« ForrigeFortsæt »
the frame of his nature, necessary to his happiness, agreeable to his present station of life, for his glorifying God, and answering higher ends than other creatures were made for; so that if we judge of the excellencies of the human nature, we must conceive of man, more especially as to that more noble part of which he consists. Accordingly,
2. We shall consider him as having (a) a rational and immortal soul, which not only gives a relative excellency to the body, to which it is united, and, by its union therewith, preserves it from corruption, but uses the various organs thereof, to put forth actions, which are under the conduct of reason; and that which renders it still more excellent, is, that it is capable of being conversant about objects abstracted from matter, and of knowing and enjoying God. And whatsoever obstructions it may meet with from the temperament of the body, to which it is united, or what uneasiness soever it may be exposed to from its sympathy therewith ; yet none of those things, which tend to destroy the body, or separate it from the soul, can affect the soul so far, as to take away its power of acting, but when separate from it, it remains immortal, and is capable of farther improvements, and a greater degree of happiness.
We might here proceed to prove the immortality of the soul; but that we shall have occasion more particularly to do, under 2 following answer *, when we consider the souls of believers, as made perfect in holiness, and thereby fitted for, and afterwards received into heaven, having escaped the grave, (in which the body is to be detained until the resurrection) which is the consequence of its immortality. And therefore we proceed,
* See Queat. lxxxvi.
(a) The Origin of the soul, at what time it enters into the body, whether it be immediately created at its entrance into the body, or comes out of a pre-eristent state, are things that cannot be known from any fitness or reasonableness founded in the nature of things; and yet it is as necessary to believe this is done according to certain reasons of wisdom and goodness, as to believe there is a God.
Now, who can say that it is the same thing, whether human souls are created immediately for human bodies, or whether they come into them out of some preexistent state? For aught we know, one of these ways may be exceeding fit and wise, and the other as entirely unjust and unreasonable ; and yet, when Reason examines either of these ways, it finds itself equally perplexed with difficulties, and knows not which to chuse: but if souls be immaterial (as all philosophy now proves) it must be one of them.
And perhaps, the reason why God has revealed so little of these matters in holy Scripture itself, is, because any more particular revelation of them, would but have perplexed us with greater difficulties, as not having capacities or ideas to comprehend such things. For, as all our natural knowledge is confined to ideas borrowed from experience, and the use of our senses about human things; as Revelation can only teach us things that have some likeness to what we already know; as our notions of equity and justice are very limited, and confined to certain actions between man and man; so, if God had revealed to us more particularly, the origin of our souls, and the reason of their state in human budie-, we might perhaps have been exposed to greater difficulties by such knowledge, and been less able to vindicate the justice and goodness of God, than we are by our present ignorance.
V. To consider another excellency of the human nature, as man was made after the image of God. To be made a little lower than the angels, as he is represented by the Psalmist, in Psal. viii. 5. is a very great honour conferred on him: But what can be said greater of him, than that he was made after the image of God? However, though this be a scripture-expression, denoting the highest excellency and privilege, yet it is to be explained consistently with that infinite distance that there is between God and the creature. This glorious character, put upon him does not argue him to partake of any divine perfection; nor is it inconsistent with the nothingness of the best of finite beings, when compared with God; for whatever likeness there is in man to him, there is, at the same time, an infinite dissimilitude, or disproportion, as was before observed, when we considered the difference between those divine attributes, which are called incommunicable, from others, which some call communicable.
If it be enquired, wherein the image of God in man consists? It would be preposterous and absurd, to the last degree, to suppose that this has any respect to the lineaments of the body; for there is a direct opposition rather than similitude, between the spirituality of the divine nature, and the bodies of men. And, indeed, it would have been needless to have mentioned this, had not some given occasion for it, by perverting the sense of those scriptures, in which God is represented, in a metaphorical way, in condescension to our common mode of speaking, as though he had a body, or bodily parts; from whence they have inferred, that he assumed a body, at first, as a model, according to which he would frame that of man; which is not only absurd, but blasphemous, and carries it own confutation in it.
There are others, who suppose that man was made after the image of Christ's human nature, which, though it doth not altogether contain so vile a suggestion as the former, yet it is groundless and absurd, inasmuch as Christ was made after the likeness of man, as to what concerns his human nature, Phil. ii. 7. and man, in that respect, was not made after his image.
And to this let me add, that when the scripture speaks of man, as made after the image of God, it plainly gives us ground to distinguish between it and that glory which is peculiar to Christ, who is said not only to be made after his image, but to be the image of the invisible God, Col. i. 15. and the ex. press image of his person, Heb. i. 3. and therefore that there is, in this respect, such a similitude between the Father and Son, as cannot, in any sense be applied to the likeness, which is said to be between God and the creature.
Moreover, when we speak of man, as made after the image of God, as consisting in some finite perfections communicated to him, we must carefully fence against the least supposition, as though man were made partaker of any of the divine perfections. It is true, the apostle speaks concerning believers, as being made partakers of the divine nature, 2 Pet. i. 4. for the understanding of which we must take heed, that we do not pervert the mind of the Holy Ghost herein ; for nothing is intended by this expression, in which the image of God is set forth, but a sanctified nature, or, as I would rather choose to render it, a divine nature, derived from, and, in some respects, conformed to him but yet infinitely below him.
This image of God in man, in this answer, is said to consist particularly in three things.
1. In knowledge. This is what we generally call the natural image of God in man, which he is endowed with, as an intelligent creature; not that the degree of knowledge, which the best of men are capable of, contains in it any thing properly divine as to its formal nature; for there is a greater disproportion between the infinite knowledge of the divine mind, and that of a finite creature, than there is between the ocean and a drop of water : But it signifies, that as God has a comprehersive knowledge of all things, man has the knowledge of some things, agreeable to his finite capacity, communicated to himn; and thus we are to understand the apostle's words, when he speaks of man's being renewed in knowledge, after the image of him that created him, Col. iii. 10.
2 It consists in righteousness and holiness. This some call the moral image of God in man; or, especially if we consider it as restored in sanctification, it may more properly be called his supernatural image, and it consists in the rectitude of the human nature, as opposed to that sinful deformity and blemish, which renders fallen man unlike to him. Therefore we must consider him, at first, as made upright, Eccles. vii. 29. so that there was not the least tincture, or taint of sin, in his nature, or any disposition, or inclination to it; but all the powers and faculties of the soul were disposed to answer the ends of its creation, and thereby to glorify God.
And to this some add, that the image of God, in man, consisted in blessedness ; so that as God is infinitely blessed in the enjoyment of his own perfections, man was, in his way and measure, blessed, in possessing and enjoying those perfections, which he received from God. But, though this be true, yet I
would rather choose to keep close to the scripture mode of speaking, which represents the image of God in man, as consisting in righteousness and true holiness, Eph. iv. 24.
Man, being thus made after the image of God, is farther said in this answer, to have the law of God written in his heart, and, power to fulfil it. Herein God first made, and then dealt with him as a reasonable creature, the subject of moral government; and, that this law might be perfectly understood, it was written on his heart, that hereby he might have a natural knowledge of the rule of his obedience, and might, with as little difficulty, be apprised of his duty to God, as he was of any thing that he knew, as an intelligent creature.
And inasmuch as he was indispensably obliged to yield obedience to this law, and the consequence of violating it would be his ruin, God, as a just and gracious Sovereign, gave him ability to fulfil it; so that he might not, without his own fault, by a necessity of nature, rebel against him, and so plunge himself into inevitable misery.
3. It is farther observed, that the image of God, in man, consisted in man's dominion over the creatures. This is expressly revealed in scripture, when God says, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness, 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, Gen. i. 26. and the Psalmist describes this dominion in other words, though not much differing, as to the general import thereof, when he says, Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: All sheep and oxen; yea, and the beasts of the field, the fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas, Psal. viii. 6-8. This dominion consisted in the right which he had to use and dispose of the inferior creatures, for his comfort and delight, and to serve him, in all things necessary, for the glorifying his Creator, though he had no right, nor inclination, in his state of integrity, to ahuse them, as fallen man does, in various instances.
VI. The last thing observed in this answer, is that notwithstanding the advantageo!:s circumstances, in which man was created, yet he was subject to fall; by which we are not to understand that he was forced or compelled to fall, through any necessity of nature; for that would have been inconsistent with the liberty of his will to what was good, or that rectitude of nature, whereby he was not only fitted to perform perfect obedience, but to avoid every thing that has a tendency to render him guilty before God, and thereby to ruin him.
As for the devil, he had no power to force the will ; nor could he lay any snare to entangle and destroy man, but what he had wisdom enough, had he improved his faculties as he ought, to have avoided : But, notwithstanding all this, it is evident that he was subject to fall, for that appears by the event; so that, though he had no disposition to sin in his nature, for God could not create a person in such a state, since that would render him the author of sin, yet he did not determine to prevent it; though this, as will be hereafter considered, was a privilege which man would have attained to, according to the tenor of the covenant he was under, had he performed the conditions thereof, and so would have been confirmed in holiness and happiness; but this, it is certain, he was not at first, because he fell : But of this, more under a following answer.
Quest. XVIII. What are God's works of Providence ?
and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures; or-
understand by providence in general. It supposes a creature brought into being; and consists in God's doing every thing that is necessary for the continuance thereof, and in his ordering and over-ruling second causes, to produce their respective effects, under the direction of his infinite wisdom, and the influence of his almighty power. It is owing to this that all things do not sink into nothing, or that every thing has what it wants to render it fit to answer the end designed in the creation thereof. Pursuant to this general description of providence, it may be considered as consisting of two branches, namely, God's upholding, or preserving, all creatures; and enabling them to act by his divine concourse or influence : and his governing or ordering them, and all their actions, for his own glory.
I. That God upholds all things. This he is expressly said to do, by the word of his power, Heb. i. 3. and it may be farther evinced, if we consider that God alone is independent, and self-sufficient, therefore the idea of a creature implies in it dependence; that which depended on God for its being, must depend on him for the continuance thereof. If any creature, in this lower world, could preserve itself, then surely this might be said of man, the most excellent part thereof; But it is certain, that man cannot preserve himself; for if he could, he would not be subject to those decays of nature, or those daily infirmities, which all are liable VOL. II.