The question has often been asked, what is the meaning of life? It is similarly phrased in the first question of the Westminster Short Catechism with 'What is man's chief end?' The answer given is that 'Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever'. This matter is well considered by Thomas Vincent in his book 'The Shorter Catechism Explained from Scripture' where he ask the following questions, all of which with their answers, are well worth us taking our time to consider:
Q. 1. What is meant by the chief end of man?
A. The chief end of man, is that which man ought chiefly to aim at or design, to desire, seek after, and endeavour to obtain, as his chief good and happiness; unto which his life and his actions should be referred and directed; which is the glorifying of God, and the enjoying of God for ever.
Q. 2. May men have no other chief end than the glorifying and enjoying of God?
A. Men ought to have no other chief end than the glorifying of God, but they may have subordinate ends. For— 1. Men ought to be diligent in their particular callings, for this end, that they may provide for themselves and their families. "Do your own business, and work with your own hands, that ye may have lack of nothing."— 1 Thess. 4:11-12. 2. Men may eat, and drink, and sleep, for this end, that they may nourish and refresh their bodies. It is lawful to design, and desire, and seek such things as these in such actions, subordinately, or less principally; but in these and all actions, men ought principally and chiefly to design and seek the glory of God. "Whether, therefore, ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God."— 1 Cor. 10:31. 3. Men may moderately desire and endeavour after the enjoyment of such a portion of the good things of the world as is needful and useful; but they ought to make choice of God for their chief good, and desire the eternal enjoyment of him as their chief portion. "Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee," or in comparison with thee. "My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever."— Ps. 73:25-26.
Q. 3. What is it to glorify God?
A. 1. Negatively, to glorify God, is not to give any additional glory to God: it is not to make God more glorious than he is; for God is incapable of receiving the least addition to his essential glory, he being eternally and infinitely perfect and glorious. "Your Father which is in heaven is perfect."— Matt. 5:48. "Thou art my Lord: my goodness extendeth not unto thee."— Ps. 16:2.
2. Affirmatively, to glorify God, is to manifest God's glory: not only passively, as all creatures do, which have neither religion nor reason, but also actively, men glorify God, when the design of their life and actions is the glory and honour of God. "That ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you," &c.— 1 Pet. 2:9. (1.) When inwardly they have the highest estimation of him, the greatest confidence in him, and the strongest affections to him, this is glorifying of God in spirit.. "Glorify God in your spirit, which is God's."— 1 Cor. 6:20. (2.) When outwardly they acknowledge God according to the revelations he hath made of himself, when with their lips they show forth God's praise. "He that offereth praise, glorifieth me."— Ps. 50:23. When they sincerely endeavour, in their actions, the exalting of God's name, the promotion of the interest of his kingdom in the world, and to yield that worship and obedience to him which he hath prescribed in his Word. ") magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together."— Ps. 24:3. "Fear God, and give glory to him; and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters."— Rev. 14:7.
Q. 4. What is it to enjoy God?
A. To enjoy God, is to acquiesce or rest in God as the chief good, with complacency and delight. "Return unto thy rest, O my soul."— Ps. 116:7.
Q. 5. How is God enjoyed here?
A. 1. God is enjoyed here, when people do settle them-selves upon and cleave to the Lord by faith. "But cleave unto the Lord your God."— Josh. 23: 8. 2. When they taste the Lord's goodness, and delight themselves in the gracious presence and sensible manifestations of God's special love unto them. "O taste and see that the Lord is good."— Ps. 34:8. "Because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost."— Rom. 5:5.
Q. 6. How will God be enjoyed by his people hereafter?
A. God will be enjoyed hereafter by his people, when they shall be admitted into his glorious presence, have an immediate sight of his face, and full sense of his love in heaven, and there fully and eternally acquiesce and rest in him with perfect and inconceivable delight and joy. "Now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face."— 1 Cor. 23:12. "There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God."— Heb. 4:9. "In thy presence there is fulness of joy, at thy right hand are pleasures for evermore."— Ps. 16:11.
Q. 7. Why is the glorifying of God and the enjoyment of God joined together as one chief end of man?
A. Because God hath inseparably joined them together, so that men cannot truly design and seek the one without the other. They who enjoy God most in his house on earth, do most glorify and enjoy him. "Blessed are they that dwell in thy house; they will be still praising thee." — Ps. 84:4. And when God shall be most fully enjoyed by the saints in heaven he will be most highly glorified. "He shall come to be glorified in his saints."— 2 The ss. 1:10.
Q. 8. Why ought men chiefly to design the glorifying of God in all their actions?
A. 1. Because God hath made them, and made them for this end, and given them a soul capable of doing it beyond irrational creatures. "Know ye that the Lord he is God; it is he that made us, and not we ourselves."— Ps. 100:3. "The Lord made all things for himself."— Prov. 16:4. "Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name."— Ps. 103:1. 2. Because God doth preserve them, and makes provision for them, that they might glorify him. "O bless our God, O ye people, which holdeth our soul in life."— Ps. 66:8-9. "O Come, let us worship before the Lord, for we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand."— Ps. 95:6-7. 3. Because God hath redeemed them, and bought them with the price of his Son's blood, that they may-glorify him. "Ye are not your own; for ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."— 1 Cor. 6:19-20. 4. Because he hath given them his Word to direct, his Spirit to assist, and promiseth his kingdom to encourage them to glorify him. "He showeth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and judgments unto Israel. he hath not dealt so with any nation. Praise ye the Lord "— Ps. 147:19-20. "Likewise the Spirit helpeth our infirmities."— Rom. 8:26. "Heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him."— James 2:1.
Q. 9. Why ought men chiefly to desire and seek the enjoyment of God for ever?
A. 1. Because God is the chief good, and in the enjoyment of God doth consist man's chiefest happiness. "There is none good but one, that is God."— Matt. 19:17. "There be many that say, Who will show us any good? Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us. Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased."— Ps. 4:6-7. 2. Because God is but imperfectly and inconstantly enjoyed here, and men cannot be perfectly happy until they come to the eternal enjoyment of God in heaven. "We know in part; but when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away."— 1 Cor. 13:9-10. "Not as though I had already attained, either? were already perfect; but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended "— Phil. 3:12. "In thy presence there is fulness of joy."— Ps. 16:11.