« Prev Lecture XIX. Preached January 20, 1694. Next »

LECTURE XIX.3434   Preached January 20, 1694.

Gen. i. 27.

So God created Man in his own Image.

WE have treated of the first thing, to wit, this creation itself. So God made, or created man. And now,

II. We come to speak of the norma or pattern of this work of his; or the estate wherein man was created; in his own image; which is mentioned with a reduplication; “in the image of God created he him;” and this we shall speak to briefly, by way of explication and application.

1. In the explication, our great business must be, to inquire, and shew, wherein stood this image of God, wherein man was created. Theirs was a strange and absurd dream, (that of the anthropomophites,) that is, they who did ascribe to God a corporeal shape, and supposed man to be made like to God in that respect. We know, indeed, that in tract of time, our Lord Jesus Christ did assume a human body; but that gives no pretence at all to this imagination: for therein he was made like unto us, man being the pre-existent pattern, and not we like to him, man being made long before. And to ascribe to Deity itself a corporeal shape, must needs speak very mean and base thoughts of God, founded in gross ignorance, and rising up into a mental blasphemy; and indeed, very vile thoughts even of 319ourselves, as if we were but to imitate God in somewhat corporeal.

Some of the more refined pagans have disclaimed, and declaimed against such gross thoughts of God, warning us to take heed of ascribing any thing corporeal to him; as one, inquiring how we are to conceive of God, according to the doctrine of Plato, (I mean Maximus Tyrius,) he tells us, “we must be very shy, and it ought to be most remote from us, to ascribe any thing at all corporeal to him, neither shape, nor colour, nor magnitude, nor any kind of figure whatsoever: but somewhat of that high excellency as neither to be seen with eyes, nor felt with hands, nor expressed by any words.” In some such things we are to understand the excellency of the Divine Nature and Being to consist. And accordingly, the apostle, discoursing to those Athenian philosophers, (Acts xvii.) supposeth them very capable of understanding so much as this; he quotes one of their own poets for it, that “we are God’s off spring.” “And forasmuch,” saith he, “as we are the offspring of God, we cannot conceive the Godhead to be like any corporeal thing of never so great excellency;” as silver or gold, of which some corporeal shape or resemblance may be made, or stands never so curiously graven by the art or device of man: we must understand our resemblance to him, as we are his off spring, to lie in some higher, more noble, and more excellent thing, of which there can be no figure; as, who can tell how to give the figure or image of a thought, or the mind or thinking power? This image therefore, must principally lie in some mental thing, and is to be only mentally understood: that is, it must have its seat and subject in the soul and spirit of man itself: and so we must know this image of God in man, wherein he was made, to be twofold; natural and moral.

(1.) Natural, standing in such things as wherein the very nature and essence of man’s soul and spirit doth consist and lie. As,

[1.] In spirituality: the soul of man is a spirit, as God himself is a spirit. He, the paternal Spirit, (as a heathen very aptly speaks of,) the fatherly Mind; and agreeably to that, we are his offspring, he being the Father of spirits.

[2.] And in life; essential life. We have bodies that live a borrowed life. Our spirits are, themselves, living things in their own nature and essence; so that life is inseparable from them, as it is not inseparable from our bodies; for our bodies can die; but our souls cannot. IF it be, it lives: being and life are the self-same thing. As the blessed God is so frequently spoken of in Scripture, “the living God,” the original well-spring of 320life; so making a creature like himself, and in his own image, he makes him to be such as to whom life should be essential, though it be dependant upon him, (as all being must be,) yet life being made so much of the essence of man’s soul that it can never be severed from it; therein its life is like the divine life; that is, it is an immortal life. It is true, “he only hath immortality;” that is, he only hath an original, independent immortality. But the souls of men, and all created spirits, have a dependant immortality, together with their dependant being, and not separable from it. And,

[3.] In the power of understanding; therein doth the soul of man bear the image of God naturally, as it is an intelligent thing, a thing that hath a power to understand and know the impress of God is upon the spirit of man in this. “He that teacheth men knowledge, shall not he know?” Psalm xciv. 10. And he that declareth unto man his thoughts, (as having given him the thinking and the knowing power,) are we not to suppose, he should know his own work? And,

[4.] In liberty, or the power of willing this or that; of acting or suspending its own acts, and of acting this way or that, accordingly as it shall chuse; a dominion it hath over its own act, a self-determining power, or self-dominion; but subordinate to the divine dominion; for he never made a creature that he was not to govern. These are things that I now mention, but which being included in the nature and essence of man, when I gave you an account of this creature man, which God is said to have made.

I shall only add two things more generally concerning this natural image of God in man.

First. That it is permanent and lasts always, as long as man lasts, as it cannot but do, it being essential to him, or his very nature: for his very nature did resemble the divine, “the image and glory of God,” as he is called 1 Cor. xi. 7. It must, therefore, be permanent, and can never be severed from man; this is an image that could not be lost. Man could not lose this image; his soul must be a spirit still; a living thing still; and an understanding thing still; a spontaneous, free thing still, subject only to the divine government. And therefore, considering man, even in his estate of apostasy, we find this image of God, still remaining, as the perpetual reason of that law of preserving the life of man in this body, as in the 9. Gen. 6. “Whosoever sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God made he man.” If the reason of the law were lost, the law were lost, and would cease: but plain it is, the law was made with reference to man, already 321fallen: fallen man, apostate man, still bears, in that respect, the image of God; therefore, he will not have his life to be touched. He is a Godlike creature, and he that strikes at the life of man, strikes at the image of God! A very awful thought, to consider that man, even as he is man, while he was in innocency, or in apostasy, is still the image of God, and therefore, must be in violable, not to be touched beyond his rules, who reserves to himself still, the dominion over lives, as being the God of our lives, so as to kill or to make alive, either immediately, or mediately, by his own authority in men, but not otherwise. And,

Secondly. There is this to be said in general, too, concerning the natural image of God in man; as it is permanent, so it is fundamental unto the other image, and the contraries thereunto; that is, if man had not the natural image of God upon him, he were never capable of having a moral image, could never be a holy creature, nor unholy, if he were not naturally such a creature. And he could never be happy or miserable, if he were not such a creature: that is, if he had not a soul that were a spirit, and that were a living thing, and that were intelligent, and that were capable of acting voluntarily and by choice. And therefore, this image must still be presupposed unto the other.

(2.) Which other we now go on to speak of, that is, the moral image of God in man, founded on the former. And so man doth bear, and did originally bear, the image of God, in the moral sense, in these two respects—first, in purity—secondly, in felicity. He did at first resemble God as a holy, and as a happy Being. In reference to both these, the natural image of God was fundamental to the moral; this was the very foundation in him of all duty, and of all felicity; and of the contraries thereunto, that is, of sins and of misery; as contraries must always have the same subject in which they take place, successively, or in a remiss degree.

[1.] This image of God in man, which we call moral, superadded to his natural image, stood in this, to wit, in the sanctity and holiness of this creature in his original state; the rectitude of his natural powers and faculties with reference to his rule and end. But this is to be understood with caution. We are to take heed of asserting either too much, or too little, concerning the holiness of man’s original state. We must take heed of asserting too much concerning it, to wit, so much as would not consist with the possibility of his falling; or too little, to wit, what would not consist with the possibility of his standing. But, in general, this sanctity or holiness wherewith man was made, and wherein he did originally resemble God, it stood in these two things;


First. In innocency; that is, that he was made perfectly innocent, and it was impossible that it should not be so: for it could not consist with the holiness, and the other perfections of the Divine Being, to make him a sinner. He could not come out of the hand of God at first, an impure and unholy thing. Wherein stood the image of God, but in that he was originally holy, as God is holy? to wit, in some similitude to the holiness of God: he was created in this, as part of the image of him that created him, as that Col. iii. 10. and Ephes. iv. 24. do plainly imply: for the image of God restored and renewed must be the image that was lost. It could not be a specifically different thing: therefore, when the soul is renewed after this image, it is plain, that he was created in it; that is, was created an innocent and sinless creature: not barely in the negative sense; for so is a stone or a brute innocent. I say, not in that sense only; but as being free from all taint and impurity, when he was a capable subject of being both pure and impure; which a stone or other unintelligent creature was not. And then,

Secondly. This holiness, wherein man was created, as it did include innocency, freedom from any taint of sin; so it did include a possibility of continuing so; that is, that there was no depraved inclination in his nature, as it was made or created by God, to determine him unto sin; unto any sinful thought, or to any sinful act. It is true, he was not made impeccable, or with an impossibility of sinning, yet he was made with a possibility of not sinning; that is, with an intrinsical possibility thereof: for we must distinguish here, between possibility and futurity. It is true, that his fall was future; but his standing, for all that, was possible; we mean only by it, a simple possibility, not compounded with any consideration of God’s foreknowledge. It is true, God did foreknow what would become of man; but that did not infer a necessity upon his nature; that could have no influence to make him fall; that is, that God foresaw, that being left to himself he would fall; but he saw at the same time, that though he would fall, yet that he had done that for him by which it was possible for him to have stood, if he had followed the law of his own nature. And therefore, though we call this image moral, in contradistinction to natural, yet we are not to think that it was in no sense natural; for it was con-natural. It was not natural, as that signifies essential; for then it could not have been lost: but as it signifies somewhat agreeable to the nature of man; and nothing could be more agreeable to his nature, than to have continued still an obedient creature to God, and consequently happy in him: so that it was not at all to be ascribed to man’s nature that he fell; for that were to 323resolve the cause of his fall into the Author of his nature; and so, to cast all upon God at length; whereas, man’s destruction is only of himself, he is the fountain of whatsoever is evil, and God the only fountain of all good.

But then, we are to consider the holiness wherewith man was created, more particularly. And so, it stood in the confirmation, or the conforming of the faculties of his soul unto the rule and order wherein God did at first set them; that is, as for the mind and understanding, it did agree with the Divine Mind; and for his will, it did agree with the Divine Will; and so, the faculties of the human soul, those two great leading faculties, the mind and the will, did each of them bear the stamp and impress of God upon them. And therefore, whereas, we find God spoken of under that twofold notion in Scripture, and by one and the same penman of the holy Scripture, the evangelist John, in his 1st epistle, that “God is light,” and that “God is love;” the one in the 1st chap. verse 5, and the other in the 4th chap. the 8th and 16th verses. Such a creature was man in his mind, and in his will, conformed to the Divine Mind and Will.

i. “God is light,” saith the apostle, “and with him is no darkness at all; and he that walks in darkness, and saith, he hath fellowship with God, lies:” there can be no fellowship between light and darkness. We are not to understand light, there, to mean merely speculative knowledge: but we are to understand it as signifying practical principles, lodged in the mind, and which are most con-natural to holiness in the will and heart. They are the ideas contained in the one, which are exemplified in the other. So, “God is light.” essential light itself; and so was the spirit of man, “the inspiration of the Almighty having given it understanding;’’ that is, that it was,

(i.) A knowing thing; not only had a power to know, but did actually know all that concerned him to know, or that it was his duty to know. And as such, this part of the divine image is referred to morality; for there are some things which it is our duty to know; and to be ignorant of them is a sin. But we are not to suppose man to be destitute of any knowledge, that he ought to have had, in the state of his primitive innocency; though it must be far from us to think that he had universal knowledge, that he knew all things: for that would still be proper to God as an incommunicable attribute of the Divine Nature. And therefore, his knowledge must have been a growing thing in that state wherein he was made. But he did know all that did belong to him to know, for the state wherein he was. 324And so are we to conceive of that knowledge, as the moral additament to the faculty or power of knowing, which is natural. And then,

ii. Besides his actual knowledge, we must understand, in his mind, a docility, or an aptitude to learn, or know more; and still more, according as the Creator should vouchsafe to reveal more to him, or as he should give him opportunity (as he had given him a natural ability) to reason himself from the knowledge of some things into the knowledge of more.

(ii.) For his will, that must have been the seat too, of the holiness wherein the image of God stood, and wherein he did resemble God; and there is the seat of God’s law impressed: for we must know, that man was made at first with the law of God written in his heart. Besides the positive precept which he transgressed, there was the whole frame of that whole law in him, which was to be the permanent rule of his practice and obedience: for the apostle, speaking of man in his fallen state, (Rom. ii. 15.) tells us, “that even pagans themselves.” (where there are the greatest ruins of the human nature to be seen,) “even they have the law written on their hearts.” And if it be so with fallen man, what an entire impression must there have been of the divine law upon the mind of man yet in his integrity. A law written in his heart, of which some pagans speak, calling it the non scripta, sed nata Lex, not a law written, (that is, in any external scripture,) but an engraven law, an innate law, that was impressed on man on his creation, or that he was made with.

And so, as this law which, is in itself, of universal and ever lasting obligation, is all summed up in love, which is the fulfilling of the law; why, therein we must understand this creature to have at first resembled God; that is, as God is said to be “light,” so he was in respect of his mind: and as God is said to be “love,” so he was in respect of his will or heart: a creature made up of love, which sums up all duty; for “love is the fulfilling of the law.” And therefore, when men are renewed and brought back to God, and his image restored in them, they are created after God in this respect, so as to be capable of dwelling in love as in a proper element and region connatural to them. This was the great principle that did conform men to both parts of the law; that part which was to respect God himself; and that part which was to respect men towards one another: for these were the two great natural and moral precepts; “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might; and thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” O! what an excellent 325state was this! when the impression of this law, whereof this was the summary, was entire and perfect; not the least inclination to violate it in any part, or in any point, either towards God, or towards a fellow creature.

And we may yet further, and more distinctly, consider this rectitude of the faculties of man’s soul to stand in this—first, that the superior faculties of his mind and will, were more directly and exactly conformed to the divine mind and will—and secondly, that the inferior faculties were subject to the superior; this being the law of man’s nature at first; that is, that though he had inferior faculties, as well as superior, suitable to his compounded nature, (being made up of an inward man, and of an outward man, or of an intellectual, and of a sensitive nature,) yet, these inferior faculties belonging to the sensitive nature, they were made so as to be obedient and subject to the superior; that is, to an enlightened mind, and to a holy will: so as to have no appetitions that were irregular or disorderly, of an inferior kind, or belonging to the sphere of sense, but what reason, governing the will, could prescribe to: no violent passions or appetitions in one kind or other, so as to love or desire, or fear, or hope, or joy, or sorrow, or be angry inordinately, but according as a right mind should dictate, and as a right mind should command. And then,

[2.] As this moral image, superadded to the natural, and founded thereon, stood in holiness, (which we have thus far explained,) so it stood in happiness too, in sanctity and felicity; that is, as God is the blessed God for ever, so did this creature imitate him in his blessedness; bear the image of that upon him too. We must understand that he had a present inchoate blessedness; a present blessedness begun in a satisfaction to all his faculties, in having what was proportionable and accommodate to all the powers of his nature.

First. As to his superior faculties: herein stood the blessedness of this creature, that he had a mind capable of knowing God, and a will capable of enjoying him; and which did know God, and which did actually enjoy him: and it could not hut be so; for here was no culpable darkness or cloud upon this mind; there was no corrupt or depraved inclination in this will: and God was pleased to exhibit himself, and manifest himself, to make himself known, and to offer himself to be his portion and God, according to the tenour of that covenant, that law of works, and that law of his creation, under which he was made. There fore, there was nothing to hinder his present happiness: there was no aversion from God, no disinclination to him; but, a steady propension towards him. There was no guilt upon him, 326to make him afraid of approaching God; as it was with him soon after he fell, when he ran and hid himself. Vain creature! thinking there would he some darkness wherein he could hide himself from the Divine Majesty. But while he remained yet in his integrity, as there was no faulty darkness in his mind, so there was no depraved inclination in his will: but knowing God to be the best and highest Good, most absolutely perfect, all-comprehending and every way suitable to him, his will could not but be a propense towards him accordingly, so as the it must have been his sense in perfection, (though not unalterably,) which comes to be the sense again of the renewed soul: “Whom have I in heaven but thee, and whom can I desire on earth besides thee?” When he had the beauties of a new-made creation all in view, a heaven that was then new, and an earth that was then new; yet, “Whom have I in heaven but thee, and what is thereupon earth that I desire besides thee?”

As to his inferior faculties, there was what was most grateful to them too. Man was created in a paradise, full of pleasantness, and of pleasant good things, which it was then lawful for him to enjoy without restraint, except that one forbid den tree. And he not only had the perception of all, all grateful, sensible good, but an interest in, and a power over, all. And you see, that God estates him in a dominion, sets him over all the works of his hands, in this inferior, lower world, and doth so, immediately upon his having created him. “God blessed them, and said unto them, Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every thing that moveth upon the earth.”

What a glorious prince was man then! and into how great a principality did God put him as soon as he made him! Whatsoever was most suitable, and most delectable, for his enjoyment, in that kind of inferior and sensible good, was all put into his power; so as what innocent, well-tempered nature would choose, as most grateful to it, that he might choose, one thing excepted; which very exception, (as all exceptions do firmare regulas,) was but a confirmation of his dominion over all the rest; and did but more fully speak his right and title to enjoy what he would beside. All this as to his inchoate happiness. But,

Secondly. Besides this, we must understand him to have had a title to continuing and increasing and, at length, perfect felicity. We are not to suppose him made in that state, which, if it had stood, should have been eternal, without change or alteration. But most rational it was, that God having newly created 327an intelligent creature, should create him in a state of probation, upon which was to follow a state of retribution; as it is most natural, that duty go before felicity: that there must be obedience before recompence. His full and final recompence was yet to come.

And the reason of the thing plainly speaks it. We cannot suppose, that God made man in a better condition than he made the angels: (a superior sort of creatures:) but it is plain, that he created them in a state of probation; otherwise it had been impossible that some of them should have fallen, and left their first station, forsaken it, and thereupon, to be “bound in chains of darkness, and reserved to the judgment of the great day.” And it is plain, further, upon this account too; as to this earth, supposing man to have stood, (though God foresaw that he would not; that he would fall,) yet we must suppose his constitution to be such, as agree with the supposition of his standing too. It had been altogether impossible that, in the succession of many ages, this world would have contained all the men, if they had been innocent; and so, consequently, all immortal. But we must necessarily suppose, though not death, (for that was only introduced by sin,) yet some such kind of translation unto higher and more glorious regions; as from perfect arbitrary, good pleasure, Enoch and Elijah found at the hand of God,

And so, besides the actual felicity he had, there was a title to. future felicity, supposing he had stood. For when the divine constitution runs in this tenour, “Cursed is he that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them,” do hut consider what the reverse of that must be: “Blessed is he that continueth in all things written in the book of the law to do them.” If not continuing in all things writ ten in God’s law, to do them, must infer a curse, then to have continued must infer a blessing: and as that curse did put him into a worse estate, that blessing must have put him into a better estate; otherwise, it had not been a state of retribution suitable to a foregoing state of probation.

Thus far, you have now the explication of this state, wherein God is said at first to have made man; that is, made him in his own image, the image that was natural and essential to man; and that image that was moral and superadded. And can we look upon this as a useless doctrine? Of what importance is it to us to look back, and consider the original of this creature! what it was; and what it is! What man was in that perfect rectitude, of which we have had some account; and what he is in that forlorn and abject state into which he is now sunk and 328fallen. It is this that must make redeeming mercy, and our recovery by a mediator grateful. It was a noble expression of a heathen; Nemo improbe conatur unde descenderat ascendere: (speaking to this very case, the depraved condition of man as he now generally is, and what his state before was, of which they had hallucinations, though not distinct conceptions;) no man blameably endeavours to ascend from whence he did descend. Capax est noster animus dei, atque eo fertur, nisi vitia deprimant: we have minds capable of God; and towards him they would be carried if vice did not depress and sink them. But nobody doth unwarrantably aim to ascend thither, whence he did descend; if he did descend, sink from so excellent a state, there must be some aim upwards, some aspiring to get up to that state again, or to somewhat agreeable thereto, by which the natural appetite in man to blessedness and felicity should be excited and stirred and put into action, and kept in action, even by the very law of his own nature.

« Prev Lecture XIX. Preached January 20, 1694. Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection