<< Genesis: The Days of Creation and the Image of God >>
26. Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis i: 26-27
The lessons derived from the study of the Word and of the works of God, will undoubtedly harmonize if they be read aright. This idea reason hails; and with the ideas of science possessed by the Jews, there was nothing in the history of creation, as understood to be related in the divine book before us, which was felt to be improbable or untrue. They had a very limited conception of the extent of the universe. They supposed the earth to be the great central body, created some 6000 years ago. The sun, moon, and stars, brought into existence on the fourth day of creation, were satellites to the earth, situated in a vault some few miles above the surface, and the whole, revolving round the nearly flat plane on which we live, in twenty-four hours. The sun and moon were to illuminate our days and nights; the stars to add splendour to the scene. They read the Mosaic account of creation in a week ; and although some little difficulty was felt, respecting light appearing before the sun, yet some apparently plausible glosses were offered, and the whole was considered tolerably clear ; and in this conviction the church reposed. But now science has changed the scene! Our earth — no longer conceived to be the great centre of the universe — is known to be only one of some fifty worlds, which revolve round our sun as their centre. Some of these worlds are far larger than our own. Jupiter would make nine hundred such worlds as ours. The sun would make twelve hundred thousand earths and shines unceasingly. He and the earths and moons of his system enveloped in his light, were we to view them from a fixed star, all taken together would seem only like another star. Of such stars, doubtless, with their attendant worlds, there are millions in our astral system. Nay, all the gorgeous assemblage of suns and worlds which is visible to the eye and the telescope, on a magnificent night, would appear to a spectator placed on a nebula in far off space, only like a handbreadth of stardust, of which there are myriads of others suspended in the sky. Each more perfect instrument brings us acquainted with numbers of these starry masses, so distant as to have been quite imperceptible by former telescopes. Their number, no doubt, is finite, but so vast, that the universe may be regarded as an ocean of worlds, and each sun as a drop. This ocean is so immense that light, with its inconceivable rapidity, would be hundreds of thousands of years in traversing it. Light has crossed it, to us, from points so remote as to require all those years for transit ; therefore those stars and systems must have existed so long.
How sublime is the scene which is thus opened upon us ! How immensely is our idea of Jehovah's government enlarged ! And everywhere there is order, silent majesty, the reign of law. Everywhere there is infinite intelligence manifested in securing the attainment, in every portion of the vast whole, of perfect harmony, and perfect safety. And what is infinite intelligence, working unceasingly for benevolent ends, but the effulgence of infinite love? Immeasurable benevolence, operating by immeasurable wisdom — this is the perfect source of all creation, preservation, and blessing.
Love and wisdom — the love which desires to impart happiness, and the wisdom by which it secures its aim — these provide the leaf which forms the joys of the meanest insect's life. These pour forth, with inexhaustible bounty, all that gives variety, abundance, and pleasure to every living thing. These warm us in the sunbeam, and radiate in all the bounties of the light. These we recognize in the perfect order of the planets, and in the regular supplies they obtain from the sun. These are manifest in the stability of the whole system; and we may follow them into the furthest depths of space, still having their bright evidences flashing back upon us, until —
" All thought if lost, and reason drowned
In the immense survey.
We cannot fathom the profound,
Nor trace Jehovah's way."
When we cannot embrace the incalculable greatness of the universe, we can yet perceive everywhere the exhibition of the divine perfections, and acknowledge the evident power and presence of our heavenly Father ; and we instinctively exclaim. —
" These are thy glorious works, parent of good,
Thine, this universal frame! Thus wondrous fair !
Thyself, how wondrous then !"
But fruitful as the discoveries of astronomy are, in suggestions calculated to awaken adoration, gratitude, and humility, we cannot conceal from ourselves that they take us to contemplations of spaces, and distances, quite inconsistent with the age of the universe, as drawn from the literal account in Genesis. If, as the astronomers tell us, many of the heavenly bodies are so distant, that it would require hundreds of thousands of years for light to come from them to us — which light has reached us, or we could not see them — then they must have existed for so long a time, and, therefore, did not begin to exist on the fourth day of a week some six thousand years ago. This is the first fact we desire not to be forgotten.
A sister-science, that of geology, has been found to yield lessons equally enlarging our ideas of the Creator's grandeur, and of His providence, but equally unable to be reconciled with the first chapter of Genesis, considered as an exact divine account of natural Creation.
Geology shews that the crust of the earth, for several miles thick, has been the accumulation of plants and animals, which have lived and died, and left their remains as a proof of their existence, in ages long gone by. Beds of rocks lie one over another, with immense masses of shells, which shew the ocean lay long there; then with remains of plants indicating dry land, and periods of continued growth: again come masses of sea-remains, and these followed by immense layers of land-growth, and thus in succession to such a number and amount, that the time to form them cannot have been less than millions of years.
During all these periods the sun must have existed, as without its heat the water would have been all ICE, and fish could neither move, nor live in it. Plants could not grow without heat, nor light, nor air; and, therefore, the same general laws of nature which prevail now, must have prevailed then, during the enormous periods before any traces of man announce that he had been created.
A long line of animal races has left remains which have been restored part to part, and form complete skeleton existences, with eyes and every portion of the animal constitution; indicating that light existed, and, in fact, that all those wise arrangements which infinite goodness and unerring wisdom sustain now for human happiness, were sustained then. In those far off ages, when the earth was being prepared, by an unutterably loving and all-wise provider, for the residence, after millions of years of beings in the full image of Himself, with all the requirements of civilized life. These preparations, in the remote ages of the world's youth, of those incalculable forests, which afterwards became our coal-fields, of those accumulated remains of shells, which afterwards formed our mountains of limestone, marble, and chalk, in all their varieties; these all speak of laws producing then, as now, beneficent results; of wisdom framing and directing the laws of love, from which such wisdom flowed ; for —
“ I cannot go,
Where universal love not smiles around."
Yet, must it be confessed, that all this stands irreconcilable with Genesis in its ordinary interpretation. If the sun were shining, enabling animals to see, and causing plants to grow, millions of years since, what am I to do with the account which states that the sun was created on the fourth day of a week, only about six thousand years ago? If long ages passed, in which life, and growth, and death proceeded nearly as they do now in the vegetable and animal kingdoms, before man appeared upon the earth, how can this agree with the account which states that on the third day of this week vegetables first came into being, and which brings man into being six days after the earth itself commenced its existence?
If, when we are learning these lessons of science, we were reading some other literary production merely human, we might say we will abide by the Revelation to Moses, for that is divine. But in reading the heavens and the earth, we know they are a divine book also. The knowledge they disclose is from God. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament sheweth His handywork.'' And the revelations they make of the divine greatness and goodness are so humbling and hallowing to the devout soul, we would not, must not, part with them — they are divine teaching. All revelation must harmonize when truly understood. What then is to be done ? Let us see.
Some learned and pious minds have suggested that, perhaps the days in Genesis mean, not periods of twenty-four hours, but great epochs, possibly thousands of years in duration ; and noticing the fact that a day is often used in the Sacred Scriptures in other senses than the scientific one, have quoted the passage, '' A thousand years, in thy sight, are but as a day that is past.? — Ps. xc. 4.
But, if we try to apply these long periods to the actual account in Genesis, we shall find the difficulties are not at all smoothed by such an explanation. What could be meant by the first great period in which the Divine Being divided the light from the darkness, and called the light day, while there was as yet no sun at all ? What could be meant by the evening and the morning of such a great day ? What can we conceive of the second of such great days, when the water was divided into waters, above, and waters below the firmament ? Is there such a division in nature ? And could it take a thousand years, or ten thousand years, to make it ? What could be meant by the third of such great epochs, when the sea was divided from the land, and when plants first grew, although there was yet no sun ? Can we conceive of this for ten, or any other number of thousand years ? The water in such an absence of the sun could not have been liquid; and in stiffness, torpor, and cold, the inevitable concomitants of the sun's non-existence, no movement or growth could be possible. What could be meant by the seventh of such days, in which God is said to have rested from His labours, and originated the Sabbath ? Could this be a thousand or ten thousand years long? And does not the Divine Being still produce and still sustain as actively as ever? Does not geology also teach us that, at the time when the earliest strata were formed, the plants and animals then in being must have lived in such circumstances as imply undoubtedly that the sun shone, and the general laws of nature were the same as now ? Besides, all science leads to the conclusion that the earth was formed by the Creator from the sun, and therefore must have existed after, not before, that body. All these considerations shew that the mode of solving the difficulty, by making the days to be epochs, solves nothing, but creates additional perplexity. Others have proposed the suggestion that, probably, all geological phenomena should be considered as having taken place at a period before that of which the Bible speaks— that is, before the beginning. But this would so entirely denude the divine account of any feasible meaning, that we cannot be otherwise than unwilling to admit a solution which would make divine revelation pretend to give an account of creation, which was, in fact, no creation. If the record in Genesis is to be understood naturally, it is a history of the origin of the heavens and the earth. If the heavens and the earth were really in existence millions of years before, and the earth during those years was swarming with life and being, the six days cannot be called days of creation, in any proper sense whatever. We cannot for a moment admit that man can do better than his Maker, in what that adorable Maker, in what that adorable Maker proposes to do. If the narration in Genesis is not a model of a scientific history of natural creation, we are persuaded it is because God never intended it to be so. If lie made a history, it would be the perfection of history ; for He does all things well. The reason why the divine narrative in Genesis is not a perfectly accurate description of natural creation is, that it was never intended to be so understood. It is written in the divine style and is a description of spiritual creation, as it took place in the earliest ages of man's existence. This divine style is peculiar to the Word of God, and underlies it everywhere. " My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For, as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." — Isa. Iv. 8, 9.
In this divine style the outer universe is a grand symbol of an inner universe in the minds of men. Each mind is a heaven and earth on a small scale. The development of the principles which conduce to the perfection of the soul, is exactly portrayed by the creation of a world. Whether we speak of one mind or of many minds forming a church, it amounts to the same thing. Creation is the symbol of regeneration. “If any man be in Christ,” says the apostle, “he is a new creature; old things have passed away ; behold all things are become new,” — 2 Cor. V. 17. "I have put my words into thy mouth, and I have covered thee in the shadow of mine hand, that I may plant the heavens, and lay the foundations of the earth, and say unto Zion, Thou art my people.'' — Isa. li. 16. Here we have creation, but evidently a mental one, described. We have the exact counterpart of the commencement of Genesis in Jer. iv. 22, 23, 25. '' For my people is foolish, they have not known me; they are sottish children, and they have none understanding; they are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge. I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was without form (empty) and void ; and the heavens, and they had no light. I beheld, and there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens were fled."
Here the state of mankind is described as reduced to the darkness of ignorance, and utter emptiness of all that is beautiful and good, by their obstinate folly ; and this is represented by the emptying and darkening of a world. When the restoration of a heavenly state is the subject of prophecy, it is spoken of as the formation of a new universe. Take as an instance, “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing and her people a joy." — Isa. lxv. 17, 18.
Such is the divine style; the outer world is the type of the inner one. The ruin of a church, or of a soul, is represented by the wreck of a world. The restoration of intelligence, order, righteousness, purity, and peace, are symbolized by a new creation.
This principle pervades the whole Word of God. The recognition of it will relieve from many an error which has been held both in relation to what has been taught as to the beginning of the world, and also respecting its end. The ancients knew this well, and they delighted to know it. The oldest writing known, except the Bible, says, “All things which are in the heavens are also upon earth, but in an earthly manner; and all things on the earth are also in the heavens, but in a heavenly manner.'' Plato speaks of ''all material things being symbols of immaterial," and '' pictures of the Divine Mind."
When the Lord is represented in Job as saying, '' Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth ? declare, if thou hast understanding. Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the comer stone thereof; when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?" — :(Job xxxviii. 4, 6, 7) it is not of the outer earth He speaks, for what are its foundations ? or what its comer stone? It is the church, whose foundations are the divine commandments; and its corner stone, that which the apostle indicated when he wrote, "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." — 1 Cor. iii. 11. He is the head stone of the comer, and when His church, his spiritual earth, is built on Him, the sons of God and the morning stars do indeed shout for joy.
It might relieve the fears of many a simple soul, a slave to the “letter that killeth,” who is ever and anon frightened with the cry, '' The world is going soon to be at an end," to observe, the world has often been at an end, according to the scriptural and divine meaning of that phrase. Not God's world. Oh no; that needs no ending; that is perfect for God's grand purposes, and will remain so. Eccles. xi. 4 ; Ps. Ixxviii. 69 ; xciii. 1 ; xcvi. 10; civ. 5. All we have to do, is to become better acquainted with that, and use it in all its glorious relations as a seminary for heaven. But man's world consists of his worldly principles, habits, and practices; society such as he forms it, including the church as visible among men. This state of society, although it may have started on sound principles, becomes by degeneracy ripe for ruin, and then it falls, and gives place to a better dispensation, a new church, and society. This is the passing away of one heaven and earth, and the commencement of a new one.
When David said, “The earth and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved: I bear up the pillars of it. Selah.” — (Ps. lxxv. 3,) — he spoke not of the material, but of the moral earth. When he wrote, " They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are out of course'' (Ps. lxxxii. 5) ; he would be confined in his ideas indeed, who supposed some foundations of the natural world were meant. See also the whole of Isa. xxiv., where the earth is represented as utterly dissolved and ruined by human iniquity, and the inhabitants burned, v. 6, in language utterly unintelligible, unless we remember that the earth means the church, and the fires which most fatally bum men, are their passions.
When in the early days of our race — the golden age — men regarded the world as the outbirth and the emblem of spiritual things, it was to them a living, ever-teaching book. The sky in its sublime depths, and the glorious lights there, spoke to them of the grandeur of God and the order of heaven. The silent majesty of the mountains told them of the peace which is the attendant of great interior principles. The heat, the light, the dew, the rain, were the types of the love that warms, the truth which enlightens, the calm lessons of wisdom and instruction which descend into the soul, and fertilize it. Each flower was the type of some lovely thought, each fruit tree, of those who are fruitful in good works; “trees of righteousness, of the planting of Jehovah.'' — Isa. lxi. 3.
This was a philosophy of a diviner sort than that which simply weighs, measures, and tickets nature, and has nothing further to say. This led them through nature, up to nature's God. Such wisdom was the delight of the early wise ones, with whom hieroglyphics, and those beautiful myths of the early poets originated. These things, so dark to men of severe science now, were well understood then; and will be once more understood, when men will give themselves diligently to learn again the divine style of correspondences in which God speaks to man.
To men of reverential feeling, and minds enlightened by heavenly wisdom, the world has ever an inner as well as an outer side. They feel they are inhabitants of two worlds — a natural and a spiritual one. The outer, they regard as the counterpart of the inner, and all the movements of the latter are the speaking signs of changes of state within them, and in the spirit world. In the cloud, and in the sunshine, in the storm and in the calm, in all the objects of the mineral, vegetable, and animal worlds, they see the reflections of principles and states in the soul. Through these they walk, and hear the Deity speaking to them every where, but chiefly in His Word ; and they know what is meant there when it is written, “O earth, earth, earth! hear the Word of the Lord."
The days of creation are the seven stages, or grand states, of spiritual creation, and not natural days at all. '' Ye are all the children of the day," said the apostle : “we are not of the night, nor of darkness." — 1 Thess. v. 6. The day of Christ, the day of salvation, the day of the Lord, are terms common in the Sacred Scriptures to indicate states of the church and of man. “The light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day when Jehovah bindeth up the breach of his people, and healeth the stroke of their wound.'' — Isa. xxx. 26. To be a type of these spiritual days, the week was originally instituted in the most ancient times, far beyond the Jewish Dispensation, and in allusion to these seven spiritual days of regeneration, not to any days of nature, it is said in the third commandment, “In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them.'' The labour the Lord rests from, is the labour of regenerating the soul, so long as there is opposition there. The rest, He has, is the peace there is, when all within us is conformed to His Holy Spirit; and though we are still ever active for good, there is neither oppression nor weariness in us. All within us is moved by the all-softening, all-controlling power of love. This is the sabbath of the soul, the seventh day.
The existence of light before the sun, the source of light, came into being, has presented serious difficulty to the thoughtful. But, in spiritual creation, light, which means knowledge, ever comes before the sun, which signifies the love of God as unfolded in the soul. There is light on the first day, the sun is made manifest later. The second day contains the work of dividing the waters into two parts — the waters above the firmament, and the waters below the firmament. To the ignorant simplicity of the untaught mind, which supposed rain and snow to come from immense reservoirs, which God had in reserve above the clouds, this account presented nothing at which it stumbled; but now we are aware that rain does not come from such celestial storehouses, but is raised by evaporation from the sea. What, then is meant by this division of the waters? In spiritual creation it signifies the advance of the soul to the discernment that the instruction which it has previously received in mass, into the memory, like the general mass of waters, is to be divided into two grand classes — instruction concerning our duties to God, and instruction concerning our duties to man. On these two hang all the law and the prophets. Instruction concerning God, heaven, and heavenly things, is the water above the firmament. Every thing we are taught concerning our duties in relation to man and time, is water below the firmament. The earth is said in the twenty-fourth Psalm to be founded upon the seas, and established upon the floods, in relation to the same kind of waters as those named in the Divine Word before us. It is the instruction from the Word which covers the mind, as the waters cover the sea.
The next day, or the third state, discloses a fresh advance— the waters are gathered by themselves, and the dry ground appears. There are also brought forth grasses, herbs, and fruit-trees. In spiritual things this day's work unfolds that great change of our states in our mental progress, when we perceive that valuable as instruction and truth are, duty and goodness are far more so. “The good ground” said the Lord in the parable of the sower, “are they, who in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.” — Luke viii. 15.
When we appreciate heartily those sacred words, “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them,” then our third state has begun. In loving and cultivating obedience to the Lord, there grow over the soil quiet thoughts on which the heart can rest, and say, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures." — Ps. xxiii. 1. As we read the letter of Holy Word, blades of consolation spring up on every side. There is first the blade, then the ear, and then the full com in the ear." — Mark iv. 28. Here, these happy confiding thoughts are called grass. The higher perceptions of heavenly things which enable us to teach others, are called the herb yielding seed, and the perceptions which flow from inward faith are the trees yielding fruit: those trees of righteousness, branches of the planting of Jehovah, Isa. lxii. 2 ; and when these things are brought forth, the soul is ready for the dawning of a still higher day. The prophet says of the church triumphant, — “Thy sun shall no more go down ; nor thy moon withdraw itself: for Jehovah shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended." — Isa. Ix. 20.
Divine love and wisdom are the sun and moon of the regenerating soul, as they are of the kingdom of heaven. When they begin to shine more or less brightly mind, and the will is warmed by hallowed affection, the love of God shed abroad within the heart glows like a little sun there; and the intellect illuminated by spiritual intelligence, like a moon from within. These luminaries, nobler than those of nature, are perceived as signs and foretokens of what we shall be. It is summer when holy love is fully felt within us; it is winter when all is chilled by the presence of harassing anxieties, the result of temptation. It is day when all is bright with us; it is night when our states have become dim. Our whole concern is with our spiritual years; and when we read the individual verses of Holy Writ they shine now with a meaning they never had before: they are like stars in the firmament. “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day-dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts," — 2 Pet. i. 19.
“Unto him that overcometh I will give the morning star." Rev. ii. 28. In the fourth state, when the soul is conscious of the presence of divine things, the whole Word become a glorious milky way, studded with stars of different magnitudes, but each affording its charming and beautiful light; and God " made the stars also."
When this consciousness of the power of love and the light of wisdom in the soul has been attuned and realized, the new creation can make a fresh advance. A heavenly activity of thought is engendered, — a holy ingenuity is exercised in deducing principles of scientific determination, and of sublimely rational thoughts, on all subjects. These spiritual sciences are the fish of the holy waters (Ezek. xlvii. 10), and of the fifth day; while the birds of the spiritual atmosphere are those lofty conceptions which soar up in the good man's spirit, and gather from the glories of eternity prospects which cheer and encourage him to bear the burdens of time. '' They mount up with wings like eagles ; they run, and are not weary ; they walk, and never faint."— Isa. xl. 31.
While the intellect is thus busy with new thoughts, and man is confirming in himself ideas of truth and goodness of every kind, it is his fifth day.
But now another state arises, when in the will all good affections are brought forth in abundance. These are represented by the living creatures the ground brought forth. Desires to live in every habit we have, in harmony with the spirit of heaven, are ever present with us. Our lowest creeping things are alive. All our natural affections, the beasts of our earth, are filled with the spirit and purpose of heaven. Jehovah makes a covenant, as he says in Hosea ii. 18, with the beast of the field, and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of the earth. In fact, all things in us praise the Lord. We delight to be conformed to His will. We take up the language of the Psalms to our little spiritual universe, Ps. Cxlviii.7, 10, “Praise Jehovah from the earth, ye dragons, and all deeps; beasts, and all cattle; creeping things, and flying fowl.'' And when the whole mind is thus filled with spiritual life we are prepared for the next grand change to be introduced by the Lord, and announced by the sublime words '' Let us make man."
But before we proceed with the consideration of the sublime idea presented by these divine expressions, we will notice the criticisms which have sometimes been made on the word God, as well as on the plural pronouns contained in the verse before us — the pronouns US and OUR.
The word translated God is Elohim, the plural of El; and the explanation offered by some is, that three persons exist in God; and the same reason will account, say they, for US and OUR in the text.
But these observations will not harmonise together. If Elohim (God) means three persons, then when the text declares God (Elohim) said " Let us make," if Elohim addressed any one equal to himself, he must have addressed other three or six, and thus there would be six or nine divine persons. The true reason, however, for this plural form arises from the radical signification of El, the singular, and root of the word. El signifies power. Hence it is used in the singular number often, to express the highest inmost power of Deity; the power of Infinite Wisdom flowing from Infinite Love, The Most High God is expressed by El Elyon, in Gen. xiv. 18, 19, 20, and elsewhere. The singular, El, is joined also with Almighty in the name God Almighty (El Shaddai), in the singular. This name El (power), in the Scriptures, occurs two hundred and forty-five times. The term Jehovah, generally in the English Bible translated Lord, is also always in the singular. From these considerations we may conclude, that in His own Being, Jehovah, or the Divine Love, and El, or the inmost Divine Truth, the Eternal, is always singular. One Glorious Divine Person. But when He proceeds to create, although this end is one, that of forming an ever-increasing heaven from the human race, yet the means are as multiform as the universe. The Word of God not an expression, but a living energy, the power of Divine Truth from Divine Love, must form the heavens, and through the heavens the earths of the universe. “By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.”— Ps. xxxiii. 6. ''In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made." — John i. 1, 3. This Word, the Divine Truth, the inmost power of the universe, flowing from the inmost love of Deity in Him, is one, and is meant by the singular El Elyon, the Most High God. But as it forms the heavens, and acts through them, as it creates the earths, and makes them the footstools of its glorious energies, it becomes innumerable powers, and is expressed by the term Elohim. All the heavenly influences flowing from the Divine Truth are powers, Elohim. When heaven became peopled with inhabitants, the angels, so far as they were receptive of the divine influences, became subordinate, Elohim. In the 82nd Psalm it is written, " God standeth in the congregation of the mighty (literally of God, El, singular) ; he judgeth among the gods" (Elohim), v. 1. “have said ye are gods (Elohim) ; and all of you are children of the most High," v. 6. Our blessed Lord, in alluding to this passage, said, “Is it not written in your law. Ye are gods? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came." — John x. 35. Thus, then, all in heaven and on earth who partake of the power of divine truth, become in a subordinate sense Elohim or gods; and it is to shew that all the powers of heaven and earth are, under the Highest, instruments of forming man, of raising human beings up to the character implied in that exalted appellation — man. '' Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them that shall be heirs of salvation?" — Heb. i. 14. Even the powers within one human being, are sometimes called Elohim. “I will make thee an Elohim, a god to Pharaoh," was said to Moses, Ex. vii. 1.
We need not, therefore, wonder at the use of the plural form Elohim, or the pronouns us and our, in relation to the image and likeness of God, but rather adore that Infinite Goodness which works in all things, heavenly and earthly, angelic and human, intellectual and physical, to produce that godlike result, a true and real man. “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." The Lord, the only Divine Person, Himself, however, is the real prime mover of all the operations of creation, natural and spiritual. Isaiah says, '' Thus saith the Lord (Jehovah, singular), thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am Jehovah that maketh all thinqs ; that stretcheth forth the heavens ALONE; that spreadeth abroad the earth BY MYSELF.”--Isa. Xliv.24. And in the verse following our text it is written, ''So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them.” He employs others, to give them the happiness of co-working with Him. He needs us not, but we need the holy employment of being instruments in His hands, of working out His divine designs of love and mercy, and therefore He says, '' Let us make man."
But what is man? The ready answer of the inconsiderate would be, a person in human shape. Our Lord did not judge so, when speaking concerning Herod, he said, “Go, tell that fox, to-day and tomorrow I do cures, and cast out devils, and the third day I shall be perfected." Herod displayed the cunning which makes the peculiar life of the fox, and the blessed Saviour called him by that name.
Animals have no moral sense, — they obey their instincts. No conscience can be formed in them, for this involves knowledge, judgment, decision, choice, and inward determination, to carry out the right. The moral adoption of what is good and true, constitutes true manliness. The more goodness and truth a person adopts, the more is he a man. Infinite goodness and infinite truth form the one perfect divine man, the Lord Jesus Christ; and we become His image as we receive from Him these essentials of manhood.
“Run ye, to and fro, and see now, and know, and seek in the broad places thereof, if ye can find a man, if there be any that executeth judgment, that seeketh the truth; and I will pardon it." — Jer. v. 1. Here is the divine definition of a man. He executeth judgment. He is aware he has a rational faculty, and he uses it. Undeterred by fashion or by folly, he judges for himself. He cares little for the decisions of counsels, or for creeds, except as making him acquainted with what other men have thought. He has faith in God, who gave him the powers of judgment, and who, he feels assured, expects him to use them. He has faith in the truth which God thus enables him to see, and the good to which it leads; and he is daily and fearlessly executing judgment, and doing the truth. This is a man. This will be an angel. He loves the truth above his prejudices, above his passions. He loves it, as the Lord loves it, freely. He is the image of God. He is a child of the light. He follows the light : he rejoices in it. The Saviour calls him his friend. " Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command ye." — John xv. 14. A true man asks only, in the requirements of duty, What has the Saviour commanded ? for what he commands must be the highest truth. What does the truth teach? and what he sees to be true, this he does. God is his law, and his example. His whole aim is to be an image of God. To raise man up to this state of true dignity and real freedom, is what is placed before us as the object of the Deity, expressed in the sublime words of our text, “Let us make man." In all the days which precede this, man acts under some sense of restraint or fear ; now he is to be raised to perfect freedom. “The truth shall make you free.'' — John viii. 32. To see the subject in its true and real character, we must think of it, not so much as so many spoken words, uttered at a particular time, as the expression and purpose of God at all times. He is for ever saying, “Let us make man.'' To the angels, when he appoints them, to watch over the infant spirit, and to lay therein those sweet remnants of holy goodness which form the foundation of heaven, in the soul, he says, '' Let us make man."
To parents, when the young immortal is received as a gift from him, when the father admiringly regards the babe peacefully resting on its happy mother's lap, and dreams, perhaps, of possible wealth and greatness, the spirit of our Father in heaven whispers, '' Let us make man." So to teachers, so to friends, so to all society ; all are intended to assist in this glorious work, to produce and train beings to become images of their Maker: “Let us make man."
For this, heaven and earth have been formed and are sustained; heaven with its excellencies, and earth with its glories, are both impelled to carry out this exhortation of the Divine Creator, " Let us make man."
''Let them have dominion, continues the divine speaker, 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."
He who has arrived at the liberty of the children of God; who, made free by truth, is free indeed, has dominion over all the lower principles of his mind, marshalled here before us by the various orders of animals. He goes to the sea of knowledge, and there presses into his service such principles of science as he can make truly serviceable in his life and conduct " The kingdom of heaven, with him, is like unto a net." — Matt. xiii. 47. He casts his net on the right side of the ship, by his Saviour's command, and he gathers the good into vessels. He takes care to rule his science and make it subservient to religion. He does not become, like Pharaoh of old, absorbed by it, so as to become a mass of scientific vanity, and nothing else. The prophet called Pharaoh a “whale in his seas." — Ezek. xxxii. 2. “ A great dragon that lieth in the midst of his rivers, which hath said, my river is my own, and I have made it for myself.'' The spiritual man has dominion over his fish. However numerous they may be, they must all move in the order of divine truth. "They swim in the river of God." — Ezek. xlvii. 10.
He has dominion, also, over the fowls of the air. “The kingdom of God, with him, once like a grain of mustard-seed, has grown up, and become a greater than all herbs, and shot forth great branches, so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it.'' — Mark iv. 32. Or, in other words, his thoughts, however high they may soar, however wide and far they may fly, will go only to seek for higher illumination, and greater power for good. “They that wait upon the Lord
shall renew their strength ; shall mount up with wings as eagles : they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk, and not faint.'' — Isaiah xl. 31.
Cattle are the symbols of the affections of the heart. “When these are dedicated to the Lord, they are sheep which follow the good shepherd who goes before them, and whose voice they know."— -John x. 4.
A spiritual man has dominion over his cattle, and over all the earth; over his whole natural mind. The sceptre of heavenly order rules all within him, even his creeping things, his lowest appetites. “Whether he eats, or whether he drinks, he does all to the glory of God." — 1 Cor. x. 31.
Such, my beloved hearers, let us become. How solemn and how inspiring is the thought, when we assemble together, to open our hearts for the divine influences, to mingle our prayers and praises together; to hear the Divine Word: the innumerable company of angels is with us, to sympathize with us, to aid us, and to rejoice with us. The God of angels himself has deigned to assure us that he, too, is there. let us seek to rise above all earthly cares, into the atmosphere of these holy beings. Let us attend to the sacred suggestions they make. Let us cooperate with their inward breathings. Let us listen to the voice which is uttered from the eternal Father in the Son, our Lord
Jesus Christ, and descends through all these shining ranks until it whispers in our inmost consciences — and this will be the spirit of all its utterances, — “Let us make man." Let us cooperate with the sacred impulse, and strive at all times to execute judgment and do the truth; so shall we become true men upon earth and angels in heaven.
Author: JONATHAN BAYLEY --From The Divine Word Opened (1887)