Aristotle, Final Cause, George Swinnock, image of God, Imago Dei, The Christian Man's Calling, Worship
In this fifth chapter, Swinnock contends that the purpose of our creation was to worship God. Hence, our final cause must be godliness.
I come in the third place to the reasons, Why godliness should be every man’s main and principal business.
God created us for the purpose of godliness: this was the ‘final cause’ for our creation. Although not explicitly set forth here, Aristotle’s fourth cause sets the basis for this argument. Aristotle broke causation down into four elements: For instance, if someone were to carve a statue, the artist, the hammer, and the stone would all contribute to the creation of the final statue: each would be a cause of what was created. But there is a fourth cause, the final cause which is the point of the whole thing. The point of God’s creation is to Glorify God and enjoy him forever.
First, Because it is God’s chief end in sending man into, and continuing him in, this world. It is without question, that the work should be for that end to which it is appointed, and for which it is maintained by a sovereign and intelligent workman.
Analogous principle: a servant has a duty to fulfill that end whichhas been set out by his master. We are not our own master, and we are not at liberty to determine our own actions.
Where the master hath authority to command, there his end and errand must be chiefly in the servant’s eye. Zeno well defines liberty to be ἐξουσία αὐτοπραγίας [authority over one’s own conduct] a power to act and practise at a man’s own pleasure; opposite to which, servitude must be a determination to act at, and according to, the will of another.
A servant is, as the orator saith well, nomen officii, a word that speaks one under command; he is not one that moveth of himself, but the master’s living instrument, according to the philosopher, to be used at his pleasure.
Now he applies the principle: If God has authority over us then our obedience must correspond to his authority:
According to the title or power which one hath over another, such must the service be. Where the right is absolute, the obedience must not be conditional; God having therefore a perfect sovereignty over his creatures, and complete right to all their services, his end and aim, his will and word, must be principally minded by them. Paul gathers this fruit from that root: ‘The God whose I am, and whom I serve,’ Acts 27:23. His subjection is founded on God’s dominion over him.
Having established the principle that a servant owes due obedience to his master, Swinnock returns to the principle of this chapter:
Now the great end to which man is designed by God, is the exercising himself to godliness.
God erected the stately fabric of the great world for man, but he wrought the curious piece of the little world [man] for himself. Of all his visible works he did set man apart for his own worship.
Here is an important move in the argument. By being made for godliness, human beings were made for something more than the world. The world was made for human beings, but human beings were made for God. Godliness will then entail something more than merely getting by in the world on such terms are convenient or acceptable to us.
The force of this argument is apparent when it is raised in the opposite direction. When a standard for godly living is raised, we can object to it on the ground that it does not seem to create problems or have negative consequences. Such an argument would sound like this, “Why do you think X is wrong, who does it hurt?” Such an argument has implicit it in the proposition that the only final cause for a human being is oneself, and that only final cause for a rule must be ease or immediate good. This is incidentally, similar to the nature of therapy: The purpose of therapy is help you feel good about whatever you are doing. As long as you do not violate the right of consent in another person, you have fulfilled your moral obligations.
The nature of godliness will not correspond to the therapeutic, consent-based morality. The final cause, the purpose of godliness is not that you should feel good right now. There may be some immediate pleasure or happiness from godliness, but
godliness will not necessary entail immediate goods. Restraint, humility, kindness, chastity are not considered immediate goods.
The trouble is that our subjective emotional response is not identical to the ends for which God has created human beings.
Swinnock’s argument that we are made for something more than this world, explains why immediate emotional response may not be a good indicator of highest end. To the extent our judgment is based upon an evaluation of what is best for me right now, my judgment will be impaired. He needs to establish this point early on, because the course of godliness will not always match my feelings or subjective evaluation.
Man, saith one, is the end of all in a semicircle, intimating that all things in the world were made for man, and man was made for God. It is but rational to suppose that if this world was made for us, we must be made for more than this world.
It is an ingenious observation of Picus Mirandula, God created the earth for beasts to inhabit, the sea for fish, the air for fowls, the heavens for angels and stars, man therefore hath no place to dwell and abide in, but the Lord alone.
The great God, according to his infinite wisdom, hath designed all his creatures to some particular ends, and hath imprinted in their natures an appetite and propensity towards that end, as the point and scope of their being.2
He here gives a great many examples from nature showing a conformity of all things to their purpose.
Yea, the very inanimate and irrational creatures are serviceable to those ends and uses in their several places and stations. Birds build their nests exactly, bringing up their young tenderly. Beasts scramble and scuffle for their fodder, and at last become man’s food. The sun, moon, and stars move regularly in their orbs, and by their light and influence advantage the whole world. The little commonwealth of bees work both industriously and wonderfully for the benefit of mankind.
Flowers refresh us with their scents; trees with their shade and fruits; fire moveth upward; earth falleth downward, each by nature hastening to its centre; thunder and winds, being exhalations drawn up from the earth by the heavenly bodies, are wholly at, though stubborn and violent creatures, the call and command of the mighty possessor of heaven and earth; and with them, as with besoms, he sweeps and purifieth the air; fish sport up and down in rivers; rivers run along, sometimes seen, sometimes secret, never ceasing or tiring till they empty themselves into the ocean; the mighty sea, like a pot of water, by its ebbing and flowing purgeth itself, boileth and prepareth sustenance for living creatures.
Through this womb of moisture, this great pond of the world, as Bishop Halltermeth it, men travel in moveable houses, from country to country, transporting and exchanging commodities [ships and trading]. Thus the almighty Creator doth, γεωμετρεῖν, as Plato saith, observe a curious comely order in all his work, and appoints them to some use according to their nature.
Since all created things are suitable to their ends, it must be so with human beings:
Surely much more is man, the point in which all those lines meet, designed to some noble end, suitable to the excellency of his being; and what can that be, but to worship the glorious and blessed God, and the exercising himself to godliness?
‘The Lord made all things for himself,’ Prov. 16:4. God made things without life and reason to serve him passively and subjectively, by administering occasion to man to admire and adore his Maker; but man was made to worship him actively and affectionately, as sensible of, and affected with, that divine wisdom, power, and goodness which appear in them.
Here Swinnock expressly raises the question of Aristotle’s causes:
As all things are of him as the efficient cause [God is the agent of causation] , so all things must necessarily be for him as the final cause [the end of everything which God makes is God’s glory].
But man in an especial manner is predestinated and created for this purpose: Isa. 43:1, 7, ‘Thou art mine; I have created him for my glory; I have formed him, yea, I have made him.’ There is both the author and the end of our creation: the author, ‘I have created him;’ the end, ‘for my glory.’ As man is the most exact piece, on which he bestowed most pains, so from him he cannot but expect most praise. Lactantius accounteth religion the most proper and essential difference between men and beasts. The praises which beasts give God are dumb, their sacrifices are dead; but the sacrifices of men are living, and their praises lively.
Here Swinnock plays on the idea of the natural world as a theater of God’s Glory. The world as theater is certainly well known from Shakespeare. But the matter of a theater for God’s glory goes at least back to Calvin: “Therefore, however fitting it may be for man seriously to turn his eyes to contemplate God’s works, since he has been placed in this most glorious theater to be a spectator of them, it is fitting that he prick up his ears to the Word, the better to profit.” John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion & 2, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, vol. 1, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), 72.
God did indeed set up the admirable house of the visible world (flooring it with the earth, watering it with the ocean, and ceiling it with the pearly heavens) for his own service and honour; but the payment of this rent is expected from the hands of man, the inhabitant. He was made and put into this house upon this very account, that he might, as God’s steward, gather his rents from other creatures, and pay in to the great landlord his due and deserved praise.
Note again this understanding of the image of God: We could look to the image in terms of the capacity to reflect God. But Swinnock here emphasizes the natre of image as the reflection (rather than the capacity to reflect):
Man is made as a glass, to represent the perfections that are in God. A glass can receive the beams of the sun into it, and reflect them back again to the sun. The excellencies of God appear abundantly in his works; man is made to be the glass where these beams of divine glory should be united and received, and also from him reflected back to God again.
A return to the final cause argument: If the human being is capable of worship and reflection, then the final cause of the human being must be congruent with that capacity. If we were merely fit for animal-actions, then there would have been no need to have made us as we are:
Oh, how absurd is it to conceive that God should work a body so ‘curiously in the lowest parts of the earth,’ embroider it with nerves, veins, variety and proportion of parts, (miracles enough, saith one, between head and foot to fill a volume,) and then enliven it with a spark of his own fire, a ray of his own light, an angelical and heaven-born soul, and send this picture of his own perfections, this comely creature, into the world, merely to eat, and drink, and sleep, or to buy, and sell, and sow, and reap. Surely the only wise God had a higher end and nobler design in forming and fashioning man with so much care and cost.
The upright figure of man’s body, as the poetical heathen could observe, may mind him [put him in mind to do so] of looking upward to those blessed mansions above; and that fifth muscle in his eye, whereby he differeth also from other creatures, who have only four—one to turn downward, another to hold forwards, a third to turn the eye to the right hand, a fourth to turn the eye to the left; but no unreasonable creature can turn the eye upward as man can—may admonish him of viewing those superior glories, and exercising himself to godliness, it being given him for this purpose, saith the anatomist, that by the help thereof he might behold the heavens.
Conclusion: we were made for the purpose of godliness:
Thus the blessed God, even by sensible demonstrations, speaks his mind and end in making man; but the nature of man’s soul being a spiritual substance, doth more loudly proclaim God’s pleasure, that he would have it conversant about spiritual things. He made it a heavenly spark, that it might mount and ascend to heaven.
Living at the time Swinnock, it was simply known that human beings were made to fit into a particular place in the world.
A philosopher may get riches, saith Aristotle, but that is not his main business; a Christian may, nay, must follow his particular calling, but that is not his main business, that is not the errand for which he was sent into the world. God made particular callings for men, but he made men for their general callings.
It was a discreet answer of Anaxagoras Clazamenius to one that asked him why he came into the world; That I might contemplate heaven.
Heaven is my country, and for that is my chiefest care. May not a Christian upon better reason confess that to be the end of his creation, that he might seek heaven, and be serviceable to the Lord of heaven, and say, as Jerome, I am a miserable sinner, and born only to repent. [See, Phil. 3:2, “But our citizenship is in heaven.”]
The Jewish Talmud propounds this question, Why God made man on the Sabbath eve? and gives this answer: That he might presently enter upon the command of sanctifying the Sabbath, and begin his life with the worship of God, which was the chief reason and end why it was given him.
2 The ancient philosophers, and the old divines among the pagans, did portray their gods in wood and stone with musical instruments, not that they believed the gods to be fiddlers, or lovers of music, but to shew that nothing is more agreeable to the nature of God, than to do all in a sweet harmony and proportion.—Plutarch.
“It follows that I show for what purpose God made man himself. As He contrived the world for the sake of man, so He formed man himself on His own account, as it were a priest of a divine temple, a spectator of His works and of heavenly objects. For he is the only being who, since he is intelligent and capable of reason, is able to understand God, to admire His works, and perceive His energy and power; for on this account he is furnished with judgment, intelligence, and prudence. On this account he alone, beyond the other living creatures, has been made with an upright body and attitude, so that he seems to have been raised up for the contemplation of his Parent. On this account he alone has received language, and a tongue the interpreter of his thought, that he may be able to declare the majesty of his Lord. Lastly, for this cause all things were placed under his control, that he himself might be under the control of God, their Maker and Creator. If God, therefore, designed man to be a worshipper of Himself, and on this account gave him so much honour, that he might rule over all things; it is plainly most just that he should worship Him who bestowed upon him such great gifts, and love man, who is united with us in the participation of the divine justice.”
Lactantius, “A Treatise on the Anger of God,” in Fathers of the Third and Fourth Centuries: Lactantius, Venantius, Asterius, Victorinus, Dionysius, Apostolic Teaching and Constitutions, Homily, and Liturgies, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, trans. William Fletcher, vol. 7, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1886), 271.
 For this same idea, see, “The setting forth of his glory is a rent due to him from all creatures. We are to praise him both in word and deed, in mind, and heart, and practice, which we can never do unless we understand the dignity of his person.” Thomas Manton, The Complete Works of Thomas Manton, vol. 1 (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1870), 432.
 “When some one asked him if the hills at Lampsacus would ever become sea, he replied, “Yes, it only needs time.” Being asked to what end he had been born, he replied, “To study sun and moon and heavens.” To one who inquired, “You miss the society of the Athenians?” his reply was, “Not I, but they miss mine.”” Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, ed. R. D. Hicks (Kansas City Missouri: Harvard University Press, November 1, 2005), 141. ἐρωτηθείς ποτε εἰς τί γεγέννηται, “εἰς θεωρίαν,” ἔφη, “ἡλίου καὶ σελήνης καὶ οὐρανοῦ.” Diogenes Laertius, “Lives of Eminent Philosophers,” ed. R. D. Hicks (Kansas City Missouri: Harvard University Press, November 1, 2005), 140.