« Prev Lecture XX. Preached February 10, 1694. Next »

LECTURE XX.3535   Preached February 10, 1694.

The more distinct Use and application of this subject, and such as may most aptly and properly be made, we shall now proceed to. And it will afford us a very various, and a very copious use, if we seriously apply our minds to consider it. God created man in his own Image. Why there are,

1. Sundry inferences of truth that we may collect and deduce. As, that man was, at first, a creature of great excellency, (whatsoever he is now become,) a noble and a glorious creature; the image of God being intire could not, sure, but be a very glorious thing. As it is blurred and defaced in a great measure, yet in respect of that remainder, or that mere ground of it, man is now said to be “the image and glory of God.” 1 Cor. xi. 7 The image and glory of God, he is still, notwithstanding he hath diminished and disguised himself, as an intelligent being, a living thing: he hath a soul that is essentially life, or to which life is essential; that cannot cease to live; that hath a self-determining power belonging to its nature; that acts not under the laws of a fatal necessity, but according to reason and liberty, in the common affairs and actions of life.

Take man as he was at first, when those powers that belonged 329to his nature were unvitiated and pure, what a glorious creature was this creature! Dei-formed, made after the likeness of God. The world replenished with such creatures, what a delectable habitation had it been! to have so many Godlike creatures inhabiting this world of ours, all representing God to one another, so many visible representations of divine knowledge, and divine light, and divine love and divine purity! O! what an excellent creature was man in his original state!

(2.) We may further be informed, hence, of the more peculiar excellency of our souls: for we must consider them as the primary seat of the divine image: “So God made man after his own image.” Wherein stood that? Where lay this image, or where was it seated? What! in our bodily frame and structure? (as the anthropomorphites did formerly dream.) Was it a piece of clay that was made so like God in us? And therefore, if man be to be looked upon as an excellent sort of creature, we must understand wherein his true value lies, and whereupon men are to value themselves.

A great many are apt to value themselves because they have laden themselves with a great deal of thick clay; because they have a sort of propriety in much of this earth. Some highly value themselves upon an airy title: “I am such and such a dignified thing, among those with whom I dwell.” Some are more vain to value themselves upon gay apparel, or because they have so and so trimmed and adorned those carcasses: but it is in respect of our mind and spirit, that we are the offspring of God, and bear the image of God: and if ever we have any thing truly valuable, or excellent about us, there it must lie; a mind and spirit must be the seat and subject of it. Again,

(3.) We may learn, hence, that there is much of God to be understood by ourselves; for we were made after God’s own image; and we may discern much of another thing by that which is really like it. Indeed, to direct the intention of our minds immediately towards God, is that which we are not so well capable of in this present state. The intuition of his glory, our weak minds cannot admit of: “No man can see my face and live.” saith God to Moses. But we can see our own faces; that is, the face of our own souls: we can take a view of them, and consider what naturally, and in themselves, they are: that is, according to what there remains of true primitive nature in us; and so may discern and understand much of God, as his glory is reflected on ourselves.

Though we know not how to face the sun when it shines in its strength and glory, yet we can sustain it to behold its image 330in the water, and look upon it there. So we cannot bear it, to behold the immediate radiations of divine glory directly shining forth, but reflected; and as it hath produced its image in ourselves, so we may be capable of beholding it. And by what we see in ourselves, when we understand that we are made after God’s image, that there is a thing called mind in ourselves, then God must be a mind; there is a spirit in man, and we are his offspring: then he, sure, must be a spirit too; but an infinite, purer, and more perfect Spirit. If we find such a thing as love in our own natures, we may be sure that it is infinitely higher, and greater, and larger, and more perfect, every way, in God. But again,

(4.) We may further learn hence, that upon the account o our being made after God’s image, we have much the less reason to hesitate at the receiving of that most mysterious doctrine of the Trinity in the Godhead: for if we seriously consider, we may discern the image and impress thereof in ourselves: and we find that we are made after God’s image. There is none that doth so seriously contemplate himself, his own soul, but he may and must discern and acknowledge a trinity there; those primary principles which, considered in their conjunction, do carry a most manifest and express representation of God in this respect;” to wit, active power, intellect, and love, those three great primalities in God, his word (who best knows his own nature) doth, upon all occasions, repeatedly express and inculcate to us. And the very like hereof we find in ourselves, considering these things in ourselves; not severed but conjunct: that is, a power to act, and to act according to understanding; and so act towards things that we love; and towards which there is a propension from a suitableness in ourselves to the things’ that we act towards.

Any one that will make himself his own study, must discern and acknowledge such things in himself as do make a real trinity; one and the same soul having active power belonging to it, understanding belonging to it, and love belonging to it, which, though all meet and unite in one and the same soul, are yet diverse and distinct from one another; for my power is not my understanding, and my understanding is not love; but all these do meet together in one and the same soul. So that considering man made after the image of God, the doctrine of the Trinity claims to be received with so much the more facility and agreeableness; we finding, so manifestly, the impress thereof upon our own souls. And so we may upon many things in the created universe besides; yea, and we may find 331running through all things; but most manifestly and discernably in ourselves, concerning whom it is most eminently said, that “we were made after God’s image.” Again,

(5.) We may further learn, hence, that since man was made after the image of God, (so excellent and noble a creature as this image impressed upon him, must speak him and make him,) then sure, God did, in making this creature, design him for higher and greater things than can be compassed within this temporary state. He never did design, in making such a creature as man, to confine him to time and to this lower world. For as he is a creature made after the image of God, he is made with capacities of far higher and greater things than this world can contain, or than time can measure.

If we look upon the present inhabitants of this world, so many minds and spirits inhabiting flesh, and cast about our eyes this way and that way, how thick is this same material world? how thick is it set with minds, with spirits, as so many diamonds sparkling in mud? Any one would say, “This is not their proper place: here are so many diamonds scattered here and there in dirt; surely they are not always to be there! Spiritual and immortal minds inhabiting flesh, and only casting their present rays upon low and sensible things; surely it will not always be thus.” Did God make such creatures, did he make man, after his own likeness, for so mean and so low ends and purposes, as they are every where intent upon in this their present state? Did he make man after his own image, only to support and animate a little portion of breathing clay? Did he make him only to take this flesh to keep it awhile from turning into a putrid, stinking carcass. Was this all that a spiritual, immortal mind was made for?

Men should understand, by reflecting upon their original state, what the capacity of their nature was; and that they must be made for some other state, and for higher and greater things, than they commonly apply themselves to mind while they are here. You have so many minds dwelling in flesh; and many, but for a very little while. But suppose it, as long as men do more ordinarily live upon earth, why to have a mind, a spirit, created and put into flesh to inhabit that, suppose twenty, or thirty, or forty, or fifty, or sixty years, or to the utmost pitch that the lives of men do commonly reach to; and then that creature disappears and is gone. That flesh which that mind inhabiteth, turns to dust; the soul is fled and gone: here is no more appearance of this creature, this particular creature, upon this particular stage: what are we to conclude upon this then? 332But that sure these have their parts to act in another state, upon an eternal stage, that shall never be taken down. Here are so many Godlike creatures brought into this world, and put in flesh, only to abide here such a certain number of years, and there is an end of them. This can never be thought, that God did make so many creatures after his own image, for so mean and ungodlike ends and purposes. And again,

(6.) We may further learn, hence, that an abode in the flesh, is not inconsistent with a very excellent state of life; for God did at first make man after his own image, of whose creation, as to the outward man, (of which I spake to you distinctly,) we are told, he was only made (as his name Adam doth import) out of the earth; but God breathed into him the breath of life, that intellectual vital life: he placed that spirit in him, by the inspiration whereof he came to be an understanding creature; and therein to resemble him that made him. Though this mind and spirit was to dwell in flesh, yet a very excellent state of life might be transacted here in this state: for admit that a mind and spirit be united with such flesh as we now inhabit and dwell in, yet here it hath the image of God entire and undepraved in it: not only a capacity of understanding, and of willing, and of acting, this way and that, but of doing all these aright, with a due rectitude adhering to each faculty; not remotely, not inseparably, as the sad events have shewn; but really and truly, so as that they might have remained in the state wherein they were made. O! then, how excellent a life might have been lived here, on these terms, in this world.

Though our likeness to God did not consist in this fleshly part of ours, or had not that for its seat and subject, yet it might very well consist with our having such a fleshly part about us, when there was pure and incorrupt integrity in all the powers and faculties of the soul of man: to have his soul replenished with the knowledge of God; possessed with a holy and adoring disposition, in a continual aptitude to look to, and a continual inclination to delight in, God, and in his converse; together with a universal love to one another, under that notion of being made after the image of God, as they should behold God’s resemblance in one another. And O! what a happy world were this, and how pleasantly, and with what delight, might time have been transacted here: a very pleasant, happy, excellent state of life might consist with dwelling in flesh.

Such, in whom the image of God, to wit, his moral image, hath been (though less perfectly) restored, yet how pleasantly have they lived here in this world, amidst all the abounding 333wickedness of it: such a man as Noah; such a one as Enoch, who walked with God so many hundred years in this world. This is not to live an unhappy life, to walk with God every day, to live in his fear, and live in his communion. Is this to live unhappily?

Men are apt to transfer all the causes of their complaint to other things, and set them at a remote distance from themselves. Some, when they do evil, or evil befal them, accuse their stars or external circumstances. But we have nothing to accuse but our own ill inclinations. If we live evil lives, bad and sinful lives, or miserable lives, in this world, it is our own fault: for mere dwelling in flesh imposeth no necessity upon us, of being either sinful or miserable creatures. And that we might be convinced of this, we have the exemplification of such a life in our blessed Lord living in flesh (after all flesh had corrupted their ways) without taint. Therefore, being in flesh, as such, doth necessitate none, either to live wicked or miserable lives in this world: the mind and spirit of man being stamped with the image of God.

(7.) If man were at first made after God’s own image, he must now, sure, be a very degenerate creature; the degeneracy of man must needs be exceeding great: how ungodlike a creature is he become! How unlike to God do men generally live and act, here in this world. This ought to be considered with deep and bitter regret. It is true that the natural likeness still remains, as it cannot but do, because it is natural, because it is the very nature of man himself. As his mind and spirit (being the immediate seal of the divine image) is a living thing, an understanding thing, a voluntary, active thing, this way and that, the natural image cannot but remain as long as man is man. But the degeneracy is with reference to the moral, superadded image; for that was at first superadded; and is still due; a thing concerning which we must say, it is a Debitum esse; and which, in reference to the natural image, is as the more curious lines of a picture are to the first rude draught. It is true, that first rude draught, consisting of maimed strokes, doth shew the true symmetry and proportion of the parts, in such a picture, to one another; but while every thing is yet wanting that tends to make up the comeliness and beauty, it is a very ungrateful spectacle that a man hath before his eyes in looking upon such a thing.

The natural powers that do belong to the soul of a man, shew his original capacity, what he was capable of; then all these capacities are to be filled up, as the rude draught of a 334picture should be, with what would add beauty, and the appearance of comeliness and vigour to it, as far as the pencil can express that. Here is a capacity in the very nature of man, of knowing much; but look upon that understanding power divested and destitute of all true knowledge. Here is a will capable of choosing, and of enjoying with highest complacency, the best and most delectable good; but totally divested of any such propension and inclination. And, here is a soul that is a spiritually active being; but it is active now any way but towards God, by whom it was made. Why in these very ruins of human nature, you may discern what originally it was.

Take the walls of some noble palace, yet standing: we will suppose all rooms to remain distinct from one another as they were, but it is totally unfurnished. It was inhabited, it may be, by some excellent person; but he is gone and hath left it: there was an honourable family that lived in splendor there; but they are removed, and now there is nothing to be beheld but bare walls: there be the rooms, the several apartments, as they were; but inhabited by nothing but owls and vultures: a habitation of dragons and serpents. And such is the soul of man, destitute of the divine, moral image, and of that holy rectitude which was the furniture and ornament of each several faculty and power.

We may here see what man was in his original state; and hence see and collect how great his present degeneracy is. O! how art thou fallen! what art thou fallen to, thou Lucifer, son of the morning! A Godlike creature, one made after God’s image, a little lower than the angels, that did so perfectly resemble him; and now sunk into so low a degree of darkness, and impurity, and misery, and death: of which also we were not capable, if the natural image did not remain, if he had not an understanding still, and a will still, and an active power still. And then,

(8.) You may further learn, hence, what the work of regeneration is to perform in the souls of men; and of how absolute necessity such a work is to be effected and brought about there. So God made man after his own image. That plainly tells us what regeneration hath to do; that is, to restore that image wherein it was defective and lost. That must be the business of regeneration, considering together what the original state of man was, made after God’s image: and considering what his present state is, his degenerate state, it is easy to collect what his regenerate state must be; a renovation, a state of renovation after the same image that man was impressed with at first, 335consisting of knowledge, (not only in a capacity to know, but in knowledge, )and in righteousness and true holiness. Not only in having the faculties that are capable of these, but in having these things themselves impressed into these faculties: this, regeneration must do: or the restoring us to ourselves, or repairing the image of God that was lost; that must be the business of regeneration. As man was made after the image of God at first, in his first creation; in his second creation, when he is made a new creature, he must be created again after God. The new man must be put on, “which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” And this image is renewed in knowledge, as those two texts speak, Ephes. iv. 24. and Col. iii. 10. compared. Thus, is this part of the doctrine of the text improvable to the learning of several truths that do depend upon it, and that lie in connexion with it. Again,

2. It may be improved too, and very largely, in representing, and reprehending, several sinful evils that this wretched world abounds with; by which it appears how much men, by sin, have fallen short of the glory of God; such characters of his glory having been impressed at first upon them. Why, to consider such things as these that too evidently, and too commonly appear in the temper of men’s minds, and in the course of their practice, here in this world: For instance,

To consider how low designs men do generally drive. What! Is this Godlike? Is this becoming a Godlike sort of creatures, such as man was at first, when they wear out their days here in this world, and make it their business to serve divers lusts and pleasures? What a base kind of servitude is this? Is this the creature made after God’s image? Men to spend their days in the pursuit of shadows and trifles? Is there any resemblance of God in this? Is this like a creature that had in his own original and primitive state, a representation of divine in it, which was to conduct his whole course? And again, consider not only what men do pursue, that their minds and hearts are set upon; but (which carries more of horror in it) what they decline, and what their minds and hearts are set against. Men made after the image of God, and yet transacting their course in continual ungodliness. What! Thou made after the image of God, and yet an ungodly creature, and yet live an ungodly life in this world, when thou hast a soul about thee that can know God, that hath a capacity of knowing God, and of choosing him, and of loving him, and of delighting in him! That there should be in such a creature, stamped at first with the divine image and likeness, 336a disaffection to God; not only no inclination, but disinclination. What! disinclination to thine own true Pattern? disaffection to thine own Original? Thou wast made like God; why dost thou shun him? Why dost thou fly from him? Thou carriest the natural characters of his image upon thee whithersoever thou goest. And what! art thou running away from God with his image on thee, in the remainders of it? The remainders of it thou hast upon thy soul: a mind that can understand, a spirit that can and must live; and thou art running away from God with his own image upon thee. What a monstrous thing is that! And again,

3. It might, in the third place, instruct us in several duties that are also very congruous and con-natural to this part of the doctrine of this text. As,

(1.) More frequently to look back to our original estate. Such a truth as this made known, published to us, standing upon record in the sacred volumes, doth continually and repeatedly call upon us to look back, to consider and bethink ourselves what we were in our original state, made after God’s own image, a God-like sort of creatures.

(2.) It will be our duty, hence, to be now ashamed of ourselves in our present degenerate state. It is no shame to a mean creature that was always so, to be now so; no shame to a worm that it is a worm; to a toad that it is a toad. But that man should become an impure, and a poisonous worm, part of the serpent’s seed, this is a most shameful thing, and ought to be considered with the most confounding shame. We should even be startled at ourselves to think what, from such a conformity to God, we are now come to. And,

(3.) It should put us upon inquiring and listening after any means or ways of recovery. It would become a thinking creature, (as man naturally is) apprehending as even the pagans, (the more refined of them generally have,) that men are not now what they were at first. And it would put such upon considering, “Is there no way of recovery?” And it hath put even pagans themselves (destitute of all revealed light) upon many considerations of that kind, insomuch as that we find several of them to have written treatises concerning the purgative and ornative virtues. It shews us to have a great deal more of stupidity among us, than was among pagans themselves, if we have no thoughts about restitution, about being restored, about being recovered out of so low a state as we find ourselves lapsed into, compared with that which we know was original to us. It should make our minds full of thoughts from day to 337day. “Is there no way to become again what once we were?” to have minds, and wills, and inclinations, and affections, so rectified as we find, and must apprehend to have been, in our first state? Is there no way to get into that conformity to God, and acquaintance with him, as to be able to lead my life with God, which was the thing most agreeable my first state? And one that would use the understanding of a man, when he hears of a better state, that was original to him, would certainly be upon his inquiries—“Is there no way of recovering, no way of getting back into such an estate again?” And again,

(4.) It should render the gospel very dear to us, that doth so expressly reveal to us such a way, wherein the image of God is recoverable: and thereupon, converse with him, and a continual intercourse with him, are become possible to us. At present, where there is no likeness, there can be no converse, no disposition, no agreeableness or suitableness. How dear then should that gospel be, that is not only God’s revelation, but his way and method to bring this about. To this end he hath revealed his Christ to us, his first Image, his primary Image. He that is said to be “the Image of the invisible God, the first-born before all the creation;” in whom his glory shines as “the glory of the only begotten of the Father;” the archetypal Image, according to which, the Image is to be renewed again in us. That gospel that reveals this to us, and which is designed to be God’s instrument for the making of the impression afresh on our souls, how precious should it be to us! For his glory shines through it, as through a glass; that, “beholding this glory of the Lord, we may be changed into the same image, from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord:” since this, I say, is the design of that very gospel under which we live, O! how dear should that gospel be to us! By this, the image of God may be restored, which hath, in so great a measure, been defaced and lost out of our souls. And it again shews it to be our duty,

(5.) To aspire to the highest pitch of that perfection, in conformity to God, that these souls of ours are any way capable of; especially, that we should be continually aspiring unto the perfection of that state from whence we are fallen. Take the forementioned instruction of a pagan to that purpose. Whereas some might be apt to imagine, and their thoughts might suggest to them, “It is a presumptuous thing for me to think of being made like God, to be holy as God is holy, and to be blessed as God is blessed,” and the like; we should consider what we are, that as that heathen said; “It is no fault, 338no blameable thing in any one to endeavour to ascend to that state or pitch, from which he did descend; we have a mind capable of God; and it would be carried towards him if vice did not depress and sink it. It is therefore matter of duty, from the consideration that we are to aim and aspire after such a state. I do not aim to be what I was, and what I ought to be, in duty towards him that made me, as well as consulting any interest of my own, in the first place: for I am first his, before I can consider myself as my own: and therefore, in duty towards him, the Author of my being, I ought to be aspiring and aiming at this, to have his image renewed in me, and to be restored in this respect, to what I was.

339
« Prev Lecture XX. Preached February 10, 1694. Next »
Please login or register to save highlights and make annotations
Corrections disabled for this book
Proofing disabled for this book
Printer-friendly version





Advertisements



| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |