Tag Archives: jonathan edwards

Goodness of God brings about our happiness in him

Jonathan Edwards described God’s transfer of happiness to man and man’s satisfaction found in the enjoyment of God. Edwards brings together in a most concise manner, the topics of God’s aseity, happiness, goodness, and justice in Inference two of his message:

How good is God, that he has created man for this very end, to make him happy in the enjoyment of himself, the Almighty, who was happy from the days of eternity in himself, in the beholding of his own infinite beauty: the Father in the beholding and love of his Son, his perfect and most excellent image, the brightness of his own glory; and the Son in the love and enjoyment of the Father. And God needed no more, could accede no more. But yet God, who was thus happy in himself, has a natural propensity and inclination to communicate happiness to some other beings. This inclination in the nature of God is what we call goodness. And ’twas because of this inclination that he created the world, and especially that he created men and angels in it. ’Twas not that he might be made more happy himself, but that [he] might make something else happy; that3 he might make them blessed in the beholding of his excellency, and might this way glorify himself. And even the damnation of the wicked is for the manifestation of God’s justice, that he might show more of his excellency to the blessed, to their greater delight in their Godhead. Good, therefore, is God, who does such wondrous things merely from an inclination to goodness.

3 MS: “in the.”

Jonathan Edwards, “Nothing upon Earth Can Represent the Glories of Heaven,” in Sermons and Discourses, 1723–1729 (ed. Harry S. Stout and Kenneth P. Minkema; vol. 14; The Works of Jonathan Edwards; New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 1997), 14153.


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Filed under Theology

Can one possess virtue apart from God?

Jonathan Edwards thought it was impossible. He suggests in Nature of True Virtue,

Therefore he that has true virtue, consisting in benevolence to being in general, and in benevolence to virtuous being, must necessarily have a supreme love to God, both of benevolence and complacence. And all true virtue must radically and essentially, and as it were summarily consist in this. Because God is not only infinitely greater and more excellent than all other being, but he is the head of the universal system of existence; the foundation and fountain of all being and all beauty; from whom all is perfectly
derived, and on whom all is most absolutely and perfectly dependent; of whom, and through whom, and to whom is all being and all perfection; and whose being and beauty are, as it were, the sum and comprehension of all existence and excellence: much more than the sun is the fountain and summary comprehension of all the light and brightness of the day.[1]

Aristotle concedes that to be virtuous one must have a disposition toward virtue. For him virtues are learned through practice.

Then there must be, to begin with, a kind of affinity to Virtue in the disposition; which must cleave to what is honourable and loath what is disgraceful. But to get right guidance towards Virtue from the earliest youth is not easy unless one is brought up under laws of such kind; because living with self-mastery and endurance is not pleasant to the mass of men, and specially not to the young.

Practice, however, seems to contribute no little to its acquisition; merely breathing the atmosphere of politics would never have made Statesmen of them, and therefore we may conclude that they who would acquire a knowledge of Statesmanship must have in addition practice.[2]

Practice of virtues is important. Ethics take place in community. However, avoidance of subjectivity in practice comes from knowledge of virtues’ origin. Lack of awareness of virtue’s origin cripples one’s ability to perform a virtuous act. Here, Edwards is helpful because apart from a claim that virtue emanates from a divine character, one is relegated to at least a subjective perspective of virtues, possibly a coherence perspective on virtues. Edward’s claim that virtue originates with the divine nature of the Creator God provides a correspondence between the character of the Creator God and the expected character of those God created in his image. Edwards, in other works, will complete his thoughts of God’s expectations of his created by suggesting that a true virtuous task is impossible apart from the penetrating work of the Holy Spirit in a regenerated person’s life.

[1] Edwards, Jonathan. Nature of true virtue (Kindle Locations 282-288). [Ann Arbor]: University of Michigan Press.

[2] Aristotle (2005-07-01). Nichomachean Ethics (Kindle Locations 3706-3709). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.

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Filed under Ethics, Philosophy, Spirituality, Theology