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Eccl. xii, 11. The words of the wise ure as goads.
Addressed to the Congregation in Franklin, upon the occasion of their receiving
from Dr. FRANKLIN, the mark of his respect, in a rich Donation of Books, appropriated to the use of a Parish-Library.
1 Kings ii, 2.
DAVID closed the scene of life, with that propriety of conduct, and that composure of mind, which at once displayed the beauty of religion, and the dignity of human nature. When the time of his departure drew nigh he had nothing to do to prepare for death, but only, like other pious and illustrious Patriarchs, to converse with his friends, and to give them his last and best advice. And, as he had, some time before, committed to Solomon the care of his family and government of his kingdom; so he felt a strong and ardent desire, that this beloved son, in whom he had reposed such important trusts, should appear with dignity, and act a noble and worthy part upon the stage of life. Accordingly he called him into his presence, and with equal solemnity and affection, addressed him in these memorable words, “I go the way of all the carth: be thou strong therefore, and shew thyself a man.” This appellation sometimes signifies the dig. nity, and sometimes the meanness of our nature. Job makes use of it to express our meanness and turpitude in the sight of God. “How can man be justi
fied with God? or how can he be clean that is born of a woman? Behold, even to the moon and it shineth not, yea the stars are not pure in his sight. How much less man that is a worm, and the Son of man which is a worm.” But Isaiah employs this same appellative to represent the dignity of human nature, when he calls upon stupid idolaters to “remember this, and shew themselves men." So here, David in his dying address to Solomon, “shew thyself a man,” evidently means to use the term in the best sense, and to urge him to act up to the dignity of his nature, and the end of his being.
Agreeably therefore to the spirit and intention of the text, the subject which now properly lies before us, is the dignity of man. And, I hope, the observations which shall be made upon this subject, will do honor to our nature in one view, and pour contempt upon it in another, and so lead us all into a clear and just apprehension of ourselves, which is the most useful, as well as the most rare and high attainment in knowledge.
The dignity of man appears from his bearing the image of his Maker. After God had created the heavens and the earth, and furnished the world with a rich profusion of vegetive and sensitive natures, he was pleased to form a more noble and intelligent creature, to bear his image, and to be the lord of this lower creation. "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” This allows us to say, that man is the offspring of God, a ray from the fountain of light, a drop from the ocean of intelligence. Though, man, since the fall,comes into the world destitute of the inaral
image of God, yet, in the very frame and constitution of his nature, he still bears the natural image of his Maker. His soul is a transcript of the natural perfections of the Deity. God is a spirit, and so is the soul of man; God is intelligence and activity, and so is the soul of man. In a word, man is the living image of the living God, in whom is displayed more of the divine nature and glory, than in all the works and crea: tures of God upon earth. Agreeably therefore to the dignity of his nature, God hath placed him at the head of the world, and given him the dominion over all his works. Hence says the Psalmist, “Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honor. 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 the beasts of the field; the fowls of the air; and the fish of the sea.” How wide is the kingdom of man! how numerous his subjects! how great his dignity!
God, has, besides, instamped a dignity upon man by giving him not only a rational, but an immortal existence. The soul, which is properly the man, shall survive the body and live forever. This might be argued from the nature, the capacity, and the desires of the human mind, and from the authority of the wiser Heathens, who have generally supposed the soul to be a spiritualand immortal principle in man. But, since the Heathen moralists might derive their opinion from a higher source than the light of nature, and since every created object necessarily and solely depends, for continued existence, upon the will of the Creator; we choose to rest the evidence of this point upon the authority of the sacred Oracles. Here indeed we find the immortality of the soul sufficiently established. Solomon saith, “Who knoweth the spirit of man that