THIRD LORD'S DAY.
Question 6. Did God then create man so wicked and perverse?
Answer. By no means; but God created man good, and after his own image, in righteousness and true holiness, that he might rightly know God, his Creator, heartily love him, and live with him in eternal happiness, to glorify him and praise him.
Having established the proposition that human nature is depraved, or sinful, we must now enquire, did God create man thus? and if not, with what nature did he create him? and whence does this depravity of human nature proceed? The subject of the creation of man, therefore, and of the image of God in man, belongs properly to this place.
It is also proper that we should here contrast the misery of man with his original excellence: first, that the cause and origin of our misery being known, we may not impute it unto God; and secondly, that the greatness of our misery may be the more clearly seen. In proportion as this is done, will the original excellency of man become apparent; just as the benefit of deliverance becomes the more precious in the same proportion in which we are brought to apprehend the magnitude of the evil from which we have been rescued.
The questions to be discussed, in connection with the creation of man, are the following:
I. WHAT WAS THE STATE IN WHICH GOD ORIGINALLY CREATED MAN?
This question is proposed almost for the same reasons for which the whole subject itself is considered, viz.: That it may be manifest, in the first place, that God created man without sin, and is therefore not the author of sin, or of our corruption and misery. 2. That we may see from what a height of dignity, to what a depth of misery we have fallen by sin, that we may thus acknowledge the mercy of God, who has deigned to extricate and deliver us from this wretchedness. 3. That we may acknowledge the greatness of the benefits which we have received, and our unworthiness of being made the recipients of such favors. 4. That we may the more earnestly desire, and seek in Christ, the recovery of that dignity and happiness which we have lost. 5. That we may be thankful to God for this restoration. As touching the state and condition in which God originally created man, we are here taught, in the answer to this sixth question, that God created man good, and in his own image, &c., which it is necessary for us to expound somewhat more largely.
Man was created by God on the sixth day of the creation of the world. His body was made of the dust of the ground, immortal if he continued in righteousness, but mortal if he fell; for mortality followed sin as a punishment. His soul was made out of nothing. It was immediately breathed into him by the Almighty. It was, therefore, rational, spiritual, and immortal. "And God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul." (Gen. 2:7.) He created, and united the soul and the body, so as to constitute, by this union, one person, performing such internal and external functions and actions as are peculiar to human nature, and which are just, holy, and pleasing to God. Man was also created in the image of God; by which we mean that he was created perfectly good, wise, just, holy, happy. and lord of all other creatures. Concerning this image of God, in which man was at first created, more will be said a little further on.
II. FOR WHAT END DID GOD CREATE MAN?
To this the catechism answers: "that he might rightly know God his Creator, heartily love him, and live with him in eternal happiness, to glorify and praise him." The glory of God is, therefore, the chief and ultimate end for which man was created. It was for this purpose that God created rational and intelligent beings, such as angels and men, that knowing him, they might praise him forever. Hence, man was created principally for the glory of God; that is, for professing and calling upon his holy name, for praise and thanksgiving, for love and obedience, which consists in a proper discharge of the duties which we owe to God and our fellow-men. For the glory of God comprehends all these things.
Obj. But the heavens, and earth, and other creatures are also said to glorify God. Therefore this was not the end for which man was created. Ans. When creatures destitute of reason are said to praise and glorify God it is not that they acknowledge or celebrate his praise, but because they furnish the matter and occasion of glorifying God, which belongs properly to intelligent creatures. Angels and men, by the contemplation of these works of God, discern his wisdom, goodness, and power, and are thus stirred up to magnify and praise his name. To glorify God, therefore, is the work of creatures possessed of reason and understanding, and if there were not beings of this description to discern the order and arrangement which is manifest in nature, unintelligent creation could no more be said to praise God than if it had no existence. Hence, we are to regard those declarations in the book of the Psalms, in which the heavens, sea, earth, &c., are said to praise God, as figurative expressions, in which the inspired writer attributes to things, void of reason, that which belongs properly to intelligent creatures.
2. There are other reasons for which man was created, subordinate to the glory of God. His knowledge, for instance, contributes to his glory, in as much as he cannot be glorified if he is not known. It is, moreover, the proper work of man to know and glorify God; for eternal life consists in this, as it is said: "This is eternal life, that they might know thee, the only true God." (John 17:3.)
3. The happiness and blessedness of man, which consists in the enjoyment of God and heavenly blessings, is subordinate or next in order to the knowledge of God; for his goodness, mercy, and power are manifest from these.
Obj. But the felicity and happiness of man, his knowledge, and glorifying of God, are properties or conditions with and in which he was created; that is, they are a part of the image of God and of the proper form of man. Therefore, they are not the ends for which man was created, and belong more properly to the first question, which we have already considered, than to this second, which treats of the end of our creation. Ans. They are a part of the proper form and end of man, but in a different respect; for God made man such a being, that, being blessed and happy, he might rightly know and glorify him; and he created him for this end, that he might henceforth and forever be known and praised by him, and that he might continually communicate himself to man. Man was, therefore, created happy, knowing God aright, and glorifying him, which was the form he received in his creation; and, at the same time, he was created for this end that he might forever remain such. It is, therefore, correct to include both these things in speaking upon this subject; because man was created such a being, and for such an end. The first refers to the question what, in respect to the beginning; the other, to the question for what, in respect to his continuance and perseverance therein. So in Eph. 4:24, righteousness and true holiness, which constitute the form and very being of the new man, are said to be the end of the same. Nor is it absurd that the same thing should be declared the form and end in a different respect; for that which is the form in respect to the creature, is declared the end in respect to the purpose of the Creator.
The fourth end, for which man was created, is the manifestation, or declaration, of the mercy of God in the salvation of the elect, and of his justice in the punishment of the reprobate. This is subordinate to the knowledge and enjoyment of God; for in order that he may be known and communicate himself unto us, it is necessary that he should make a revelation. of himself.
The fifth is the preservation of society in the human race, which, again, is subordinate to the manifestation of God; for if men did not exist, God could not have those to whom he might reveal himself. "I will declare thy name unto my brethren." (Psalms 22:23.)
The sixth, is a mutual participation in the duties, kindness, and benefits which we owe to each other; which, again, contributes to the preservation of society; for it is necessary to the continuance of the human race, that peace and mutual intercourse exist amongst men.
This first creation of man is to be carefully compared with the misery of mankind, and with our departure from the end for which we were created; that by this means, also, we may know the greatness of our misery. For our knowledge of the greatness of the evil into which we have fallen, "will be in the same degree in which we are brought to apprehend the superior excellence of the good which we have lost. This brings us to consider what the image of God was, in which man was created.
OF THE IMAGE OF GOD IN MAN.
Concerning this, we are chiefly to enquire:
The image of God in man, is a mind rightly knowing the nature, will, and works of God; a will freely obeying God; and a correspondence of all the inclinations, desires, and actions, with the divine will; in a word, it is the spiritual and immortal nature of the soul, and the purity and integrity of the whole man; a perfect blessedness and joy, together with the dignity and majesty of man, in which he excels and rules over all other creatures.
The image of God, therefore, comprehends: 1. The spiritual and immortal substance of the soul, together with the power of knowing and willing. 2. All our natural notions and conceptions of God, and of his will and works. 3. Just and holy actions, inclinations, and volitions, which is the same as perfect righteousness and holiness in the will, heart, and external actions. 4. Felicity, happiness, and glory, with the greatest delight in God, connected, at the same time, with an abundance of all good things, without any misery or corruption. 5. The dominion of man over all creatures, fish, fowls, and other living things. In all these respects, our rational nature resembles, in some degree, the Creator; just as the image resembles the archetype; yet we can never be equal with God. Paul calls the image of God "righteousness and true holiness," (Eph. 4:24,) because these constitute the principal parts of it; yet he does not exclude wisdom and knowledge, but rather presupposes them; for no one can worship God if he does not know him. Neither does the Apostle, in this passage, exclude happiness and glory; for this, according to the order of divine justice, follows righteousness and true holiness. And wherever righteousness and true holiness are found, there is an absence of all evil, whether of guilt or punishment. This righteousness and true holiness, in which, according to the Apostle, the image of God consists, may also be taken for the same thing; or they may be so distinguished, that righteousness may be considered as referring to such outward and inward actions and motions as are in harmony with the law of God, and a mind judging correctly; whilst holiness may be understood as referring to the qualities of these actions, &c.
Obj. Perfect wisdom and righteousness are peculiar to God alone, nor is there any creature in whom they are found; for the wisdom of all creatures, even of the holy angels, may and does increase. How, then, could the image of God in man embrace perfect righteousness and wisdom? Ans. That which is here called perfect wisdom, does not mean such a wisdom as is ignorant of nothing, but such as is perfect according to the being in whom it is found, or which is such as the Creator designed should be in the creature, and which is sufficient for the happiness of the creature; as, for instance, the wisdom and felicity of the angels is perfect, because it is such as God designed and willed; and yet something may be continually added unto it, or else it would be infinite. So man was perfectly righteous, because he was conformable to God in all things which were required of him; and yet he was not equal with God, nor was his righteousness perfect in that degree in which God is righteous; but because there was nothing wanting to that perfection in which God created him; which he desired should be in him; and which was sufficient for the happiness of the creature. There is, therefore, an ambiguity in the word perfection. And it is in the sense just explained, that man is said, in the Scriptures, to be the image of God, or that he was made after his likeness.
When Christ, however, is called the image of God, it is in a far different sense, which is evident: 1. In respect to his divine nature, in which he is the image of the eternal Father, being co-eternal, consubstantial, and equal with the Father in essential properties and works, and as being that person through whom the Father reveals himself, in creating and preserving all things, but especially in the salvation of those whom he has chosen unto everlasting life. And he is called the image, not of himself, nor of the Holy Ghost, but of the Father; because he is eternally begotten, not of himself, nor of the Holy Ghost, but of the Father. 2. in respect to his human nature, in which he is the image of God, created indeed, yet transcending infinitely angels and men, both in the degree and number of gifts, such as wisdom, justice, power, and glory; and, at the same time, resembling, in a peculiar manner, the Father, in doctrine, virtues, and actions, as he himself said to one of his disciples, "He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father." (John 14:9.)
But angels and men are said to be the image of God, as well in respect to the Son and Holy Ghost, as in respect to the Father, where it is said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." (Gen. 1: 26.) This is not to be understood, however, of any likeness or equality of essence, but merely of certain properties which have a resemblance to the Godhead, not in degree or essence, but in kind and imitation; for there are some things in angels and men which bear a certain analogy and correspondence with what we find in God, who comprehends, in himself, all that is truly good. Those things, on the other hand, concerning the image of God and man, which were formerly discussed, and denied by the Anthropomorphites, and recently by Osiander, may be found in Ursini Vol. I. pages 154, 155.
Such, now, was the image of God in which man was originally created, and .which was apparent in him before the fall. But after the fall, man lost this glorious image of God, on account of sin, and became transformed into the hateful image of satan. There were, however, some remains and sparks of the image of God still left in man, after his fall, and which even yet continue in those who are unregenerated, of which we may mention the following: 1. The incorporeal, rational, and immortal substance of the soul, together with its powers, of which we would merely make mention of the liberty of the will, so that whatever man wills, he wills freely.
2. There are, in the understanding, many notions and conceptions of God, of nature, and of the distinction which exists between things proper and improper, which constitute the principles of the arts and sciences.
3. There are some traces and remains of moral virtues, and some ability of regulating the external deportment of the life. 4. The enjoyment of many temporal blessings. 5. A certain dominion over other creatures.. Man did not wholly lose his dominion over the various creatures which were put in subjection to him; for many of them still remain subject to him, so that he has the power of governing and using them for his own benefit. These vestiges and remains of the image of God in man, although they are greatly obscured and marred by sin, are, nevertheless, still preserved in us to a certain extent; and that for these ends : 1. That they may be a testimony of the mercy and goodness of God towards us, unworthy as we are. 2. That God may make use of them in restoring his image in us. 3. That the wicked may be without excuse.
But those things which we have lost of the image of God are by far the greatest and most important benefits; of which we may mention the following: 1. The true, perfect, and saving knowledge of God, and of the divine will. 2. Correct views of the works of God, together with light and knowledge in the understanding; in the place of which we now have ignorance, blindness, and darkness.. 3. The regulation and government of all the inclinations, desires, and actions; and a conformity with the law of God in the will, heart, and external parts; instead of which there is now a dreadful disorder and depravity of the inclinations and motions of the heart and will, from which all actual sin proceeds. 4. True and perfect dominion over the various creatures of God; for those beasts which at first feared man, now oppose, injure, and lie in wait for him; whilst the ground, which was cursed for his sake, brings forth thorns and briers. 5. The right of using those things which God granted, not to his enemies, but to his children. 6. The happiness of this and of a future life; in the place of which we now have temporal and eternal death, with every conceivable calamity.
Obj. The heathen were distinguished for many virtues, and performed works of great renown. Therefore it would seem that the image of God was not destroyed in them. Ans. The excellent virtues and deeds of renown, which are found among heathen nations, belong, indeed, to the vestiges or remains of the image of God, still preserved in the nature of man; but there is so much wanting, to constitute that true and perfect image of God, which was at first apparent in man, that these virtues are only certain shadows of external propriety, without the obedience of the heart to God, whom they neither know nor worship. Therefore, these works do not please God, since they do not proceed from a proper knowledge of him, and are not done with the intention of glorifying him.
The restoration of this image of God in man, is effected by him alone, who first conferred it upon man; for he who gives life, and restores it when lost, is the same being. God the Father, restores this image through the Son; because he has "made him unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption." (1 Cor. 1:30.) The Son, through the Holy Spirit, "changes us into the same image, from glory unto glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord." (2 Cor. 3:18.) And the Holy Ghost carries forward and completes what is begun by the Word, and the use of the Sacraments. "The gospel is the power of God unto salvation." (Rom. 1:16.) This restoration, however, of the image of God in man, is effected in such a manner, that it is only begun, in this life, in such as believe, and is confirmed and carried forward in them, even to the end of life, as it concerns the soul--but as it concerns the whole man, it will be consummated in the resurrection of the body. We are, therefore, to consider who is the author, and what is the order, and manner in which this restoration is effected?
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