Reasons man’s happiness can only be found in God

October 23, 2021 • 4 min

From The Sinner’s Guide, page 306

It now remains for us to prove that true happiness can only be found in God. Were men convinced of this they would cease to pursue the pleasures of this world. My intention is to prove this important truth less by the authorities and testimonies of faith than by arguments drawn from reason.

It will readily be granted that no creature can enjoy perfect happiness until it has attained its last end—that is, the highest degree of perfection of which it is capable. Until it has reached this it cannot enjoy rest, and therefore it cannot be perfectly happy, for it feels the want of something necessary to its completeness.

Now, what is man’s last end, on the attainment of which depends his happiness? That it is God is undeniable; for since He is our first beginning, He must necessarily be our last end. As it is impossible for man to have two first beginnings, so it is impossible for him to have two last ends, for this would suppose the existence of two Gods.

God, then, is man’s last end, and consequently his beatitude. For since it is impossible for him to have more than one last end, it follows that in God alone can his happiness be found.

As the glove is only made for the hand, and the scabbard only for the sword, so is the human heart created only for God, and in God only will it find rest. In Him alone will it know happiness. Without Him it will be poor and miserable.

The reason of this is because as long as the understanding and the will, the noblest faculties of the soul and the principal seats of happiness, are unsatisfied, man cannot be at peace.

Now, it is evident that these faculties can only be completely satisfied in God. For, according to St. Thomas, the understanding can never be so filled that it will not desire to grasp more while there remains more to be learned; and the will can never love and relish so much good that it will not desire to possess more, if more be possible.

Consequently these two powers will never know rest until they have attained a universal object containing all good, which, once known and loved, leaves no other truth to be known, no other good to be desired.

Hence no created thing, were it the whole universe, can satisfy man’s heart. God alone, for Whom he was created, can do this.

Plutarch tells of a man who, having risen from the rank of a simple soldier to that of emperor, was accustomed to say that he had tried all conditions of life, and in none had he found happiness. How could it be otherwise, since in God alone, man’s sole supreme end, can he find supreme rest?

Let us illustrate this by an example. Consider the needle of the compass. God has given it certain properties which cause it invariably to turn to the north. Change its direction and you will see how restless it becomes until it resumes its normal position.

Man in like manner naturally turns to God as towards the pole of his existence, his first beginning and last end. Let his heart be directed to any other object, and he becomes a prey to trouble and disquiet. The possession and enjoyment of all the world’s favors cannot give him rest. But when he returns to God he immediately finds happiness and repose.

Hence he alone will be happy who possesses God, and therefore he is nearest to happiness who is nearest to God. For this reason only the just, who ever draw near to God, and whose joy is unknown to the world, are truly happy.

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