What is man, that you should magnify him? and that you should set your heart on him?
The doctrine of this text seems to be that man is a creature of such insignificance, so sinful, frail, and unimportant, that he is utterly unworthy of the care and attention that God pays to him. That this is true, none of us doubt. Infidels have often used this truth in their attempts to prove that God cannot pay the regard to man that the Bible declares He does. Yet these words of the text clearly and distinctly teach other truths — the greatness of man, because God has magnified him; the duty of man, because God has blessed him; the possibilities of man, because God has set His heart upon him. View man in the light of his privileges, in the light of his possibilities, in the light of Calvary, he then becomes a creature of infinite worth; and the highest service which a servant of God can be engaged in, is that of seeking the elevation, the conversion of men. It is the nobler aspect of man we are to study. I would lead you young men to self-respect. Distinguish between self-respect and self-conceit. One is the child of ignorance, the other the fair daughter of knowledge.
I. THE DIGNITY OF MAN.
1. We are dignified because magnified of God. So far as we know, man is the consummation of creative skill. Man is both material and spiritual, presenting a marvellous combination of the two. He is a middle link in the chain of being, holding both ends together. He partakes much of the grossness of earth, yet much of the refinement of heaven. Without man, between the atom and the angel there would be a chasm, Man is the golden chain between the two. He is a little world in miniature, for in his frame there is an epitome of the universe. Truly, in the character of his being he is magnified. No one who thinks of his capabilities can dispute it. The capabilities of some men must be enormous. The dignity of man is further enhanced, if we consider that he possesses an immortal soul. He has a life that must run parallel with the life of the Eternal; a life that neither sin, death nor hell can quench. How awful does this make the importance of even a single man! Notice also man's exalted position in this world. He is lord of creation. This world was built as a house, for which man is the tenant.
2. We are dignified, because beloved of God. Our text says that God has set His heart upon man. This glorious truth is written on the page of inspiration with the clearness of a sunbeam (John 3:16). Surely such love must make man the envy of the angels. It seems as though man had received more care, attention, and love than all other parts of His dominion put together. On our weal the Deity has expended Himself, communicated to us in Christ Jesus all that was communicative in His being and character.
II. WHAT CONDUCT IS WORTHY OF THE DIGNITY OF MAN? I take a high standard of appeal, and ask you, in the light of your noble faculties, in the light of all the mercies bestowed on you in creation and providence, in the light of God's infinite love, what conduct becomes you? What should be your bearing towards yourselves, your Saviour, your God? You are unanimous in your verdict that a sinful, sensual life is utterly beneath the dignity of manhood. Take another kind of life. A life of mere self-gratification. Perhaps more promising young men are ruined through this kind of living than any other. But it is unworthy of a man. The end of a life that is true is not happiness in any shape or form, but character that shall fit us for eternity. In every man that has not this as his supreme desire, his one aim, only a fraction of manhood is awakened. The portions of his nature which make it worth while to be, are dormant. The trembling anxiety about our privileges, our welfare, our debt to God — which leads us to trust in Him — this makes a life true.
III. WHAT ARE THE POSSIBILITIES OF SUCH A MAGNIFIED BEING?
1. There is a possibility of any lost self-respect being restored. Some of you may have started wrong. This has destroyed self-respect. This is one of the most potent evils incident to a sinful life. Remember that character is under a law of perpetuity. It has an element in it which will make it almost immutable. "Evil tends to evil permanence." Then let me tell you the glad news of the Gospel. There is a possibility of self-conquest. Self-control, for real usefulness, is as necessary as self-respect. How are we to exercise it? Will resolution, will determination do? My only hope is in God the Holy Spirit; in seeking Divine grace and power. To all of us there is the joyous possibility of a sublime life. Then, talk not of destiny, but believe in your own, and working like men, trusting like children, fulfil it.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
Parallel VersesKJV: What is man, that thou shouldest magnify him? and that thou shouldest set thine heart upon him?