WHAT IS MAN?
What Shall We Think of Man? -- Who is he? What is his place on the earth and in the universe? What is his destiny? He is of necessity an object of thought. He is the subject of natural laws, instincts and passions. How far is he free; how far bound? How is he linked with the physical and the spiritual worlds? These and a host of other questions press upon us for answers, when we begin to think about man and his destiny.
Taken in detail the inquiries lead investigators in many different directions and result in many contradictory systems of thought. Taken, however, in a general practical way all questions about man may be considered from two standpoints; the physical and the spiritual. The danger is in making the physical alone interpret the spiritual and in declaring that "man is simply a ripple on the sea of human events and human life, merely on episode marking a particular stage in the cooling of a nebula." This method of interpretation leads to the ruling out of any personal responsibility on the part of man for his thoughts or actions, the obliteration of the distinction between right and wrong and the denial of a personal God and personal immortality.
The right standpoint from which to consider the many questions about man, as he appears upon this earth, is that of a personal spiritual being with a physical body. There is here no denial of the physical part of man, but it is made subordinate to the spiritual. Man is personal and responsible for his thoughts and conduct; upon this conception of man is founded human society and the state. Man is spiritual, knowing the distinction between right and wrong, capable of knowing God who is The Personal Spirit and looking forward to a personal immortality.
The Christian Thought of Man recognizes him as a personal spiritual being with a physical body; he has large responsibilities, and a great destiny to attain -- if he so wills.
There are six heads under which the Christian conception of man may be considered:
1. Man is mortal (Psalm 90:5,10; Ecclesiastes 12:5). The physical part of man is quite definitely limited in years. His body is formed of the same elements as that of any other animal and is subject to the law of decay and death. This linking of man with, what we call, the material universe is asserted at the very opening of the Bible (Genesis 2:7). Man is a member of a race of men with all that this membership implies (Acts 17:26).
2. Man is immortal (1 Corinthians 15:53,54). The physical body is the house of the spirit of man. All the appeals in the Scriptures are addressed to this personal spirit of man (Matthew 6:25,33; John 14:1-4). There is in the New Testament a great forward look to the things that shall come to pass after the passing away of the physical body (Matthew 25:31-46; Revelation 21,22).
3. Man is a moral being (Romans 2:14,15). There is a law of conscience impressed upon man when he comes into the world, which makes him a moral being capable of distinguishing between right and wrong. Man knows when he sins against the law of his conscience.
4. Man is a responsible being (Romans 2:1-11). He is self-conscious and self-determining. He knows himself as himself and he can determine his actions; it is these characteristics which make him responsible for his sins. He has the power of choice and in willing to do right or wrong he brings the consequences of his doing upon himself.
5. Salvation for man is through Jesus Christ. Man sins and violates his moral nature; he feels the responsibility for his sin; he desires forgiveness for his sin and to be freed from its power over his spiritual nature (Romans 7:23,24). But he finds no earthly help. Such help can come to man only through a spiritual being who, subject to all the assaults of sin (Matthew 4:1-11), has triumphed over them all (Romans 8:1-4; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus Christ, the manifestation of God the Father, is the Spiritual Being through whom man can receive forgiveness for sin (Luke 5:23,24; Acts 2:38; 13:38,39; 16:30,31).
6. Large possibilities are everywhere asserted for man in the Scriptures. This earthly life is looked upon as the beginning of a greater and fuller life (1 Corinthians 13:9,12). Yet in doing the will of God man may even here enter upon a life full of joy (Hebrews 12:1,2).
MAN MADE IN THE IMAGE OF GOD
The Statement of the Case. -- In Genesis 1:26 we are told that God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." In Genesis 2:7 the narrative relates, "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul" (see Psalm 8:4-8). These passages have a great representative character and the truth expressed in them has lived and will live under all theories of the appearance of man upon this earth. In the Bible man is shown as the latest and highest creation of God, the last and best of His work in the animal world, but with a difference that is world-wide between him and the brute creation. Here is an animal, coming up out of the dust, endowed with spiritual qualities which place him not only at the head of the animal kingdom, but dominating it. The most radical evolutionist must admit that man is the last in the list of uplifts in the animal world, that he has qualities which elevate him far above it and by which he dominates it. Somewhere back there, again, he must admit that there came a change and the dust-born animal was changed into a God-born soul. The great truth then remains, man is an animal but endowed with a growing marvellous self-conscious, self-determining personality. As the Bible is a progressive revelation, showing us more and more the greatness of spiritual truths, it represents man as starting from no high plane of civilization and as a learner through the ages. Man is even now in the process of making; he has not yet come to his best estate.
The Image of God. -- What is the likeness of God? "God is Spirit" (John 4:24) and that part of man which counts is his spiritual kinship to God.
Man's intelligence, moral nature and will constitute "the image of God" in him and make it possible for him to come into communication with God and to occupy his unique place in the universe. Only a person can understand a person.
"Man is dear to God because he is like Him. Vast and glorious as it is, the sun cannot think God's thoughts; can fulfill but cannot intelligently sympathize with God's purposes. Man, alone among God's works, can enter into and approve of God's purpose in the world and can intelligently fulfill it. Without man the whole material universe would have been dark and unintelligible, mechanical and apparently without any sufficient purpose. Matter, however fearfully and wonderfully wrought, is but the platform and material in which spirit, intelligence and will, may fulfill themselves and find development."
The Bible seeks to show men in how many ways they resemble God and to urge them to be worthy of their likeness to God. There is a certain philosophy on the other hand, sometimes called "the dirt philosophy," which seeks to show men in how many ways they resemble the brute and to urge them to live the life of the brute.
But a great practical question which demands an answer of us -- as we look out upon the world of men taking them as they are -- is, Did God make the evil man "in His likeness" as well as the good man?
The Good Man. -- The best things bear the stamp of their maker. If a good judge of pictures is taken into some famous art gallery it is not necessary to point out to him the excellencies of the paintings, they tell their own story. There are men in the Bible who manifestly bear the image of God; Abraham, Isaac, Enoch, Moses, David, John, Paul and others. There have been many men in ancient and modern times who, when some great crisis has come in the state or church, have conducted themselves as men born in the image of God; men who have sacrificed their own interests to be loyal to the truth. We all recognize such men as God-born.
The Evil Man. -- The difficulty is however to recognize any image of God in a certain class of evil men who have low instincts and desires; men who lie, cheat, steal and break every commandment of God and man.
Did God make the worst and the lowest of men? If we are to consider fairly the question of the making of man in the image of God we must not shun this problem, which the vilest of men and the most degraded savage presents. What can be seen in these men that reminds us of "the likeness of God"? We are to judge men, however, by what they are capable of and are, at their best, rather than at their worst. The art world regards Michael Angelo's statue of Moses as one of the greatest creations of the sculptor's genius. Suppose, however, some one should maliciously deluge this masterpiece with ink, smash it into fragments with a huge hammer, and then ask as he looked upon the marred and blackened bits of marble, "Is that a masterpiece of Michael Angelo's genius?" So we look upon a man who has been marred and broken by sin and ask the question, "Was that man created in the image of God? Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions." Trace back the cause of the degradation of the individual or society or state and we always find the root to be in some transgression of a righteous law of God.
The Bible uniformly asserts that God is not the author of sin or man's fall into evil ways, but that he has sufficient light to follow right ways, if he will. But that an evil man has this marvelous heritage of being God-born is shown by the fact that even when he has marred "the likeness of God" in him, by sin, beyond human recognition there is still a possibility of its being restored. Jesus Christ said, "For the Son of man is come to seek and save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10; Matthew 15:24; Luke 15:4); the most evil men came to Him and, confessing their sins, were brought back into sonship with God. The incentive to Christian work, in the slums of the cities, amongst the most degraded savages and everywhere, is the finding of men broken and marred by sin and the possibility of bringing them back to God.
God disapproves the sin but loves the sinner. "God commended His love towards us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8-11).
THE CHIEF END OF MAN
The Bible declares the divine origin and the divine destiny of man, and that he was made in the image of God and for His glory.
A Threefold Obligation rests upon man to serve and glorify God,
"1. On account of his creation by God, the Father.
"2. On account of his redemption by God, the Son.
"3. On account of his regeneration and sanctification by God, the Holy Ghost."
The Great Concern of Man should be conformity with the divine likeness (John 5:30; Matthew 6:10,33; 16:26; Romans 14:8; I Corinthians 10:31). "Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God" (Romans 12:2). It is only when man succeeds in bringing his will to do God's will and makes God's plan his plan of life that he comes to his best and highest estate. The world is full of sin and misery, and there are many burdens heavy to be borne, because man insists upon having his way instead of seeking God's way. Many great civilizations have gone down and many forms of society have been disrupted because, in them, man strove to set up his glory, rather than God's glory, as the standard to be striven for. Man has repeatedly attempted to attain to "the dominion" promised him only to fail because he has desired such "dominion" to spend it upon himself. God desires to crown man with glory and honour and to do exceedingly large things for him, the Scriptures are filled with great promises, but man only grasps at the shadow of power, when he might have the substance. All great inventions and discoveries but point to still greater ones, when man shall be fitted by spiritual grace and goodness to be intrusted with them. The kingdom of heaven must come in man's heart before any great material or spiritual advancement can come in the world. Education, commerce, art, science, in all their majesty of strength, can never do what the Christian religion can do for men when it shall succeed in getting them to seek to be conformed to "the divine likeness": this is a truth too little emphasized, but it is fundamental and necessary to any real progress in the world. "There is a higher law for life than self-will and unregulated impulse; the real world goes deeper than things of sense; this temporal life is related to eternity; and God is the central verity of all."
THE PERFECT EXAMPLE
God's Measure of a Man. -- What is the standard by which man is to compare himself? Great things are expected of a man but how is he to work them out? These are fair questions.
Jesus Christ has two titles in the New Testament, "The Son of God" and "The Son of Man." If we want to know what God is like we look into the face of Jesus Christ. If we want to know what man ought to be we look into the face of Jesus Christ (John 14:5-9; Matthew 5:48).
Jesus Christ is the Perfect Example.
He is the Perfect Example of a Physical Man. -- The test here is bodily endurance and perfect control over the body. Look at Jesus Christ and note His physical endurance tests. He was forty days without food (Matthew 4:2); this is not a weakling's task. A man must have a strong body to endure through such a starvation period. For a man to be crucified upon a cross, after being scourged, was to undergo the most terrible agony; yet Christ so had His body under control upon His cross that He could speak forgiveness for His enemies and commend His mother to the care of a disciple. "How can I start a religion?" said one great Frenchman to another. "Go and be crucified," was the reply. If we want to behold the perfect physical man, who had His body in complete control and made it do His will, we must look to Jesus Christ. How many sins come to man through a weak physical control!
He is the Perfect Example of an Intellectual Man. -- What man can compare with Jesus Christ in the power of His intellect? He stands ready before all to state and defend His precepts and principles. He so spoke to the people that they listened with growing conviction. "Never man spake like this man." Difficult questions were brought to Him, questions which would make the wisest judges hesitate in their answers, and at once He gave His replies which stand unimpeached to-day for marvellous wisdom and power. Living in an age long before modern science had its birth, He handles Nature as her Master and makes no mistake. His words to-day are a power in the court, in the senate and the marts of the world, as well as in the pulpit. He is the perfect intellectual man for our example.
He is the Perfect Example of a Moral Man. -- Many intellectual and physical giants fail upon the moral test; but in Christ we find no moral flaw. He is the standard of moral perfection. He is the perfect moral example for all men.
Here is the foundation for physical and intellectual progress, but without a true moral foundation they will both fail.
No man ever so ministered to men as Jesus Christ.
What is man? What shall we think of him? What is the Christian thought of man? Give the five points in the Christian conception of man. Man made in the image of God; give a statement of this case. What is the image of God? Did God make the good man, the evil man? What is the chief end of man? What threefold obligation rests upon man to serve and glorify God? What should be the great concern of man? What can be said of God's measure of a man? What can be said of Jesus Christ as the perfect physical, intellectual and moral man?