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Chapter 20-Creation of Man Pt 2

Creation of Man Pt 2

IV. THE ORIGIN OF SOULS.

As the soul of the first man was a direct creation of God, the inquiry naturally arises, are the souls of all his descendants thus created, or whence come they? This question becomes a difficult one because of the immateriality and unity and simplicity of the soul on the one hand, and on the other, because of the participation of the spirits of all men in sin.

I. To avoid these difficulties some have believed in the pre-existence of the souls of men, which, either voluntarily or as the punishment of previous sin, enter the bodies of men. In this manner their existence in a sinful condition may be accounted for without propagation of souls on the one hand, or the creation of the souls of sinful men on the other.

This theory of pre-existence has been held in three forms. The first supposes that all the souls of men were created at the same time with that of Adam, each for his respective body, with which it either voluntarily or necessarily unites itself at some fixed period in its earliest existence. Relations to Adam somewhat similar to those of the body, or rather relations which involve the whole man, both soul and body, may cause a sinful condition under which each man, both as to soul and body, is born sinful. The second form maintains that these souls or spirits are unfallen angels which, of their own accord, assume this union with the body, that through it they may attain to the higher relationships to God and the state of greater glory which belong to his redeemed. The third affirms that they are angels who had fallen in another sphere, unto whom God affords this additional probation, or upon whom he has imposed this position as a punishment of their sin.

The first of these forms, to be any explanation at all of the difficulties, must recognize an actual existence of the souls of all men at the same time with that of Adam. To say that the mere idea of these beings was present with the divine mind–in the sense in which Plato and his followers believed the whole creation to exist in the divine mind as a model in accordance with which all things have been made,–or in the sense in which all things were present with God in the purpose which, according to the Scriptures, he eternally formed of their future existence, through which he knows them, and they are eternally co-existent with him,–is to suppose an actual creation afterwards, and to leave unremoved every objection which may be pressed against the direct creation of each soul at the time of its entrance into the body, and to render useless any theory of pre-existence at all.

But if these souls actually existed, they must at their creation have had conscious life with intelligence and moral character.

The chief objections to the theory in this aspect are:

(1.) That no man has ever had consciousness of a pre-existent state, or memory of things which occurred therein. This fact ought to be conclusive against this theory, for that consciousness in the soul is not affected by its union with or separation from the body, is plain from our consciousness in our present existence, and from what the Scriptures teach of the condition of man between the hour of death and the resurrection.

(2.) The Scriptures give no hint of any creation or existence of the spirit of any man prior to its connection with the body.

(3.) No facts in the human life or in the constitution of man support the theory, nor does reason in any way suggest or sustain it. It has originated entirely in an attempt to escape difficulties.

(4.) It undertakes no explanation of the condition or position of these spirits, regarded either as innocent or guilty, while awaiting the period of their union with the body.

Against the second and third forms the same objection of lack of consciousness and memory exists. Against the second may be especially urged the impossibility for any purpose of a holy being voluntarily choosing a sinful condition, which the theory supposes permitted by God by granting to these spirits their sinful desire, for such choice would itself be sin. Against both the second and the third it may be said that the Scriptures nowhere ascribe the origin of sin in any of the human race to any other source than that of Adam, and that Heb. 2:16 expressly excludes angels from the benefits of Christ’s redemption. The King James translation is, “For verily he took not on him the nature of angels, but he took on him the seed of Abraham.” But the more correct translations of the Canterbury Revisers and of their American Committee are still stronger. The former is, “For verily not of angels doth he take hold, but he taketh hold of the sted of Abraham.” The latter is, “For verily not to angels doth he give help, but he giveth help to the seed of Abraham.”

2. Another theory as to the origin of souls which has very extensively prevailed, is that the souls of men, as well as their bodies, are derived from their parents. According to this, it is man as the whole man that begets and is begotten; and as body produces body, so it is thought that soul produces soul. It is commonly known as Traducianism from the Latin traducere, to lead or bring over, as the layer of a vine, for the purpose of propagation. This theory is based upon several grounds.

(1.) Its advocates claim that it is not wholly unsupported by the Scriptures. While Gen. 5:1, declares that God created man “in the likeness of God,” in v. 3, it is said that “Adam begot a son in his own likeness after his image, and called him Seth.” But this passage “only asserts that Seth was like his father. It sheds no light on the mysterious process of generation, and does not teach how the likeness of the child to the parent is secured by physical causes.” [Hodge, Sys. Theol., vol. 2, p. 68.] The fact that God breathed into Adam the breath of life but did not into Eve, is also adduced as proof of the derivation of her soul from his, as well as of her body. But this is an argument from ignorance. We know not how Eve was animated into life, but surely in her case there was no begetting of any kind, and therefore from it, even allowing that her soul came from Adam, no light could be thrown upon that of others subsequent to it. The language of Christ to Nicodemus, (John 3:6), “that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit,” can have no application, because the spiritual birth, or soul-begetting, here spoken of is that of the new nature in man produced by the Holy Spirit of God. It would seem, therefore, that this theory has not any real support from any direct teaching of Scripture.

(2.) But, while this fact is admitted by many of its advocates, it is claimed that this theory accounts better than any other for the transmission of a sinful nature, and is thus especially supported by the Scripture doctrine of Original Sin. The Bible as well as experience teaches that men are born with a corrupt nature, and that the corruption is no less in the soul than in the body. This theory denies that God can directly create a sinful soul, and challenges a just explanation of the sinful state of man, even in infancy, unless it is due, as is the sinful body, to its connection with that of the parent. It is unquestionably difficult, though not impossible, to give such an explanation as shall be satisfactory, and hence this is a strong argument in favour of this theory. But, on the other hand, it is improper and dangerous to say that the doctrine of original sin is not true, if there he no propagation of souls. That doctrine is plainly revealed, and is derived from unquestionable facts. Its correctness does not depend upon any theory which may be presented for its explanation. All that is justifiable is to show that this theory, if in no other respect objectionable, will account for it. But the universal sinfulness of man may have otherwise arisen, and whether or not we know the manner in which it has come to pass, we are not at liberty to say that its truth depends upon the correctness of any theory which Scripture has not distinctly connected with it.

(3.) It is also argued in favour of Traducianism that the account of Creation in Genesis represents God as resting after the creation of man, both male and female. It is said, that this rest is evidently one from direct creation, because God is constantly creating mediately through the powers of reproduction conferred on plants and animals; that, therefore, if the souls of men are produced from the parent along with the body, there is only in each case an instance of this mediate creation; but, that, if directly created by God, there appears to be no sense in which he has ceased from creation, or can be said to have rested “from all His work which He had made.” But nothing can be argued conclusively from these statements. We know not exactly what is meant by this Sabbath day rest of God. But that it was not a perpetual rest in all direct and immediate acts, as well as mediate is seen in various well known instances of God’s direct action; as in the conception of Christ by the Holy Ghost; in the working of miracles; and in the work of the Holy Spirit in the regeneration of the souls of men.

(4.) Traducianism receives strong support from the transmission of the mental and moral characteristics of men from parent to child. These become equally fixed and permanent with those of the body. They may be traced throughout the various branches of any one race. They are found as national peculiarities which distinguish one people from another. They appear in families, though not so plainly manifested because of the many intermarriages with other families, and of the tendency to reproduce the spiritual as well as the bodily traits of remote ancestors. They are often very strongly marked between parent and child, and the transmission is so plain, that the general law has been laid down that generally, though not universally, the sons follow the mental and moral features of the mother, and the daughters those of the father. This argument would be very decisive could we entirely separate the spiritual man from the influence of the corporeal. “But,” says Dr. Hodge, “this argument is not conclusive, because it is impossible for us to determine to what proximate cause these peculiarities are due. They may all be referred, for what we know, to something peculiar in the physical constitution. That the mind is greatly influenced by the body cannot be denied. And a body having the physical peculiarities belonging to any race, nation, or family, may determine within certain limits the character of the soul.” Sys. Theol., vol. 2, p.70.

(5.) The advocates of this theory also urge that only thus can we account for such an incarnation of Christ as would make him truly of the race of man. His human soul must, like his human body, have proceeded from his mother. But the incarnation is a mystery as to the manner of which we cannot dogmatize, and from which especially we can draw no conclusions as to others of mankind. We know not even the connection with his mother of the human body of the Son whom she conceived. All that we know is that Jesus was truly her child, and that as such he was of our nature. How he became such is not fully revealed. But, if it be true of all others that their souls are direct creations of God, and yet that they are of the human race, then the fact that the soul of Christ was not derived from his mother would make him no less a man than all others. The incarnation of Christ indeed the rather favours the theory of Creationism; for if his soul and his body were both derived from his mother, it is impossible to see how sin was not transmitted to him as it is to others. On the theory of Creationism we can understand how he could be born sinless, as a pure soul might then have been united with the body miraculously prepared for him, which body itself, because produced by direct divine agency, would also be pure and sinless.

The chief, and almost the only objection to this theory of any weight, is that the idea of propagation of souls involves their materiality. If this be true the theory must be rejected, even if we are left without any satisfactory explanation. That we cannot solve the problem otherwise, does not show that it has no solution.

Any explanation of the transmission of souls must recognize in the soul something different from the body, and something that has all the elements necessary to a true spirit. To suppose, therefore, that the spirit in man is only a higher form of the animal life, to which have been added intelligence and moral capabilities, is to suppose the soul to be incapable of any separate existence from that animal life, and therefore, to be dispelled into non-entity with the death of the body. This is so contrary to what the Scriptures teach of its separate and continued existence after death as not to be admissible for a moment. It is because this has been believed to be necessarily true of it, if in any way material, and because propagation of souls has seemed to involve their materiality, that this theory has been so generally rejected.

But it may be questioned whether any such materialism is essential to a propagation of souls. It is claimed that extension belongs to matter alone, and that only through extension can there arise the capacity for increase in number. But this argues a knowledge of the nature of created spirits which we do not possess. The fact that the unity of nature and attributes in God as the Great Spirit, the Father of Spirits, involves actual simplicity in him, does not prove that the same is necessarily true of the spirits he has created. It is not certain that they may not have some kind of spiritual bodies. Is it not more than possible that he, who, though a simple spirit, can create spirit like himself, but not of his own substance, may be able to confer upon such spirits such a power of multiplication, that, what he does by direct agency in the first creation, he also may do through them in the mediate creations of other spirits? It is not affirmed that this is true, but is it possible to affirm that it cannot be true?

Besides, we should be careful how we dogmatize as to what can and cannot be true of spirits, when we now know so much to be true which a priori we should have judged to be impossible. Thus we now know through the creation of man that spirit can be so associated with matter as to give it a fixed location in space; as to bring it into such contact with matter as to be able to act through it, and upon it; and, more than this, that it is so affected by the condition of the material organism with which it is connected, that the outward manifestation and exercise of its powers is weakened or strengthened through that organism and its moral faculties influenced towards sin or holiness. These, and many similar facts, we now know to be true, which, without experience and Scripture teaching, we should have denied to be possible because of the substantial differences of spirit and matter. Even in the Divine Spirit we are taught that forms of plurality exist, which, without the instructions of the Word of God, we might have denied to be compatible with his spirituality and simplicity, yet, which, as now revealed, are seen to be in no respect inconsistent with these necessary peculiarities of the One God.

These facts are not sufficient to enable us to maintain this theory of Traducianism as true, but only as possible, but they at least suffice to keep us from asserting that descent of one spirit from another can only come through some material substance in the soul, and from accepting, as the only possible solution, any other theory which may be accompanied with objections equally insuperable.

3. The more prevalent theory as to the origin of souls is known as Creationism. It maintains that the soul of each man is directly created by God at the time of its union with its body.

The arguments in its favor are thus presented by Dr. Hodge.

(1.) “That it is more consistent with the prevailing representations of the Scriptures. In the original account of the creation there is a marked distinction made between the body and the soul. The one is from the earth, the other from God. This distinction is kept up throughout the Bible. Body and soul are not only represented as different substances, but also as having different origins. The body shall return to dust, says the wise man, and the spirit to God who gave it. Here the origin of the soul is represented as different from, and higher than that of the body. The former is from God in a sense in which the latter is not. In like manner God is said to form ‘the spirit of man within him,’ Zech. 12:1; to give ‘breath unto the people upon it,’ ‘and spirit to them that walk therein,’ Isa. 42:5. This language nearly agrees with the account of the original creation, in which God is said to have breathed into man the breath of life to indicate that the soul is not earthy or material, but had its origin immediately from God. Hence he is called ‘God of the spirits of all flesh,’ Num. 16:22. It could not well be said that he is God of the bodies of all men. The relation in which the soul stands to God, as its God and Creator, is very different from that in which the body stands to him. And hence in Heb. 12:9, it is said, ‘We have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?’ The obvious antithesis here presented is between those who are fathers of our bodies and him who is the Father of our spirits. Our bodies are derived from our earthly parents–our souls are derived from God. This is in accordance with the familiar use of the word flesh, where it is contrasted, either expressly or by implication, with the soul. Paul speaks of those who had not ‘seen his face in the flesh,’ of ‘the life he now lived in the flesh.’ He tells the Philippians that it was needful for them that he should remain ‘in the flesh;’ he speaks of his ‘mortal flesh.’ The Psalmist says of the Messiah, ‘my flesh shall rest in hope,’ which the apostle explains to mean that his flesh should not see corruption. In all these, and in a multitude of similar passages, flesh means the body, and ‘fathers of our flesh’ means fathers of our bodies. So far, therefore, as the Scriptures reveal anything on the subject, the authority is against Traducianism and in favor of Creationism.

(2.) “The latter doctrine, also, is clearly most consistent with the nature of the soul. The soul is admitted, among Christians, to be immaterial and spiritual. It is indivisible. The Traducian doctrine denies this universally acknowledged truth. It asserts that the soul admits of ‘separation or division of essence.’ On the same ground that the Church universally rejected the Gnostic doctrine of emanation as inconsistent with the nature of God as a Spirit, it has, with nearly the same unanimity, rejected the doctrine that the soul admits a division of substance. This is so serious a difficulty that some of the advocates of the ex-traduce doctrine endeavor to avoid it by denying that their theory assumes any such separation or division of the substance of the soul. But this denial avails little. They maintain that the same numerical essence which constituted the soul of Adam constitutes our souls. If this be so, then either humanity is a general essence of which individual men are the modes of existence, or what was wholly in Adam is distributively, partitively and by separation, in the multitudes of his descendants. Derivation of essence, therefore, does imply, and is generally admitted to imply, separation or division of essence. And this must be so if numerical identity of essence in all mankind is assumed to be secured by generation or propagation.

(3.) “A third argument in favor of Creationism, and against Traducianism, is derived from the Scriptural doctrine as to the person of Christ. He was very man; he had a true human nature; a true body and a rational soul. He was born of a woman. He was, as to his flesh, the Son of David. He was descended from the fathers. He was in all points made like as we are, yet without sin. This is admitted on both sides. But, as before remarked, in reference to realism, this, on the theory of Traducianism, necessitates the conclusion that Christ’s human nature was guilty and sinful. We are partakers of Adam’s sin, both as to guilt and pollution, because the same numerical essence which sinned in him is communicated to us. Sin, it is said, is an accident, and supposes a substance in which it inheres, or to which it pertains. Community in sin supposes, therefore, community of essence. If we were not in Adam as to essence, we did not sin in him, and do not derive a corrupt nature from him. But if we were in him as to essence, then his sin was our sin, both as to guilt and pollution. This is the argument of Traducianists repeated in every form. But they insist that Christ was in Adam, as to the substance of his human nature, as truly as we were. They say that if his body and soul were not derived from the body and the soul of his virgin mother he was no true man, and cannot be the redeemer of men. What is true of other men must, consequently, be true of him. He must, therefore, be as much involved in the guilt and corruption of the apostasy as other men. It will not do to affirm and deny the same thing. It is a contradiction to say that we are guilty of Adam’s sin because we are partakers of his essence, and that Christ is not guilty of his sin nor involved in its pollution, although he is a partaker of his essence. If participation of essence involve community of guilt and depravity in the one ease, it must also in the other. As this seems a legitimate conclusion from the Traducian doctrine, and as the conclusion is anti-christian and false, the doctrine itself cannot be true.” [Sys. Theol. vol. 2, pp. 70-72. See the whole discussion, pp. 65-76, especially the concluding remarks, pp. 72-76.]

There are chiefly two objections made to the theory of Creationism: (1.) that God is thus supposed by a direct originating act to create a pure soul to inhabit a sinful body, and thus to partake, necessarily, of its sin; or to create a soul for that purpose already sinful, and (2.) that direct creation is not accordant with his present relations to the world and manner of acting in it. To this latter it has already been replied, that we have instances of God’s direct creations, which forbid the assertion that he acts only through secondary means. But it was not intended, then, to assert that God acts in the creation of souls, any more than in their regeneration, entirely apart from all connection with physical circumstances and causes. His action may occupy some relation to these circumstances and causes, though it may not be through them.

In the first section and first paragraph of this chapter in discussing the account of man’s creation, attention was also called to the fact that the Scriptures appear to allude to Adam as the embodiment of the race of man, and it was added, “the importance of this fact will hereafter he seen.” It would seem from that statement that in some form there is a certain unity in human nature. Those who hold the theory of Traducianism believe that “the souls of children, as well as their bodies, exist in their parents in Adam, either as real beings, like the seeds in plants, and so have been propagated from Adam through successive generations, which is the opinion of Leibnitz, in his “Theodicee.” or they exist in their parents merely potentially, and corn from them by propagation or transference.” [Knapp’s Christian Theol., p. 201.] Now, while the theory of propagation may he rejected, the fact of the unity of human nature still exists. The recognition of that existence will aid in solving many difficulties in theology, and, among others, may afford a probable solution of a direct creation of God, which does not involve responsibility on his part for the guilt of a newly-created soul. If it he true that human nature is one, and yet that men are many, it follows that a man is only “a manifestation of the general principle of humanity in connection with a given human body,” [Hodge, vol. 2, p. 75,] and that thus he becomes a conscious individual person of that humanity. This is analogous to, but yet quite different from, the threefold personal relations in the Trinity of the Godhead. The latter is a threefold, separate personal subsistence in one common, undivided and indivisible Divine nature or essence. The former embraces many separate individual personal manifestations of one human nature, his appropriate part of which is possessed by each person who thus becomes an embodiment in himself of the common humanity. If, then, it be accordant with God’s general method of working, and with his purpose to produce this personal existence under proper conditions, new souls may be thus created whose connection with the common humanity may be as intimate as though they were originally contained in Adam for propagation, and who are therefore created sinful without any more relation of God to their creation than would have existed had they been propagated.

That the common method of God, in the production of life of any kind, may be of this nature is ably set forth by Dr. Hodge in answer to the declaration of Delitzsch that the continued creation of souls is inconsistent with God’s present relation to the world, and that he now produces only mediately, i.e. through the operation of second causes.

“This,” says Dr. Hodge, “is a near approach to the mechanical theory of the universe, which supposes that God, having created the world and endowed his creatures with certain faculties and properties leaves it to the operation of these second causes. A continued superintendence of Providence may be admitted, but the direct exercise of the Divine efficiency is denied. What, then, becomes of the doctrine of regeneration? The new birth is not the effect of second causes. It is not a natural effect produced by the influence of the truth or the energy of the human will. It is due to the immediate exercise of the almighty power of God. God’s relation to the world is not that of a mechanist to a machine, nor such as limits him to operating only through second causes. He is immanent in the world. He sustains and guides all causes. He works constantly through them, with them and without them. As in the operations of writing and speaking there is with us the union and combined action of mechanical, chemical and vital forces, controlled by the presiding power of mind; and as the mind, while thus guiding the operations of the body, constantly exercises its creative energy of thought, so God, as immanent in the world, constantly guides all the operation of second causes, and at the same time exercises uninterruptedly his creative energy. Life is not the product of physical causes. We know not that its origin is in any case due to any cause other than the immediate power of God. If life be the peculiar attribute of immaterial substance, it may be produced agreeably to a fixed plan by the creative energy of God whenever the conditions are present under which he has purposed it should begin to be. The organization of a seed or of the embryo of an animal, so far as it consists of matter, may be due to the operation of material causes guided by the providential agency of God, while the vital principle itself is due to his creative power. There is nothing in this derogatory to the divine character. There is nothing in it contrary to the Scriptures. There is nothing in it out of analogy with the works and working of God. It is far preferable to the theory which either entirely banishes God from the world, or restricts his operations to a concursus with second causes. The objection to Creationism that it does away with the doctrine of miracles, or that it supposes God to sanction every act with which his creative power is connected, does not seem to have even plausibility. A miracle is not simply an event due to the immediate agency of God, for then every act of conversion would be a miracle. But it is an event, occurring in the external world, which involves the suspension or counteracting of some natural law, and which can be referred to nothing, but the immediate power of God. The origination of life, therefore, is neither in nature nor design a miracle, in the proper sense of the word. This exercise of God’s creative energy, in connection with the agency of second causes, no more implies approbation than the fact that he gives and sustains the energy of the murderer proves that he sanctions murder.” [Sys. Theol., vol. 2, pp. 74, 75.]

The consideration of this question may be terminated by adopting the language with which I)r. Hodge closes his discussion.

“The object of this discussion is not to arrive at certainty as to what is not clearly revealed in Scripture, nor to explain what is, on all sides, admitted to be inscrutable, but to guard against the adoption of principles which are in opposition to plain and important doctrines of the word of God. If Traducianism teaches that the soul admits of abscission or division; or that the human race are constituted of numerically the same substance; or that the Son of God assumed into personal union with himself the same numerical substance which sinned and fell in Adam; then it is to be rejected as both false and dangerous. But if; without pretending to explain everything, it simply asserts that the human race is propagated in accordance with the general law which secures that life begets life; that the child derives its nature from its parents through the operation of physical laws, attended and controlled by the agency of God, whether directive or creative, as in all other cases of the propagation of living creatures, it may be regarded as an open question, or matter of indifference. Creationism does not necessarily suppose that there is any other exercise of the immediate power of God in the production of the human soul than such as takes place in the production of life in other cases. It only denies that the soul is capable of division, that all mankind are composed of numerically the same essence, and that Christ assumed numerically the same essence that sinned in Adam.” [Sys. Theol., vol. 2, pp. 75, 76.]

V. THE IMAGE AND LIKENESS OF GOD.

In the first account of creation God is represented as saying: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” Gen. 1:26. A natural question has arisen whether there is any difference between the words “image” and “likeness.” It has been earnestly contended that there is some distinction to be made between them, and various conflicting opinions have been expressed as to what that distinction is. But it is not probable that any was meant or can be established. None is apparent between the original Hebrew words; and the Scriptural use of them elsewhere seems to imply that none exists. In Gen. 1:27, the first of these is used alone, and is twice used. In Gen. 9:6, we have the first word alone, while in Gen. 5:1, the second alone appears, although in Gen. 5:3, both are employed in stating the image and likeness of Adam in which Seth was begotten. The New Testament equally fails to make any distinction. In 1 Cor. 11:7 image (eikon) and glory (doxa) are used; in Col. 3:10 image (eikon) alone and James 3:9 likeness (homoiosis). The assumption, therefore, that there is any distinction between the words is entirely gratuitous. The two are merely synonymous, and are used in accordance with a common Hebrew mode of speech.

A more important question is as to what is meant by that image or likeness.

1. There is certainly no reference to the bodily form of man. God, as pure spirit, has no body in the likeness or image of which man could be created. The body of man, although in many respects superior to that of the brutes, is in a great measure like theirs. The analogy between man and animals generally is very striking and especially that between him and those nearest to him in the stage of being. But there can be no analogy between him and God in this respect. In no way even could special honour be put on man in his physical nature, except as that nature gives evidence of the existence with it of those spiritual powers which elevate man above the brutes. It is as the dwelling-place of that spirit, and because of its intimate association with the life existent in that body, that any sacredness can be attached to the bodily form. It is this, therefore, that is doubtless meant by Gen. 9:6, where the shedding of the blood of man is made punishable on the ground that “in the image of God made he man.”

2. That image and likeness consists in the possession of a spiritual nature. It is in this respect that man is like God, who is called “the God of the spirits of all flesh” (Num. 16:22; 27:16); and the Father of spirits (Heb. 12:9). The spirits of men are also spoken of as peculiarly the works of his hands (Ecc. 12:7; Isa. 57:16; Zech. 12:1), and it was to him that our dying Lord commended his spirit. (Luke 23:46.)

As thus spiritual, man has all the peculiarities of a true spirit.

(1.) He is a personal being with individual conscious existence and action.

(2.) He has the intellectual powers by which he knows all things within the sphere of his being.

(3.) He has that power of contrary choice which constitutes him a free agent, although controlled in that choice by the prevailing motive,–by which is meant the motive which most pleases him, and which is, therefore, that to which his own nature gives prevalence.

(4.) He has a moral nature, or a nature with reference to which we can say “ought,” and “ought not.”

(5.) This moral nature as originally existent must have been (a.) not only without taint of sin, and (b.) without tendencies to sin, and (c.) not merely in a condition of such equipoise between sin and holiness as would make the soul indifferent to the one or the other, but (d.) must have been entirely inclined towards the right, with a holy taste for the holiness of God, having capacity to discern its beauty, and inclination to love him as its possessor, accompanied by readiness to obey the law of God, and perception of man’s duty to serve him.

That such was the original condition of man’s moral nature is evident from Eph. 4:24: “And put on the new man which after God hath been created in righteousness and holiness of truth.” These elements, which belonged to the image of God in which man was created, have been lost. They are restored again in the renewing of man when created anew in Christ Jesus. That the whole image was not destroyed by the sin of Adam, appears from the fact that man is spoken of as in that image subsequent to the fall and before the renewal. See Gen. 9:6; James 3:9; 1 Cor. 11:7. But that there was a loss, not merely of innocence, but of original righteousness, is evidently to be inferred from the above mentioned passage in Ephesians.

(6.) Perpetuity of existence also belongs to the nature of created spirit, and is another point of similarity between all spirits and God. This is commonly called immortality. But created spirits have not an immortal spiritual life. The soul may die. The death of the soul, however, is not the cessation of conscious personal existence. It is simply the destruction of its spiritual life by its contamination by sin and its separation from the favour of God. What the Scriptures teach of the death of the soul shows, therefore, that natural immortality should not be affirmed of man’s spiritual nature. But perpetual existence has been given by God to the nature of created spirits. He might have made that nature otherwise. But he has chosen that it shall be ever existent. This perpetuity of existence is, however, merely in his purpose. He could have willed otherwise. No creation of God could have such a nature as of itself to be imperishable. It has been argued from the simplicity of the soul that it cannot be destroyed by God. But evidently he who created without compounding could also destroy without dividing. But he has chosen to give such a nature to spirit that to that nature belongs perpetuity of existence. It is, however, not self-existent, as is God, for it has not in itself the power of self-existence. Without God it could no longer be. It must be preserved, in the conferred nature, by that same power which created it. But God has given this nature to spirits, which he purposes ever to preserve, and, through that gift and that preservation, they have an endless existence.

3. When God purposed to make man, he also said, “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. 1:26.

Because of this language some have supposed that this dominion was also a part of the image and likeness of God.

But, evidently, this was an office conferred upon the man made in God’s image, and not a part of that Image. The Scripture presents it as something that was to follow after the nature was conferred upon man. The resemblance between him and God, in this respect, is very striking. That becomes more so, when we recognize the fulfilment of this purpose in its highest sense in the mediatorial dominion of the Godman. But this position is one of office, and not of nature, and the image of God declared of man is manifestly an image of his nature.

VI. MAN PERFECT BUT NOT INFALLIBLE.

It was after the creation of man that God saw, as to everything that he had made, that it was “very good,” literally “exceedingly good.” Gen. 1:31. On the previous days we are only told that he saw it was good. There seems here a special emphasis, therefore, as to the perfection of man’s entire nature. The points of that perfection have been exhibited in showing that man was made in the image of God. But, that it did not include perpetual continuance in it, we know from the fact that man fell from it in sinning against God. His nature, therefore, was fallible. In this respect he was not peculiar, for, as we have heretofore seen, there have been angels also who kept not their first estate. Indeed fallibility belongs to the nature of created spirits. It is involved in their possession of the power of contrary choice, that whenever good and evil are presented, the latter may be chosen, and thus the spiritual creature may fall. Any idea of a probation implies the presentation of such choice. The fall of a spiritual king may be prevented, either by not appointing to it a probation, or presenting the trial under such circumstances as will leave no temptation to choose the wrong, or by God’s so influencing the mind as to counteract all the power of such temptation. But, that God has a right to test his creature is unquestionable, as well as that he is not bound to surround him with such circumstances, or so to counteract the power of all temptation, as to make sinning impossible. But, if he should thus protect or decline to test, the natural fallibility of the creature would still he a fact. He is under these circumstances not liable to fall simply because God protects him from that liability. He has not an infallible nature. The holy angels are often spoken of as confirmed in holiness; but this is not due to any change of nature, but must either be known from a knowledge of God’s purpose and perhaps of his promise even if in part, or altogether to be accomplished by what they have seen of the fearful evil of sin in the other angels, or in man. Without such promise, or declared purpose of God, there is no assurance that they may not yet fall.

The perfection, therefore, of any created being does not consist in infallibility. The fact that man has fallen, argues nothing against his original perfection. For this, he needed only to have truly the nature which God gave him. God could not give him an infallible nature, though he could preserve him infallible in whatever nature he might choose to bestow. But he was under no obligation to do this; none to man; none to his own righteous nature. He had the right to test man at his will, and thus testing, to leave him to himself without constraint to the contrary, to choose as he might see fit. This he did, and man fell; but his fall was not due to the lack of any natural perfection.

Rev. James Petigru Boyce, D. D., LL. D.,–Abstract of Systematic Theology–First published in 1887

The Wednesday Word: More, More about Jesus!

Hebrews 4:14: Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.

We so very often miss the “little big” phrases of Scripture. We’ve just read one of them. It said, “We have.” Did you notice it? “Seeing then that we have a great high priest.” I’m glad that it didn’t merely say, “There is a great high priest!” It says, instead, that we have a great high priest. He is already ours!
Our High Priest is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ!

He is the One who is superior to all the high priests of the Old Testament.

He is the One who replaced all the high priests of the Old Testament.

He is the One who is now seated on the throne of grace.

He is the One who is filled with love and sympathy for His purchased people.

He is the One who ever lives to apply the benefits of His atonement to his people.

He is the One who brings us into the welcoming presence of God.
In the Old Testament, the high priests of Israel were but; “faint types and shadows of Christ.” However, they carried the names of the tribes of Israel upon their breastplate. This pointed towards Christ’s love for His people. These same names were also upon the high priest’s shoulders. This pointed towards the power of Christ in carrying His people (see Exodus 28:6-14; Exodus 28:15-29). Likewise, at this very moment, our great high priest, the Lord Jesus saves us with both love and strength. What an amazing salvation! What an amazing Saviour!
“Before the Throne of God above

I have a sure and perfect plea;

A great High Priest whose name is love,

Who ever lives and pleads for me,

My name is graven on His hands,

My name is written on His heart;

I know that while in Heaven He stands

No tongue can bid me thence depart.”

 

Once each year, under the Law, the Jewish high priest went behind the veil and into the holiest of all to sprinkle the blood on the mercy seat (Leviticus 16). But our high priest, the Lord Jesus, has, once for all, passed through the heavens and entered the heavenly sanctuary, with His own blood, where He, at this moment, gloriously represents us (Hebrews 9:24).

Let me ask you, do you know what it is to have a high priest or is this a mere theory? Are you living in this knowledge or is your life characterized by regret? Are you constantly thinking, “If only I had not made that stupid mistake…or if only I hadn’t done this or that”? Is your past robbing you of today’s joy? Then it’s time to put your past behind you! Your great high priest has finished His work—-it is over. His blood has cleansed every wicked thing that you have ever done or thought (John 19:30).

You might say, “But you do not know what I have done in the past!”

I don’t need to know. The blood of Jesus cleanses all sin (I John 1:7). Consider Paul; watch him and see how in a murderous frenzy he wasted the early church. I’m sure that was hard for him to forget. But he knew about the shed blood of the Lord Jesus. He knew that his Lord was his great high priest and intercessor. He knew that his sins had been taken away and, as a result, he was able to forget those things that lay behind.

Like Paul, we can forget our past for we have a great high priest. Our past is past. It has been wiped out. It is gone!

Jesus our High priest sympathizes with us in our temptations. He supplies us with strength. He is everything we need!

And that’s the Gospel Truth

Miles McKee
Minister of the Gospel

The Grace Centre

6 Quay Street, New Ross,

County Wexford, Ireland.

www.milesmckee.com  

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The cloud, and smoke, and flame, though they were symbols of heavenly glory, nevertheless curbed men’s minds as with a bridle, that they might not attempt to penetrate farther

April 30, 2014 3 comments

calvin.jpg_7MA21605611-0015Consideration of an objection taken from various passages in Moses. The Cherubim and Seraphim show that images are not fit to represent divine mysteries. The Cherubim belonged to the tutelage of the Law.

It is true that the Lord occasionally manifested his presence by certain signs, so that he was said to be seen face to face; but all the signs he ever employed were in apt accordance with the scheme of doctrine, and, at the same time, gave plain intimation of his incomprehensible essence. For the cloud, and smoke, and flame, though they were symbols of heavenly glory, (Deuteronomy 4:11,) curbed men’s minds as with a bridle, that they might not attempt to penetrate farther. Therefore, even Moses (to whom, of all men, God manifested himself most familiarly) was not permitted though he prayed for it, to behold that face, but received for answer, that the refulgence was too great for man, (Exodus 33:20.) The Holy Spirit appeared under the form of a dove, but as it instantly vanished, who does not see that in this symbol of a moment, the faithful were admonished to regard the Spirit as invisible, to be contented with his power and grace, and not call for any external figure? God sometimes appeared in the form of a man, but this was in anticipation of the future revelation in Christ, and, therefore, did not give the Jews the least pretext for setting up a symbol of Deity under the human form. The mercy-seat, also, (Exodus 25:17,18,21,) where, under the Law, God exhibited the presence of his power, was so framed, as to intimate that God is best seen when the mind rises in admiration above itself: the Cherubim with outstretched wings shaded, and the veil covered it, while the remoteness of the place was in itself a sufficient concealment. It is therefore mere infatuation to attempt to defend images of God and the saints by the example of the Cherubim. For what, pray, did these figures mean, if not that images are unfit to represent the mysteries of God, since they were so formed as to cover the mercy-seat with their wings, thereby concealing the view of God, not only from the eye, but from every human sense, and curbing presumption? To this we may add, that the prophets depict the Seraphim, who are exhibited to us in vision, as having their faces veiled; thus intimating, that the refulgence of the divine glory is so great, that even the angels cannot gaze upon it directly, while the minute beams which sparkle in the face of angels are shrouded from our view. Moreover, all men of sound judgment acknowledge that the Cherubim in question belonged to the old tutelage of the law. It is absurd, therefore, to bring them forward as an example for our age. For that period of puerility, if I may so express it, to which such rudiments were adapted, has passed away. And surely it is disgraceful, that heathen writers should be more skillful interpreters of Scripture than the Papists. Juvenal (Sat. 14) holds up the Jews to derision for worshipping the thin clouds and firmament. This he does perversely and impiously; still, in denying that any visible shape of Deity existed among them, he speaks more accurately than the Papists, who prate about there having been some visible image. In the fact that the people every now and then rushed forth with boiling haste in pursuit of idols, just like water gushing forth with violence from a copious spring, let us learn how prone our nature is to idolatry, that we may not, by throwing the whole blame of a common vice upon the Jews, be led away by vain and sinful enticements to sleep the sleep of death.

John Calvin-Institutes of the Christian Religion-Book I-Chapter 11-Henry Beveridge Translation

The Regulative Principle of the Church 10: Its Biblical Support—Fourth Argument

April 29, 2014 1 comment

The fourth argument for the regulative principle of the church is found in the explicit testimony of Scripture. The Bible explicitly condemns all worship that is not commanded by God (Lev. 10:1-3; Deut. 17:3; Deut. 4:2; 12:29-32; Josh 1:7; 23:6-8; Matt. 15:13; Col. 2:20-23).

Three of these passages deserve special comment. Deut. 12:29-32 in its original context is addressed precisely to the question of how God should be worshipped (v. 30). The rule given here in answer to this issue is very clear. “Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it” (v. 32). This clearly implies that it is a great temptation for God’s people to see how the world worships and to allow that to have a formative impact on our attitudes about worship. Such an attitude is explicitly forbidden of God’s people.

 
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Some illnesses are the result of misusing or not reverencing the Lord’s Supper

April 29, 2014 3 comments

Arthur Pink“For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily eateth and drinketh damnation (judgment) to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep” (1 Corinthians 11:29, 30).

The Corinthians had been guilty of profaning the Lord’s table, turning the holy Supper into a carnal feast. God would not tolerate such irreverence and impiety in this dispensation any more than He would under the Mosaic, and evidenced His sore displeasure by visiting them with a temporal judgment, smiting them in their bodies.

Arthur W. Pink-Divine Healing-Is It Scriptural?

Four Steps Backwards – Defending Your Faith Part 4

April 28, 2014 1 comment

Elders Represent the Knowledge of Christ in the Church – Part 3

Chapter 3 of this second epistle to the Corinthian church gives Paul’s defense of his authority in and of from God further weight, as he stresses that not only is he not seeking to appeal to or please men by his words, but that God has written that upon the hearts of those he is writing to, so much so, that they are “our letter of recommendation,” and the weight of this letter of recommendation is not even their own testimony (although such is implicit in a secondary sense), but the fact that the law of God has been written on their hearts as surely and more effectually than it was on the tablets of the decalogue (vv. 1-4), and that is the entirety of the foundation for Paul and his companions confidence, which confidence has, as its sufficiency, God, and which confidence is communicated in all that they suffered, will suffer, are consoled in, and share with the Corinthians for the sake of their being built up in the grace of God.

 
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