Man’s Chief End Is To Glorify God
A Sermon by Thomas Watson
Man’s Chief End is to Glorify God
by Thomas Watson
Edited by George Rogers
Question. 1. What is the chief end of man?
Answer. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.
Here are two ends of life specified. 1. The glorifying of God. 2. The enjoying of God.
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?
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.
Q. In how many ways may we glorify God?
Answer. 1. It is glorifying God when we aim purely at his glory. It is one thing to advance God’s glory, another thing to aim at it. God must be the Terminus ad quem, the ultimate end of all actions. Thus Christ, John 8:50, “I seek not mine own glory, but the glory of him that sent me.” A hypocrite has a crooked eye, for he looks more to his own glory than God’s. Our Saviour deciphers such, and gives a caveat against them in Matthew 6:2, “when thou givest alms, do not sound a trumpet.” A stranger would ask, “What means the noise of this trumpet?” It was answered, “They are going to give to the poor.” And so they did not give alms, but sold them for honour and applause, that they might have glory of men; the breath of men was the wind that blew the sails of their charity; “verily they have their reward.” The hypocrite may make his acquittance and write, “received in full payment.” Chrysostom calls vainglory one of the devil’s great nets to catch men. And Cyprian says, “whom Satan cannot prevail against by intemperance, those he prevails against by pride and vainglory.” Oh let us take heed of self-worshipping! Aim purely at God’s glory.
Q. How shall we know when we aim at God’s glory?
A. (1.) When we prefer God’s glory above all other things; above credit, estate, relations; when the glory of God coming in competition with them, we prefer his glory before them. If relations lie in our way to heaven, we must either leap over them, or tread upon them. A child must unchild himself, and forget he is a child; he must know neither father nor mother in God’s cause. Deut. 33:9, “Who said unto his father and mother, I have not seen him; neither did he acknowledge his brethren.” This is to aim at God’s glory.
(2.) We aim at God’s glory, when we are content that God’s will should take place, though it may cross ours. Lord, I am content to be a loser, if thou be a gainer; to have less health, if I have more grace, and thou more glory. Let it be food or bitter medicine if thou gives it me. Lord, I desire that which may be most for thy glory. Our blessed Saviour said, “not as I will, but as thou wilt.” Matt. 26:39. If God might have more glory by his sufferings, he was content to suffer. John 12:28, “Father, glorify thy name.”
(3.) We aim at God’s glory when we are content to be outshined by others in gifts and esteem, so that his glory may be increased. A man that has God in his heart, and God’s glory in his eye, desires that God should be exalted. If this be effected, no matter whom the instrument, he rejoices. Phil. 1:15, “Some preach Christ of envy: notwithstanding Christ is preached, and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice;” they preached Christ of envy, they envied Paul that concourse of people, and they preached that they might outshine him in gifts, and get away some of his hearers: well, says Paul, Christ is preached, and God is like to have the glory, therefore I rejoice; let my candle go out, if the Sun of Righteousness may but shine.
2. We glorify God by a frank confession of sin. The thief on the cross had dishonoured God in his life, but at his death he brought glory to God by confession of sin. Luke 23:41, “We indeed suffer justly.” He acknowledged he deserved not only crucifixion, but damnation. Josh. 7:19, “My son, give, I, pray thee, glory to God, and make confession unto him.” A humble confession exalts God. How is God’s free grace magnified in crowning those who deserve to be condemned! The excusing and mincing of sin casts a reproach upon God. Adam denied not that he tasted the forbidden fruit, but, instead of a full confession, he taxed God. Gen. 3:12. “The woman whom thou gavest me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat;” if thou had not given me the woman to be a tempter, I would not have sinned. Confession glorifies God, because it clears him; it acknowledges that he is holy and righteous, whatever he does. Nehemiah vindicates God’s righteousness; chap. 9:33. “Thou art just in all that is brought upon us.” A confession is frank when it is free, not forced. Luke 15:18. “I have sinned against heaven and before thee.” The prodigal charged himself with sin before his Father charged him with it.
3. We glorify God by believing. Rom. 4:20. “Abraham was strong in faith, giving glory to God.” Unbelief affronts God, it gives him the lie; “he that believeth not, maketh God a liar.” I John 5:10. But faith brings glory to God; it sets to its seal that God is true. John 3:33. He that believes flies to God’s mercy and truth, as to an altar of refuge, he engarrisons himself in the promises, and trusts all he has with God. Psalm 31:5, “Into thy hands I commit my spirit.” This is a great way of bringing glory to God, and God honours faith because faith honours him. It is a great honour we do to a man when we trust him with all we have, when we put our lives and estates into his hand; it is a sign we have a good opinion of him. The three children glorified God by believing. “The God whom we serve is able to deliver us, and will deliver us,” Dan. 3:17. Faith knows there are no impossibilities with God, and will trust him where it cannot see him.
4. We glorify God, by being tender of his glory. God’s glory is dear to him as the apple of his eye. An innocent child weeps to see a disgrace done to his father. Psalm 69:9, “The reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me.” When we hear God reproached, it is as if we were reproached; when God’s glory suffers, it is as if we suffered. This is to be tender of God’s glory.
5. We glorify God by fruitfulness. John 15:8. “Hereby is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit.” As it is dishonouring God to be barren, so fruitfulness honours him. Phil. 1:11. “Filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are to the praise of his glory.” We must not be like the fig tree in the gospel, which had nothing but leaves, but like the pomecitron, that is continually either mellowing or blossoming, and is never without fruit. It is not profession, but fruit that glorifies God. God expects to have his glory from us in this way. 1 Cor. 9:7, “Who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit of it?” Trees in the forest may be barren, but trees in the garden are fruitful. We must bring forth the fruits of love and good works. Matt. 5:16.”Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Faith sanctifies our works, and works testify our faith; to be doing good to others, to be eyes to the blind, feet to the lame, much glorifies God. Thus Christ glorified his Father; “he went about doing good.” Acts 10:38. By being fruitful, we are fair in God’s eyes. Jer. 11:16. “The Lord called thy name a green olive-tree, fair and of goodly fruit.” And we must bear much fruit; it is muchness of fruit that glorifies God: “if ye bear much fruit.” The spouse’s breasts are compared to clusters of grapes, to show how fertile she was, Cant. 7:7. Though the lowest degree of grace may bring salvation to you, yet it will not bring much glory to God. It was not a spark of love Christ commended in Mary, but much love; “she loved much,” Luke 7:47.
6. We glorify God by being contented in that state in which Providence has placed us. We give God the glory of his wisdom, when we rest satisfied with what he carves out to us. Thus Paul glorified God. The Lord cast him into as great variety of conditions as any man, “in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft,” 2 Cor. 11:23, yet he had learned to be content. Paul could sail either in a storm or a calm; he could be anything that God would have him; he could either want or abound, Phil. 4:13. A good Christian argues thus: It is God that has put me in this condition; he could have raised me higher, if he pleased, but that might have been a snare to me: he has done it in wisdom and love; therefore I will sit down satisfied with my condition. Surely this glorifies God much; God counts himself much honoured by such a Christian. Here says God, is one after mine own heart; let me do what I will with him, I hear no murmuring, he is content. This shows abundance of grace. When grace is crowning, it is not so much to be content; but when grace is conflicting with inconveniences, then to be content is a glorious thing indeed. For one to be content when he is in heaven is no wonder; but to be content under the cross is like a Christian. This man must needs bring glory to God; for he shows to all the world, that though he has little meal in his barrel, yet he has enough in God to make him content: he says, as David, Psalm 16:5, “The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance; the lines are fallen to me in pleasant places.”
7. We glorify God by working out our own salvation. God has bound together his glory and our good. We glorify him by promoting our own salvation. It is a glory to God to have multitudes of converts; now, his design of free grace takes, and God has the glory of his mercy; so that, while we are endeavouring our salvation, we are honouring God. What an encouragement is this to the service of God to think, while I am hearing and praying, I am glorifying God; while I am furthering my own glory in heaven, I am increasing God’s glory. Would it not be an encouragement to a subject, to hear his prince say to him, You will honour and please me very much, if you will go to yonder mine of gold, and dig as much gold for yourself as you can carry away? So, for God to say, Go to the ordinances, get as much grace as you can, dig out as much salvation as you can; and the more happiness you have, the more I shall count myself glorified.
8. We glorify God by living to God 2 Cor. 5:15, “That they which live should not live to themselves, but unto him who died for them.” Rom. 14:8, “Whether we live, we live unto the Lord.” The Mammonist lives to his money, the Epicure lives to his belly; the design of a sinner’s life is to gratify lust, but we glorify God when we live to God.
Q. What is it to live to God?
A. When we live to his service, and lay ourselves out wholly for God. The Lord has sent us into the world, as a merchant sends his agent beyond the seas to trade for him. We live to God when we trade for his interest, and propagate his gospel. God has given every man a talent; and when a man does not hide it in a napkin, but improves it for God, he lives to God. When a master in a family, by counsel and good example, labours to bring his servants to Christ; when a minister spends himself, and is spent, that he may win souls to Christ, and make the crown flourish upon Christ’s head; when the magistrate does not wear the sword in vain, but labours to cut down sin, and to suppress vice; this is to live to God, and this is glorifying God. Phil. 1:20. “That Christ might be magnified, whether by life or by death.” Three wishes Paul had, and they were all about Christ; that he might be found in Christ, be with Christ, and magnify Christ.
9. We glorify God by walking cheerfully. It brings glory to God, when the world sees a Christian has that within him that which can make him cheerful in the worst times; that can enable him, with the nightingale, to sing with a thorn at his breast. The people of God have ground for cheerfulness. They are justified and adopted, and this creates inward peace; it makes music within, whatever storms are without, 2 Cor. 1:4. I Thess. 1:6. If we consider what Christ has wrought for us by his blood, and wrought in us by his Spirit, it is a ground of great cheerfulness, and this cheerfulness glorifies God. It reflects upon a master when the servant is always drooping and sad; sure he is kept to hard commons, his master does not give him what is fitting; so, when God’s people hang their heads, it looks as if they did not serve a good master, or repented of their choice, which reflects dishonour on God. As the gross sins of the wicked bring a scandal on the gospel, so do the uncheerful lives of the godly. Psalm 100:2, “Serve the Lord with gladness.” Your serving him does not glorify him, unless it be with gladness. A Christian’s cheerful looks glorify God; religion does not take away our joy, but refines it; it does not break our viol, but tunes it, and makes the music sweeter.
10. We glorify God by standing up for his truths. Much of God’s glory lies in his truth. God has entrusted us with his truth, as a master entrusts his servant with his purse to keep. We have not a richer jewel to trust God with than our souls, nor has God a richer jewel to trust us with than his truth. Truth is a beam that shines from God. Much of his glory lies in his truth. When we are advocates for truth we glorify God. Jude 3, “That ye should contend earnestly for the truth.” The Greek word to contend signifies great contending, as one would contend for his land, and not suffer his right to be taken from him, so we should contend for the truth. Were there more of this holy contention God would have more glory. Some contend earnestly for trifles and ceremonies, but not for the truth. We should Count him indiscreet that would contend more for a picture than for his inheritance; for a box of toys than for his box of title deeds.
11. We glorify God by praising him. Doxology, or praise, is a God-exalting work. Psalm 50:23, “Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me.” The Hebrew word Bara, to create, and Barak, to praise, are little different, because the end of creation is to praise God. David was called the sweet singer of Israel, and his praising God was called glorifying God. Psalm 96:12. “I will praise thee, O Lord my God, and I will glorify thy name.” Though nothing can add to God’s essential glory, yet praise exalts him in the eyes of others. When we praise God, we spread his fame and renown, we display the trophies of his excellency. In this manner the angels glorify him; they are the choristers of heaven, and do trumpet forth his praise. Praising God is one of the highest and purest acts of religion. In prayer we act like men; in praise we act like angels. Believers are called “temples of God.” I Cor. 3:16. When our tongues praise, then the organs in God’s spiritual temple are sounding. How sad it is that God has no more glory from us in this way! Many are full of murmuring and discontent, but seldom bring glory to God, by giving him the praise due to his name. We read of the saints having harps in their hands, the emblems of praise. Many have tears in their eyes, and complaints in their mouths, but few have harps in their hands, blessing and glorifying God. Let us honour God this way. Praise is the quit-rent we pay to God: as long as God renews our lease, we must renew our rent.
12. We glorify God, by being zealous for his name. Num. 25:11, “Phineas hath turned my wrath away, while he was zealous for my sake.” Zeal is a mixed affection, a compound of love and anger; it carries forth our love to God, and our anger against sin in an intense degree. Zeal is impatient of God’s dishonour; a Christian fired with zeal takes a dishonour done to God worse than an injury done to himself. Rev. 2:2, “Thou canst not bear them that are evil.” Our Saviour Christ thus glorified his Father; he, being baptized with a spirit of zeal, drove the money-changers out of the temple, John 2:14-17. “The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.”
13. We glorify God, when we have an eye to God in our natural and in our civil actions. In our natural actions; in eating and drinking. 1 Cor. 10:31 “Whether therefore ye eat or drink, do all to the glory of God.” A gracious person holds the golden bridle of temperance; he takes his meat as a medicine to heal the decays of nature, that he may be the fitter, by the strength he receives, for the service of God; he makes his food, not fuel for lust, but help to duty. In buying and selling, we do all to the glory of God. The wicked live upon unjust gain, by falsifying the balances, as in Hosea 12:7, “The balances of deceit are in his hands;” and thus while men make their weights lighter, they make their sins heavier, when by exacting more than the commodity is worth, they do not for eighty write down fifty, but for fifty eighty; when they exact double the price that a thing is worth. We buy and sell to the glory of God, when we observe that golden maxim, “To do to others as we would have them do to us;” so that when we sell our commodities, we do not sell our consciences also. Acts 24:16. “Herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence towards God, and towards men.” We glorify God, when we have an eye to God in all our civil and natural actions, and do nothing that may reflect any blemish on religion.
14. We glorify God by labouring to draw others to God; by seeking to convert others, and so make them instruments of glorifying God. We should be both diamonds and loadstones (magnetic rocks); diamonds for the lustre of grace and loadstones for attractive virtue in drawing others to Christ. Gal. 4:19, “My little children, of whom I travail,” etc. It is a great way of glorifying God, when we break open the devil’s prison, and turn men from the power of Satan to God.
15. We glorify God in a high degree when we suffer for God, and seal the gospel with our blood. John 21:18,19, “When thou shalt be old, another shall gird thee, and carry thee, whither thou wouldest not: this spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God.” God’s glory shines in the ashes of his martyrs. Isa. 24:15, “wherefore glorify the Lord in the fires.” Micah was in the prison, Isaiah was sawn asunder, Paul beheaded, Luke hanged on an olive tree; thus did they, by their death, glorify God. The sufferings of the primitive saints did honour to God, and made the gospel famous in the world. What would others say? See what a good master they serve, and how they love him, that they will venture the loss of all in his service. The glory of Christ’s kingdom does not stand in worldly pomp and grandeur, as other kings; but it is seen in the cheerful sufferings of his people. The saints of old “loved not their lives to the death.” Rev. 12:11. They embraced torments as so many crowns. God grant we may thus glorify him, if he calls us to it. Many pray, “Let this cup pass away,” but few, “Thy will be done.”
16. We glorify God, when we give God the glory of all that we do. When Herod had made an oration, and the people gave a shout, saying, “It is the voice of a God, and not of a man,” he took the glory to himself; the text says, immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory, and he was eaten of worms.” Acts 12:23. We glorify God, when we sacrifice the praise and glory of all to God. 1 Cor. 15:10, “I laboured more abundantly than they all,” a speech, one would think, savoured of pride; but the apostle pulls the crown from his own head, and sets it upon the head of free grace: “yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” As Joab, when he fought against Rabbah, sent for King David, that he might carry away the crown of the victory, 2 Sam. 12:28, so a Christian, when he has gotten power over any corruption or temptation sends for Christ, that he may carry away the crown of the victory. As the silkworm, when she weaves her curious work, hides herself under the silk, and is not seen; so when we have done anything praiseworthy, we must hide ourselves under the veil of humility, and transfer the glory of all we have done to God. As Constantine used to write the name of Christ over his door, so should we write the name of Christ over our duties. Let him wear the garland of praise.
17. We glorify God by a holy life. A bad life dishonours God. 1 Pet. 2:8, “Ye are an holy nation, that ye should shew forth the praises of him that hath called you.” Rom. 2:24, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you.” Epiphanus says,” That the looseness of some Christians in his time made many of the heathens shun their company, and would not be drawn to hear their sermons.” By our exact Bible-conversation we glorify God. Though the main work of religion lies in the heart, yet our light must so shine that others may behold it. The safety of a building is the foundation, but the glory of it is in the frontispiece; so the beauty of faith is in the conversation. When the saints, who are called jewels, cast a sparkling lustre of holiness in the eyes of the world, then they “walk as Christ walked.” 1 John 2:6. When they live as if they had seen the Lord with bodily eyes, and been with him upon the mount, they adorn religion, and bring revenues of glory to the crown of heaven.
Use 1.-This subject shows us that our chief end should not be to get great estates, not to lay up treasures upon earth; which is the degeneracy of mankind since the fall. Sometimes they never arrive at an estate, they do not get the venison they hunt for; or if they do, what have they? That which will not fill the heart any more than the mariner’s breath will fill the sails of the ship. They spend their time, as Israel, in gathering straw, but remember not that the end of living is to glorify God. Eccles. 5:16, “What profit hath he that laboureth for the wind?” These things are soon gone.
Use 2.-It reproves such, (1) As bring no glory to God; who do not answer the end of their creation; whose time is not time lived, but time lost; who are like the wood of the vine, Ezek. 15:2; whose lives are, as St. Bernard speaks “Either sinfulness or barrenness. A useless burden on the earth.” God will one day ask such a question as King Ahasuerus did, Esth. 6:3, “What honour and dignity hath been done to Mordecai?” What honour has been done to me? What revenues of glory have you brought into my exchequer?
There is no one here present but God has put in some capacity of glorifying him; the health he has given you, the parts, estate, seasons of grace, all are opportunities put into your hand to glorify him; and, be assured, he will call you to account, to know what you have done with the mercies he has entrusted you with, what glory you have brought to him. The parable of the talents, where the men with the five talents and the two talents are brought to a reckoning, evidently shows that God will call you to a strict account, to know how you have traded with your talents, and what glory you have brought to him. Now, how sad will it be with them who hide their talents in a napkin, that bring God no glory at all! “Cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness.” It is not enough for you to say that you have not dishonoured God, you have not lived in gross sin; but what good have you done? What glory have you brought to God? It is not enough for the servant of the vineyard that he does no hurt in the vineyard, that he does not break the trees, or destroy the hedges; if he does not do service in the vineyard, he loses his pay; so, if you do not good in your place, do not glorify God, you will lose your pay, you will miss of salvation. Oh, think of this, all you that live unserviceably! Christ cursed the barren fig tree.
(2.) It reproves such as are so far from bringing glory to God, that they rob God of his glory. Mal. 3:8, “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me.” They rob God, who take the glory due to God to themselves. 1. If they have gotten an estate, they ascribe all to their own wit and industry, they set the crown upon their own head, not considering that, Deut. 8:18, “Thou shalt remember the Lord thy God, for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth.” 2. If they do any duty of religion, they look to their own glory. Matt. 6:5, “that they may be seen of men;” that they may be set upon a theatre for others to admire and canonize them. The oil of vainglory feeds their lamp. How many by the wind of popular breath have been blown to hell! Whom the devil cannot destroy by intemperance, he does by vainglory.
(3.) It reproves those who fight against God’s glory. Acts 5:29, “Lest ye be found to fight against God.”
Q. Who are those who fight against God’s glory?
A. Such as oppose that whereby God’s glory is promoted. His glory is much promoted by the preaching of the word, which is his engine whereby he converts souls. Now, such as would hinder the preaching of the word fight against God’s glory. 1 Thess. 2:16, “Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles, that they might be saved.” Diocletian, who raised the tenth persecution against the Christians, prohibited church meetings, and would have the temples of the Christians to be razed down. Such as hinder preaching, as the Philistines that stopped the wells, stop the well of the water of life. They take away the physicians that should heal sin-sick souls. Ministers are lights, Matt. 5:14, and who but thieves hate the light? They directly strike at God’s glory; and what an account will they have to give to God, when he shall charge the blood of men’s souls upon them! Luke 11:52, “Ye have taken away the key of knowledge; ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.” If there be either justice in heaven, or fire in hell, they shall not go unpunished.
USE 3.-Exhortation. Let every one of us, in our place, make it our chief end and design to glorify God. (1.) Let me speak to magistrates. God has put much glory upon them. Psalm 82:6, “I have said, Ye are Gods;” and will they not glorify him who has put so much glory upon them? (2.) Ministers should study to promote God’s glory. God has entrusted them with two of the most precious things, his truth, and the souls of his people. Ministers, by virtue of their office, are to glorify God. They must glorify God, by labouring in the word and doctrine. 2 Tim. 4:1, “I charge thee before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead: preach the word, be instant in season, out of season,” etc. It was Augustine’s wish, “that Christ, at his coming, might find him either praying or preaching.” Ministers must glorify God by their zeal and sanctity. The priests under the law, before they served at the altar, washed in the laver; so such as serve in the Lord’s house must first be washed from gross sin in the laver of repentance. It is a matter of grief and shame to think how many who call themselves ministers, instead of bringing glory to God, dishonour him. 2 Chron. 11:15. Their lives, as well as their doctrines, are heterodox; they are not free from the sins which they reprove in others. Plutarch’s servant upbraided him, by saying, “he has written a book against anger, et ipse mihi irascitur, yet he falls into a passion of anger with me.” So is a minister who preaches against drunkenness, yet he himself is drunk; he preaches against swearing, yet he himself swears. Masters of families must glorify God, must season their children and servants with the knowledge of the Lord; their houses should be little churches. Gen. 18:19, “I know that Abraham will command his children, that they may keep the way of the Lord.” You that are masters have a charge of souls. For want of the bridle of family discipline youth runs wild.
It will be a great comfort in a dying hour, to think we have glorified God in our lives. It was Christ’s comfort before his death: John 17:3, “I have glorified thee on the earth.” At the hour of death, all your earthly comforts will vanish: if you think how rich you have been, what pleasures you have had on earth; this will be so far from comforting you, that it will torment you the more. What is one the better for an estate that is spent? But to have conscience telling you that you have glorified God on the earth, what sweet comfort and peace will this let into your soul! How will it make you long for death! The servant that has been all day working in the vineyard longs till evening comes, when he shall receive his pay. How can they who have lived, and brought no glory to God, think of dying with comfort? They cannot expect a harvest where they sowed no seed. How can they expect glory from God, who never brought any glory to him? Oh in what horror will they be at death! The worm of conscience will gnaw their souls, before the worms can gnaw their bodies.
If we glorify God, he will glorify our souls for ever. By raising God’s glory, we increase our own: by glorifying God, we come at last to the blessed enjoyment of him.
The second part of our subject is that man’s chief end is to enjoy God for ever. Psalm 73:25, “Whom have I in heaven but thee?” That is, What is there in heaven I desire to enjoy but thee? There is a twofold fruition or enjoying of God; the one is in this life, the other in the life to come.
1st. The enjoyment of God in this life. It is a great matter to enjoy God’s ordinances, but to enjoy God’s presence in the ordinances is that which a gracious heart aspires after. Psalm 63:2, “To see thy glory so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary.” This sweet enjoyment of God is when we feel his Spirit co-operating with the ordinance, and distilling grace upon our hearts. When in the Word the Spirit quickens and raises the affections. Luke 24:32, “Did not our hearts burn within us?” When the Spirit transforms the heart leaving an impress of holiness upon it. 2 Cor. 3:8, “We are changed into the same image, from glory to glory.” When the Spirit revives the heart with comfort, it comes not only with its anointing, but with its seal; it sheds God’s love abroad in the heart. Rom. 5:5, “Our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” 1 John 1:3. In the Word we hear God’s voice; in the sacrament we have his kiss. The heart being warmed and inflamed in a duty is God’s answering by fire. The sweet communications of God’s Spirit are the first fruits of glory. Now Christ has pulled off his veil, and showed his smiling face; now he has led a believer into the banqueting-house, and given him of the spiced wine of his love to drink; he has put in his finger at the hole of the door; he has touched the heart, and made it leap for joy. Oh how sweet is it thus to enjoy God! The godly have, in ordinances, had such divine raptures of joy, and soul transfigurations, that they have been carried above the world, and have despised all things here below.
Use 1. Is the enjoyment of God in this life so sweet? How wicked are they who prefer the enjoyment of their lusts before the enjoyment of God! 2 Pet. 3:3, “The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, the pride of life,” is the Trinity they worship. Lust is an inordinate desire or impulse, provoking the soul to that which is evil. There is the revengeful lust, and the wanton lust. Lust, like a feverish heat, puts the soul into a flame. Aristotle calls sensual lusts brutish, because, when any lust is violent, reason or conscience cannot be heard. These lusts besot and brutalise the man. Hos. 4:11,”Whoredom and wine take away the heart;” the heart for anything that is good. How many make it their chief end, not to enjoy God, but to enjoy their lusts; as that cardinal who said, “Let him but keep his cardinalship of Paris and he was content to lose his part in Paradise.” Lust first bewitches with pleasure, and then comes the fatal dart. Prov. 7:23, “Till a dart strike through his liver.” This should be as a flaming sword to stop men in the way of their carnal delights. Who for a drop of pleasure would drink a sea of wrath?
Use 2. Let it be our great care to enjoy God’s sweet presence in his ordinances. Enjoying spiritual communion with God is a riddle and mystery to most people. Every one that hangs about the court does not speak with the king. We may approach God in ordinances, and hang about the court of heaven, yet not enjoy communion with God. We may have the letter without the Spirit, the visible sign without the invisible grace. It is the enjoyment of God in a duty that we should chiefly look at. Psalm 13:2, “My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God.” Alas! what are all our worldly enjoyments without the enjoyment of God? What is it to enjoy good health, a brave estate, and not to enjoy God? Job 30:28, “I went mourning without the sun.” So mayest thou say in the enjoyment of all creatures without God, “I went mourning without the sun.” I have the starlight of outward enjoyments, but I lack the Sun of Righteousness. “I went mourning without the sun.” It should be our great design, not only to have the ordinances of God, but the God of the ordinances. The enjoyment of God’s sweet presence here is the most contented life: he is a hive of sweetness, a magazine of riches, a fountain of delight, Psalm 36:8,9. The higher the lark flies the sweeter it sings; and the higher we fly by the wings of faith, the more we enjoy of God. How is the heart inflamed in prayer and meditation! What joy and peace is there in believing! Is it not comfortable being in heaven? He that enjoys much of God in this life carries heaven about him. Oh let this be the thing we are chiefly ambitious of, the enjoyment of God in his ordinances! The enjoyment of God’s sweet presence here is an earnest of our enjoying him in heaven.
This brings us to the second thing:
2nd. The enjoyment of God in the life to come. Man’s chief end is to enjoy God forever. Before the plenary fruition of God in heaven, there must be something previous and antecedent; and that is our being in a state of grace. We must have conformity to him in grace, before we can have communion with him in glory. Grace and glory are linked and chained together. Grace precedes glory, as the morning star ushers in the sun. God will have us qualified and fitted for a state of blessedness. Drunkards and swearers are not fit to enjoy God in glory; the Lord will not lay such vipers in his bosom. Only “the pure in heart shall see God.” We must first be, as the king’s daughter, glorious within, before we are clothed with the robes of glory. As King Ahasuerus first caused the virgins to be purified and anointed, and they had their sweet odours to perfume them, and then went to stand before the king, Esth. 2:12, so must we have the anointing of God, and be perfumed with the graces of the Spirit, those sweet odours, and then we shall stand before the king of heaven. Being thus divinely qualified by grace, we shall be taken up to the mount of vision, and enjoy God for ever; and what is enjoying God for ever but to be put in a state of happiness? As the body cannot have life but by having communion with the soul, so the soul cannot have blessedness but by having immediate communion with God. God is the summum bonum, the chief good; therefore the enjoyment of him is the highest felicity.
He is a universal good; bonum in quo omnia bona, “a good in which are all goods.” The excellencies of the creature are limited. A man may have health, not beauty, learning, not parentage, riches, not wisdom; but in God are contained all excellencies. He is a good, commensurate fully to the soul; a sun, a portion, a horn of salvation; in whom dwells “all fulness.” Col. 1:19. God is an unmixed good. There is no condition in this life but has its mixture; for every drop of honey there is a drop of gall. Solomon, who gave himself to find out the philosopher’s stone, to search out for happiness here below, found nothing but vanity and vexation, Eccl. 1:2. God is perfect, the quintessence of good. He is sweetness in the flower. God is a satisfying good. The soul cries out, I have enough. Psalm 17:15, “I shall be satisfied with thy likeness.” Let a man who is thirsty be brought to an ocean of pure water, and he has enough. If there be enough in God to satisfy the angels, then sure there is enough to satisfy us. The soul is but finite, but God is infinite. Though God be a good that satisfies, yet he does not surfeit. Fresh joys spring continually from his face; and he is as much to be desired after millions of years by glorified souls as at the first moment. There is a fulness in God that satisfies, and yet so much sweetness, that the soul still desires.
God is a delicious good. That which is the chief good must ravish the soul with pleasure; there must be in it rapturous delight and quintessence of joy. In Deo quadam dulcedine delectatur anima immo rapitur [The soul, delighted with the sweetness of God, indeed is ravished by it]: the love of God drops such infinite suavity into the soul as is unspeakable and full of glory. If there be so much delight in God, when we see him only by faith, 1 Pet. 1:8, what will the joy of vision be, when we shall see him face to face! If the saints have found so much delight in God while they were suffering, oh what joy and delight will they have when they are being crowned! If flames are beds of roses, what will it be to lean on the bosom of Jesus! What a bed of roses that will be!
God is a superlative good. He is better than anything you can put in competition with him: he is better than health, riches, honour. Other things maintain life, he gives life. Who would put anything in balance with the Deity? Who would weigh a feather against a mountain of gold? God excels all other things more infinitely than the sun excels the light of a taper.
God is an eternal good. He is the Ancient of days, yet never decays, nor waxes old, Dan. 7:9. The joy he gives is eternal, the crown fadeth not away, 1 Pet. 5:4. The glorified soul shall be ever solacing itself in God, feasting on his love, and sunning itself in the light of his countenance. We read of the river of pleasure at God’s right hand; but will not this in time be dried up? No. There is a fountain at the bottom which feeds it. Psalm 36:9, “With the Lord is the fountain of life.” Thus God is the chief good, and the enjoyment of God for ever is the highest felicity of which the soul is capable.
Use 1. Let it be the chief end of our living to enjoy this chief good hereafter. Austin reckons up 288 opinions among philosophers about happiness, but all were short of the mark. The highest elevation of a reasonable soul is to enjoy God for ever. It is the enjoyment of God that makes heaven. 1 Thess. 4:17, “Then shall we ever be with the Lord.” The soul trembles as the needle in the compass, and is never at rest till it comes to God. To set out this excellent state of a glorified soul’s enjoyment of God: 1. It must not be understood in a sensual manner: we must not conceive any carnal pleasures in heaven. The Turks speak of a paradise of pleasure, where they have riches in abundance, and red wine served in golden chalices. The epicures of this age would like such a heaven when they die. Though the state of glory be compared to a feast, and is set out by pearls and precious stones, yet these metaphors are only helps to our faith, and to show us that there is superabundant joy and felicity in the highest heaven; but they are not carnal but spiritual delights. Our enjoyment will be in the perfection of holiness, in seeing the pure face of Christ, in feeling the love of God, in conversing with heavenly spirits; which will be proper for the soul, and infinitely exceed all carnal voluptuous delights.
2. We shall have a lively sense of this glorious estate. A man in a lethargy, though alive, is as good as dead, because he is not sensible, nor does he take any pleasure in his life; but we shall have a quick and lively sense of the infinite pleasure which arises from the enjoyment of God: we shall know ourselves to be happy; we shall reflect with joy upon our dignity and felicity; we shall taste every crumb of that sweetness, every drop of that pleasure which flows from God.
3. We shall be made able to bear a sight of that glory. We could not now bear that glory, it would overwhelm us, as a weak eye cannot behold the sun; but God will capacitate us for glory; our souls shall be so heavenly, and perfected with holiness, that they may be able to enjoy the blessed vision of God. Moses in a cleft of the rock saw the glory of God passing by, Exod. 33:21. From our blessed rock Christ, we shall behold the beatific sight of God.
4.This enjoyment of God shall be more than a bare contemplation of him. Some of the learned move the question, whether the enjoyment of God shall be by way of contemplation only. That is something, but it is one half of heaven only; there shall be a loving of God, an acquiescence in him, a tasting of his sweetness; not only inspection but possession. John 17:24, “that they may behold my glory.” There is inspection: verse 22. “And the glory thou hast given me, I have given them.” There is possession: “Glory shall be revealed in us,” Rom. 8:18; not only revealed to us, but in us. To behold God’s glory, there is glory revealed to us; but to partake of his glory, there is glory revealed in us. As the sponge sucks in the wine, so shall we suck in glory. 5. There is no intermission in this state of glory. We shall not only have God’s glorious presence at certain special seasons; but we shall be continually in his presence, continually under divine raptures of joy. There shall not be one minute in heaven, wherein a glorified soul may say, I do not enjoy happiness. The streams of glory are not like the water of a conduit, often stopped, so that we cannot have one drop of water; but those heavenly streams of joy are continually running. Oh how should we despise this valley of tears where we now are, for the mount of transfiguration! How we should long for the full enjoyment of God in Paradise! Had we a sight of that land of promise, we should need patience to be content to live here any longer.
Use 2. Let this be a spur to duty. How diligent and zealous should we be in glorifying God, that we may come at last to enjoy him! If Tully, Demosthenes, and Plato, who had but the dim watch-light of reason to see by, fancied an elysium and happiness after this life, and took such Herculean pains to enjoy it, oh how should Christians, who have the light of Scripture to see by, bestir themselves that they may attain to the eternal fruition of God and glory! If anything can make us rise off our bed of sloth, and serve God with all our might, it should be this, the hope of our near enjoyment of God for ever. What made Paul so active in the sphere of religion? 1 Cor. 15:10 “I laboured more abundantly than they all.” His obedience did not move slow, as the sun on the dial; but swift, as light from the sun. Why was he so zealous in glorifying God, but that he might at last centre and terminate in him? 1 Thess. 4:17, “Then shall we ever be with the Lord.”
Use 3. Let this comfort the godly in all the present miseries they feel. Thou complainest, Christian, thou dost not enjoy thyself, fears disquiet thee, wants perplex thee; in the day thou canst not enjoy ease, in the night thou canst not enjoy sleep; thou cost not enjoy the comforts of thy life. Let this revive thee, that shortly thou shalt enjoy God, and then shalt have more than thou canst ask or think; thou shalt have angels’ joy, glory without intermission or expiration. We shall never enjoy ourselves fully till we enjoy God eternally.