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GENESIS i. 26.
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our like
ness : and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth 1.
How marked and gracious a difference of expression is observable in the announcement of the will of God for the creation of man, from that which appointed the other parts and beings of the world ! The words of it are important in a large variety of ways: they declare the original superiority of man, telling us that he was something more, in design and capacity, than all other living creatures, which
1 The creation of man is described with peculiar solemnity, 1. “ He was made in the image and likeness of God ;" invested with reason and speech; endued with the knowledge of his Creator, and made an heir of immortality, not like unto “ the beasts that perish.' 2. He was invested with dominion over all the animal tribes, the vegetables, and the earth itself. 3. Whereas all other animals were created “ after their kinds," the sex of the human species is particularized: “ Male and female created he them.” And this by a distinct formation of the woman out of the
The separate process of both is described in the second chapter, not to interrupt the general account of the creation in the first.-Dr. HALES,
had been formed by the commandment of the Almighty; they certify us, that for him was all this wonderful scenery contrived and arranged; and that he was created to be, under God, the lord and possessor of the whole.-" Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” This constituted and proclaimed man's excellence: he was of the direct workmanship of the Divine Maker; he was made “ in the image, and after the likeness of God,” that is, as we are taught in the recapitulation of the second chapter, the frame having been put together of “ the dust of the ground,” his life was bestowed by means of that process which is termed “ breathing into his nostrils the breath of life.” In the statement of God's pleasure that he should be made, the subordinate material is not mentioned, as though the mention of it would have detracted from the greatness and excellence of the work; it would seem that man's excellence not lying in his outward form, but in that endowment described under “the image and likeness of God,” to this the attention is to be called, this making him the being he was designed to be. His bodily frame is dust : his real character is the “living soul” he became by God's “ breathing into him the breath of life.” Admirable, therefore, is the sacred historian in his account: he presents man in the height of his nature, on his first entering upon his existence, and leaves for after statement the fact that he was “ formed from the dust of the ground.” It was the purpose to shew man in his true design, as a creature of immortality; and he could not have adopted a more. fitting method. Dominion is immediately declared to be his, over all things besides that have breath. The kind was created, male and female; the man, indeed, was first created, and the woman afterwards from his substance; but, since she was formed from him, being “bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh,” she is, as essentially part of him, included in the act of creation. They then received the blessing of God, being commanded, and by the command enabled, to be “fruitful,” to “multiply,” to “ replenish the earth,” to “subdue it,” to “have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” There is no doubt that this original dominion was much superior to, and more acknowledged, than that which man exercises now; but, even yet he is lord of all: he makes the earth, and all things that are in it, to be subservient to him; the strongest and the fiercest animals, if he so set his mind, are brought to his direction and use; all the difficulties and ruggednesses of the earth are overcome by him ; and, by force of the intelligence with which God hath endued him, he is able to conquer, in great measure, and in sufficient degree for any desirable object, the dangers of the sea, and fearlessly to encounter the violence of the wind, and in almost security from ill to defy the seeming irregularities of nature. Thus much of his original excellence still remains, shewing, that the image of God in him, obscured as it may be, is not defaced; and that “the likeness," after which he was created, notwithstanding the deformities cast upon it by the fall, still exists, and will be restored in its beauty and perfectness.
It is desirable that we should consider the subject of the creation and superiority of man, somewhat at large. It is an interesting and a fruitful subject, and will amply repay any pains of attention we may bestow upon it, provided we suffer ourselves to be altogether guided by the Revelation of God. Our inquiry will, generally, concern these points—In what consisted that divine image and likeness, in and after which man was created; what was his immortal, and what was his earthly character; what was his original destiny; what was the dominion he had over the earth; what, in short, was his state of innocence and happiness. To the first of these points, the present chapter shall be directed; and here, the proper and scriptural meaning of the words—“Let us make Man in our image, after our likeness,” will be our endeavour. Various interpretations have been given of them; but we must be aware, that no interpretation of them can be right, which does not come to us under the sanction of Scripture. If we wander from Scripture, rejecting its rules and guidance, we are necessarily wrong. It is from it, we have our only account; and we are obliged, because it is our only account,-for, it is the only revealed, and therefore, the only authentic source of information,-to receive it as our standard ; and consequently, are bound to turn from whatever will not submit to be brought to its proof. The origin of man, and God's intention in his existence, cannot be learnt by us elsewhere than in Revelation. As he was created by God, who but God can say how, or from, what he was created ? Man knows it not, of himself; all his knowledge regarding it, must come from the Creator. As his creation was designed by God, who but God can declare his original destiny? The divine mind cannot be known, unless communicated from itself. “ Where was man, when God laid the foundations of the earth?” “Who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been his counsellor?” Let us, then, banish all ideas and conceptions on this subject, which have not their justification and authority in Holy Scripture. Mere speculation, however ingenious, and however dazzling, cannot bring us near unto the truth; it is but man's opinion, man’s fancy, man's error it may be said; God's Word alone is certain, and it is everlasting. It cannot be overthrown, while the other is liable to be dissipated by every breath of new doctrine. Having its rise in human thought, it depends on human caprice.
How was Man created ? is our question. From what substance, or essence, and by what operation? The operation was immediate from God, more immediate than was that of any other part of the divine workmanship. He simply commanded all other to be: He said—“Let there be light-let there be a firmament-let the earth bring forth-let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven”-and “ let the earth bring forth the living creature after his