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What is the Purpose of Man?

The first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks “What is the chief end of man?”

The Answer stated is, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”

If we look at these two answers one could argue, “That’s just one man’s opinion” but the Word of God, our great standard of truth, gives us the meaning behind these derivatives. Thomas Watson, a Puritan theologian articulated these answers very well. Take a peek at the glorious Scripture and how it answers that age-old question.

First. The glorifying of God, 1 Pet. 4:11. “That God in all things may be glorified.” The glory of God is a silver thread which must run through all our actions. l Cor. 10:31. “Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” Everything works to some end in things natural and artificial; now, man being a rational creature, must propose some end to himself, and that should be, that he may lift up God in the world. He had better lose his life than the end of his living. The great truth asserted is that the end of every man’s living should be to glorify God. Glorifying God has respect to all the persons in the Trinity; it respects God the Father who gave us life; God the Son, who lost his life for us; and God the Holy Ghost, who produces a new life in us; we must bring glory to the whole Trinity.

When we speak of God’s glory, the question will be moved, What are to understand by God’s glory?

Answer. There is a twofold glory: 1. The glory that God has in himself, his intrinsic glory. Glory is essential to the Godhead, as light is to the sun: he is called the “God of glory.” Acts 7:2. Glory is the sparkling of the Deity; it is so co-natural to the Godhead, that God cannot be God without it. The creature’s honour is not essential to his being. A king is a man without his regal ornaments, when his crown and royal robes are taken away; but God’s glory is such an essential part of his being, that he cannot be God without it. God’s very life lies in his glory. This glory can receive no addition, because it is infinite; it is that which God is most tender of, and which he will not part with. Isa. 48:11, “My glory I will not give to another.” God will give temporal blessings to his children, such as wisdom, riches, honour; he will give them spiritual blessings, he will give them grace, he will give them his love, he will give them heaven; but his essential glory he will not give to another. King Pharaoh parted with a ring off his finger to Joseph, and a gold chain, but he would not part with his throne. Gen. 41:40. “Only in the throne will I be greater than thou.” So God will do much for his people; he will give them the inheritance; he will put some of Christ’s glory, as mediator upon them; but his essential glory he will not part with; “in the throne he will be greater.”

2. The glory which is ascribed to God, or which his creatures labour to bring to him. 1 Chron. 16:29, “Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name.” And, 1 Cor. 6:20, “Glorify God in your body, and in your spirit.” The glory we give God is nothing else but our lifting up his name in the world, and magnifying him in the eyes of others. Phil. 1:20, “Christ shall be magnified in my body.”

Q. What is it to glorify God?

A. Glorifying God consists in four things: 1. Appreciation, 2. Adoration, 3. Affection, 4. Subjection. This is the yearly rent we pay to the crown of heaven.

1. Appreciation. To glorify God is to set God highest in our thoughts, and, to have a venerable esteem of him. Psalm 92:8. “Thou, Lord, art most high for evermore.” Psalm 97:9, “Thou art exalted far above all gods.” There is in God all that may draw forth both wonder and delight; there is a constellation of all beauties; he is prima causa [the first cause], the original and spring-head of being, who sheds a glory upon the creature. We glorify God when we are God-admirers; admire his attributes, which are the glistening beams by which the divine nature shines forth; his promises which are the charter of free grace, and the spiritual cabinet where the pearl of price is hid; the noble effects of his power and wisdom in making the world, which is called “the work of his fingers.” Psalm 8:3. To glorify God is to have God-admiring thoughts; to esteem him most excellent, and search for diamonds in this rock only.

2. Glorifying God consists in adoration, or worship. Psalm 29:2. “Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” There is a twofold worship: 1. A civil reverence which we give to persons of honour. Gen. 23:7, “Abraham stood up and bowed himself to the children of Heth.” Piety is no enemy to courtesy. 2. A divine worship which we give to God as his royal prerogative. Neh. 8:6,”they bowed their heads, and worshipped the Lord with their faces towards the ground.” This divine worship God is very jealous of; it is the apple of his eye, the pearl of his crown; which he guards, as he did the tree of life, with cherubims and a flaming sword, that no man may come near it to violate it. Divine worship must be such as God himself has appointed, otherwise it is offering strange fire, Lev. 10:1. The Lord would have Moses make the tabernacle, “according to the pattern in the mount.” Exod. 25:40. He must not leave out anything in the pattern, nor add to it. If God was so exact and curious about the place of worship, how exact will he be about the matter of his worship! Surely here every thing must be according to the pattern prescribed in his word.

3. Affection. This is part of the glory we give to God, who counts himself glorified when he is loved. Deut. 6:5, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul.” There is a twofold love: 1. Amor concupiscentiae, a love of concupiscence, which is self-love; as when we love another because he does us a good turn. A wicked man may be said to love God, because he has given him a good harvest, or filled his cup with wine. This is rather to love God’s blessing than to love God. 2. Amor amicitiae, a love of delight, as a man takes delight in a friend. This is to love God indeed; the heart is set upon God, as a man’s heart is set upon his treasure. This love is exuberant, not a few drops, but a stream. It is superlative; we give God the best of our love, the cream of it. Cant. 8:2,”I would cause thee to drink of spiced wine of the juice of my pomegranate.” If the spouse had a cup more juicy and spiced, Christ must drink of it. It is intense and ardent. True saints are seraphims, burning in holy love to God [from the Hebrew word saruph, to be burned up]. The spouse was amore perculsa, [an overwhelming love], in fainting fits, “sick of love,” Cant. 2:5. Thus to love God is to glorify him. He who is the chief of our happiness has the chief of our affections.

4. Subjection. This is when we dedicate ourselves to God, and stand ready dressed for his service. Thus the angels in heaven glorify him; they wait on his throne, and are ready to take a commission from him; therefore they are represented by the cherubims with wings displayed, to show how swift they are in their obedience. We glorify God when we are devoted to his service; our head studies for him, our tongue pleads for him, and our hands relieve his members. The wise men that came to Christ did not only bow the knee to him, but presented him with gold and myrrh. Matt. 2:11. So we must not only bow the knee, give God worship, but bring presents of golden obedience. We glorify God when we falter at no service, when we fight under the banner of his gospel against an enemy, and say to him as David to King Saul, “Thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine,” 1 Sam. 17:32.

A good Christian is like the sun, which not only sends forth heat, but goes its circuit round the world. Thus, he who glorifies God has not only his affections heated with love to God, but he goes his circuit too; he moves vigorously in the sphere of obedience.

Q. Why must we glorify God? (This states that we do owe God glory because he gives us life and has created us.)

A. 1. Because he gives us our being. Psalm 100:3, “It is he that made us.” We think it a great kindness in a man to spare our life, but what kindness is it in God to give us our life! We draw our breath from him; and as life, so all the comforts of life are from him. He gives us health, which is the sauce to sweeten our life; and food, which is the oil that nourishes the lamp of life. If all we receive is from his bounty, is it not reasonable we should glorify him? Should we not live to him, seeing we live by him? Rom. 11:36, “For of him, and through him, are all things.” All we have is of his fulness, all we have is through his free grace; and therefore to him should be all. It follows, therefore, “To him be glory for ever.” God is not our benefactor only, but our founder, as rivers that come from the sea empty their silver streams into the sea again.

2. Because God has made all things for his own glory. Prov. 16:4. “The Lord hath made all things for himself:” that is, “for his glory.” As a king has excise out of commodities, so God will have glory out of everything. He will have glory out of the wicked. If they will not give him glory, he will get glory upon them. Exod. 14:17. “I will get me honour upon Pharaoh.” But especially has he made the godly for his glory; they are the lively organs of his praise. Isa. 43:21, “This people have I formed for myself, and they shall shew forth my praise.” It is true, they cannot add to his glory, but they may exalt it; they cannot raise him in heaven, but they may raise him in the esteem of others here. God has adopted the saints into his family, and made them a royal priesthood, that they should show forth the praise of him who hath called them, I Pet. 2:9.

3. Because the glory of God has intrinsic value and excellence; it transcends the thoughts of men, and the tongues of angels. His glory is his treasure, all his riches lie here; as Micah said. Judges 18:24, “What have I more?” So, what has God more? God’s glory is worth more than heaven, and worth more than the salvation of all men’s souls. Better kingdoms be thrown down, better men and angels be annihilated, than God should lose one jewel of his crown, one beam of his glory.

4. Creatures below us, and above us, bring glory to God; and do we think to sit rent free? Shall everything glorify God but man? It would be a pity then that man was ever made. (1.) Creatures below us glorify God, the inanimate creatures and the heavens glorify God. “The heavens declare the glory of God.” Psalm 19:1. The curious workmanship of heaven sets forth the glory of its Maker; the firmament is beautified and pencilled out in blue and azure colours, where the power and wisdom of God may be clearly seen. “The heavens declare his glory:” we may see the glory of God blazing in the sun, and twinkling in the stars. Look into the air, the birds, with their chirping music, sing hymns of praise to God. Every beast in its kind glorifies God. Isa. 43:20, “The beasts of the field shall honour me.” (2.) Creatures above us glorify God: “the angels are ministering spirits.” Heb. 1:14. They are still waiting on God’s throne, and bring some revenues of glory into the exchequer of heaven. Surely man should be much more studious of God’s glory than the angels; for God has honoured him more than the angels, in that Christ took man’s nature upon him, and not the angels. Though, in regard of creation, God made man “a little lower than the angels,” Heb. 2:7, yet, in regard of redemption, God has set him higher than the angels. He has married mankind to himself; the angels are Christ’s friends, not his spouse. He has covered us with the purple robe of righteousness, which is a better righteousness than the angels have, 2 Cor. 5:20. If then the angels bring glory to God, much more should we, being dignified with honour above angelic spirits.

5. We must bring glory to God, because all our hopes hang upon him. Psalm 39:7. “My hope is in thee.” And Psalm 62:5. “My expectation is from him;” I expect a kingdom from him. A child that is good-natured will honour his parent, by expecting all he needs from him. Psalm 87:7. “All my springs are in thee.” The silver springs of grace, and the golden springs of glory are in him.

May it rest well in your soul! Amen.

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