being may not be able to explicitly or directly link that man’s benevolence to his benevolence to God. Nonetheless, there are a few evidences that provide a connection from man’s benevolence to another being, to the man’s supreme love to God.

Essentially, a man’s love to another being evidences his love to God when it is exercised in the “manner, order, and measure in which God himself exercises love to the creature in the creation and government of the world.”[2] And how does God deal lovingly with His creatures? He, “as the first cause and supreme disposer of all things, has respect to the creature’s happiness in subordination to himself as his own supreme end.”[3] God loves His creatures by seeking their happiness through their subordination to His chief and ultimate end, which is His glorification.[4] God loves His creatures by satisfying them with Himself, whereby He is most glorified.

Therefore, if man wants to seek the well-being of another being, he must seek their ‘good.’ And “the true goodness of a thing must be its agreeableness to its end, or its fitness to answer the design for which it was made.[5] A chair is a ‘good’ chair if it is indeed fit to accomplish that which it was designed to do – if it comfortably seats me at the dinner table, it is a ‘good’ chair. “Therefore they are good moral agents, whose temper and mind or propensity of heart, is agreeable to the end for which God made moral agents.”[6] For men to be good moral agents, they must point others to the glory of God. If a man is seeking the other being’s goodness, then he will seek to glorify God to the man and through the man.

“So far as a virtuous mind exercises true virtue in benevolence to created beings, it chiefly seeks the good of the creature; consisting in its knowledge or view of God’s glory and beauty, its union with God, conformity and love to him, and joy in him.”[7]

This is how man loves his fellow being in the same manner that God loves His creatures – i.e. by seeking the creatures ‘good,’ which consists in the being’s knowledge and delight of God’s glory, being united with Him, conformed to Him. “That disposition of heart, that consent, union, or propensity of mind to being in general, is virtue, truly so called; or in other words, true grace and real holiness.”[8]

Conclusively, true virtue is found only in one’s love to ‘being in general,’ which must chiefly consist in one’s supreme love to God, whereby we love created beings by seeking their good, which is established by their fitness to achieve the end for which God created them – to glorify Himself – which is most suitable in the creature’s knowledge of God, joy and delight in God, and being united with God. “And it may be asserted in general, that nothing is of the nature of true in which God is not the first and the last.”[9] Virtue, from its beginning to its end, must be chiefly about God and His glory.


[1] Jonathan Edwards, The Nature of True Virtue (Ann Arbor Paperbacks) (University of Michigan Press, 1960), 24.

[2] Ibid., 24.

[3] Ibid., 24. Emphasis added.

[4] God’s glorification is the ultimate end for which God created the world, and it is the main point of Edwards’ previous treatise.

[5] Ibid., 24-25.

[6] Ibid., 25. Now, the moral world is the end of the entire world; the physical and nonliving were made for the living, just as a house was made for its inhabitants. Thus, God’s end for the moral world is the end for which he has the entire world.

[7] Ibid., 25.

[8] Ibid., 25-26.

[9] Ibid., 26.

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