the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26
Whyte's Dictionary of Bible Characters
LET US MAKE MAN IN OUR IMAGE
In the wise and good providence of Almighty God a new and an entrancing light has been cast in our day on the origin of the earth and on the early ages of mankind. A noble succession of ministers and interpreters of nature has been raised up in these later generations who, by the labours they have undertaken, and by the methods they have followed, have been enabled to make discoveries that had not entered the mind of man to imagine in former ages. Up till our day far more was known about the way and process of our redemption than about the way and process of our creation. But it will be in the complete and harmonious combination of these two kinds of knowledge, divine revelation and human science, that we shall come to a perfect man, in which the whole body of knowledge and faith and love shall be fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth.
Magnificent as have been the services of such men as Herschel, and Faraday, and Lyell, and Darwin, and Spencer, at the same time their magnificent services have Iain far more in the regions of matter and motion than in the mind and the heart of man. It is enough for any man, or for any school of men, to be enabled to take us back to the first beginnings of this present system of things, when as yet our earth was without form and void, and to lead us up step after step, age after age, till we open our eyes on this wonderful world as it now is. To one of His servants God gives the talents of revelation and inspiration, and to another the talents of observation, and experiment, and discovery, and the exposition of discovery-to each one of His servants separately as He will. And to each several steward and servant of His, according to his faithfulness to the talents committed to him, his Master at His coming will say, 'Well done!' And it is surely a kind of forecast and foretaste of that 'Well done!'-the warm exclamation of wonder and of worship that rises out of our enlarged minds and exalted hearts as we lay down The Outlines of Astronomy, The Principles of Geology. The Origin of Species, The First Principles, and such-like books. At the same time, at their best, those ministers and interpreters of nature do not satisfy their readers. Even in their own rich and well-worked fields they do not satisfy all their readers. Even after they have led us so far up on the shining path of scientilic truth, we feel sure that there are still sources and paths and fields uf light, as well as shadows and belts and whole worlds of darkness, over which we have been hurried, and into which we have not been led or let look. We feel not unlike that famous philosopher of our day who divined that there must surely be a serious disturbance somewhere in the order and stability of the solar system that no astronomy had as yet discovered, acknowledged, or attempted to account for. As we are carried away by the spell of the great writers on evolution, we feel all the time that, after all has been told, there is still something unrecognised and undescribed from which we suffer the most disturbing and injurious influences. All the time we feel in ourselves a backward, sideward, downward, perverse pull under which we reel and stagger continually; it is an experience that makes us wiser than all our teachers in some of the most obscure, but at the same time some of the most certain matters of mankind and their spiritual history. Speaking for myself, as I read the great books of our modem scientific men with a delight and an advantage I cannot put enough words upon, I always miss in them-in them all, and in the best of them all-a matter of more importance to me than all else that they tell me. For, all the time I am reading their fascinating discoveries and speculations, I still feel in myself a disturbance, a disorder, a disharmony, and a positive dislocation from the moral, and even from the material, order of the universe around me and above me: a disorder and a dislocation that my scientific teachers neither acknowledge nor leave room for its acknowledgment or redress. That is magnificent! That is noble! That is divine! I exclaim as I read. But when I come to the end of my reading-Is that all? I ask. I am compelled by all my experience and all my observation to ask, Is that all? Is that your very last word to me? Then, if that is all, I must still go in search of a philosophy of nature and of man that understands me, and accounts for me, and has, if so be, a more comprehensive, a more scientific, a more profound, and a more consoling message to me. In one word, and to speak out the whole of my disappointment and complaint in one word, what about sin? What in sin? When and where did sin enter in the evolution of the human race and seize in this deadly way on the human heart? Why do you all so avoid and shut your eyes to sin? And, still more, what about Jesus Christ? Why do I find nothing in your best text-books about Him who was without sin? About Him who is more to me, and to so many more of your best readers, than all Nature, and all her suns, and systems, and laws, and processes put together? Far more. For He has carried both our understanding and our imagination and our heart so absolutely captive that we cannot read with our whole heart the best book you have written because His name is not in it. Who and what is he, we insist, who has leapt at a bound above all taw and all order of matter and of mind, and of cosmic and ethic evolution, and has taken His stand of holiness at the head of the human race? Schools of science, schools of morals, schools of philosophy, ministers and interpreters of nature and of man, what is sin? and what think ye of Christ?
Bishop Butler has taught us, and that with an impressiveness we can never forget, that knowledge at its best is not our proper happiness. With all his immense weight Butler has impressed upon us that our proper province is virtue and religion, life and manners; the science of improving the temper and making the heart better. This is the field assigned us to cultivate, he exclaims, and how much it has lain neglected is indeed astonishing! And thus it is that Moses, so to call him, with two or three splendid strokes, passes over all that which so fascinates and absorbs our modern men of science, and takes up mankind at that point when they have the image and likeness of God completely and perfectly stamped upon them. Nor does Moses delay long, even upon that, but, after one great and fruitful word upon that, he passes on to take up at more length, in his own wonderful way, and in answerable style, the temptation and the fall of Adam and of all Adam's offspring. 'The Scripture begins,' says Butler, 'with an account of God's creation of the world, in order to ascertain who He is concerning whose providences, commands, promises, and threatenings this sacred book all along treats, the Maker and Proprietor of the world, He whose creatures we are-the God of Nature, Revelation, indeed, considers the common affairs of this world, and what is going on in it, as a mere scene of distraction, and cannot be supposed to give any account of this wild scene for its own sake. This earth, our habitation, has everywhere the appearance of being a ruin, and revelation comes in on the supposition that this world is in a ruined state.' Thus Butler. And Moses begins his priceless contribution to that revelation by telling us what, without him, would have remained a dreadful mystery to us-that is to say, he tells us how man was made upright, and how he fell from that estate wherein he was created by sinning against God. It is a fashion with the prevailing philosophy of our day to decry and contemn the old, orthodox, and fruitful argument from final causes; but I shall continue, in this matter also, to follow Bishop Butler, to me by far the deepest and the wisest philosopher the world has ever seen. Now Moses, long before Butler, is clear and sure as to the final cause of our creation. In his opening pages, Moses, after his royal manner, lets us hear the Maker of all things taking counsel with Himself concerning His end and object in the creation of man. 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.' And then, from this and from many other Scriptures, we learn that the image and likeness of God is love: love, knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, with dominion over the creatures.
Now, the multiplication and the increase of the image of God is an altogether worthy reason, adequate explanation, and final cause for the creation of this world, and for all the processes, preparations, and providences through which this world has passed. Love amply accounts for and explains and justices it all-God's love to man, and then man's love to God and to his neighbour. All of God's wisdom and power that was expended on this world, and on Adam its possessor and its priest, was all to find its reward and its return in a world replenished with a race of creatures who were to be such partakers of the divine nature that they would live for ever and grow for ever in the love, in the holy fellowship, in the blessed service, and in the full enjoyment of God. That was why God made man. That was why God prepared such a home for man as this world in Adam's day was, and still in our day is. The Garden of Eden in Moses, delightful as it is, is but a dim, a faded, and a colourless picture of what God had prepared for them that were to walk with Him in that garden, and were to tell Him, as they walked with Him, how much they loved Him who had planted it. But all the time, as Thomas Goodwin says, the true Garden of Eden was in the gardener's own heart. And his blessed task was set to Adam in his own heart. And what more blessed task could have been set by God to man than to till, and water, and dress, and keep, and reap his own heart for God? And that the serpent came in all his malignity mid subtlety and sowed tares in that mystical garden-that should only have given God's son and servant an embraced opportunity and an occasion of all joy to show to God and to the serpent, to heaven and to hell, how much he loved and feared God for all that God had done for him. But, how it went with Adam and with Eve, and with the Garden of Eden, and with Cain and Abel their children, Moses tells us in his sad history. And then, by the time he takes his pen in hand to tell us all this, Moses himself has been banished out of Canaan for his sin, and is waiting for death in the wilderness. And thus it is that he dips his pen in such an inkhorn of tears, and describes to us with such sympathy, and in such sad words, that aboriginal mystery of iniquity-the temptation, the fall, and the expulsion of Adam from Eden. And then Moses adds in a psalm which he indites more immediately concerning himself the well-known words: 'Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men. For we are consumed by Thine anger, and by Thy wrath are we troubled. Thou hast set our iniquities before Thee, our secret sins in the light of Thy countenance. Who knoweth the power of Thine anger? Even according to Thy fear, so is Thy wrath. Return, O Lord, how long? And let it repent Thee concerning Thy servants. Make us glad according to the days wherein. Thou hast afflicted us, and the years wherein we have seen evil.'
In one of William Law's finest dialogues Theophilus asks his pupil Humanus how he would set about convincing a man of his fallen estate. And Humanus answers to this effect: Man is a poor, miserable, weak, vain, distressed, corrupt, depraved, selfish, self-tormenting, perishing creature. And this world is a sad mixture of false good and real evil; a widespread scene of all sorts of trials, vexations, and miseries, all arising from the frame and nature and condition both of man and the world. This is the sure and infallible proof of the fall of man. The fall of man is not a thing to be learnt from any history whatsoever, but shows itself everywhere and every day and in every man with as much clearness as we see the sun. My first attempt, therefore, upon any man, to convince him of Adam's fall as the ground of Christ's redemption, should be an attempt to do that for him which affliction, disappointment, sickness, pain, and the approach of death have a natural tendency to do; that is, to convince him of the vanity, poverty, and misery of his life and condition in this world. I would appeal at first to nothing but his own nature and condition in this world to demonstrate this capital truth of Holy Scripture that all mankind lie in a fallen state. Humanus says that the mere approach of death is enough to bring any man to his senses. And so it is. Death is the great debater. Death does not bandy words. Death comes to us with overwhelming proofs of our fall in his hands. There is no brow-beating or perplexing of Death. Your smart replies and unanswerable arguments will not stagger Death. All your shafts are quenched like tow before the bosses of his buckler. Now, Death made his first approach to this world in that hour of Adam and Eve's first temptation. God's own fatherly and forewarning words first uttered the dreadful name of Death. O, if Adam had only believed God about sin and death! O, if he had only stopped his ears against the father of lies! O, if he could only have foretasted guilt and remorse and agony of conscience as he was led up to the tree! O, if he could only at that fatal moment have foreseen that coming garden where the Son of God Himself lay among the dark olive-trees recoiling from sin and death in a sweat of blood! O, if he could only have seen spread out before him all the death-beds of all his children on the earth, and all the beds of their second death in hell! O Adam and Eve in Eden, and still under the tree of temptation, look before it is too late; look on through the endless ages at the unutterable woes that you are working! 'Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.'
An Egyptian Father has said somewhere that while the four evangelists supply the wool, yet it is Paul who weaves the web. And what Paul does in this respect for Matthew, and Mark, and Luke, and John, he does at the same time for Moses, and David, and Isaiah. Moses, indeed, supplies the history, but it is Paul, that prince of the apostles, who takes us down into the philosophy, as we say, of that history. As we go on speaking about this and that man of science, and this and that book of science and of the philosophy of science, the unlettered people who hear us are tempted to envy us our time and our talents and our books. But they need not. Really, if they knew it, they need not. For, as long as they have Moses and Paul, the Book of Genesis and the Epistle to the Romans, they need envy no man. Thomas à Kempis used to say that his idea of perfect rest and perfect happiness was 'to sit with a little book in a little nook.' Now, with these two little books of Moses and of Paul, and with another little epistle or two of Paul's added, those who are otherwise quite unlettered men will soon become wiser men than many of their teachers. The most unlearned and ignorant man among us has sin in himself; and he has Christ, if not yet in himself also, then in his Bible, and thus in his offer; and with both sin and Christ in his heart, and with Paul on sin and on Christ in his hand, the most unlettered man is already a man of the truest and the deepest science, and a philosopher of the first water. For it is just those two men, Adam and Christ, with their sin and their righteousness, that so stumble and so throw out our evolutionists; and it is in his handling of those two men, and of that which we have of those two men alone, that Paul shows his matchless philosophic power. Those two stumbling-stones on which so many false philosophies have been ground to powder are the very foundation-stones, corner-stones, and cope-stones of Paul's immortal school and far-shining temple of truth.
In every epistle of his the apostle's immediate, supreme, and alone subject is Jesus Christ. Paul has not a moment of his time, nor a corner of his mind, nor a beat of his heart, nor a stroke of his pen for any other person, great or small, but Jesus Christ. And Paul is in the very heat and at the very heart of one of his greatest chapters on Jesus Christ, and on the atonement that we sinners of mankind have received through Jesus Christ, when, if I may say so, the very sweep and grasp of Paul's mind, the very philosophical necessity of Paul's great intellect, all compel him to go back and take up Adam into his great argument and great gospel. The passage is one of the most profound and magnificent even in his profound and magnificent epistles. It runs thus: 'Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, therefore, as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation, even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.' To Paul's so comprehensive mind, so far-sweeping imagination, and so righteousness-hungry heart, Adam and Christ are the two poles upon whom this whole world of human life revolves. As the best expositor of Paul I know of anywhere says, Adam and Jesus Christ, to Paul's heaven-soaring eye, stand out before God with all other men 'hanging at their girdles.' And it is in his evolution, illustration, and enforcement of this great truth that Paul brings in, and makes so familiar to us those peculiarly Pauline and polar terms-law and grace, faith and works, condemnation and justification, enmity and peace, alienation and reconciliation, imputation and sanctification, sin and holiness, the flesh and the Spirit, eternal life and eternal death, and such-like. On all these Scripture subjects the Westminster Catechisms supply us with Paul's doctrines in a nutshell; as will again be seen and acknowledged when theology shall have recovered herself from her temporary lapse into mere Bibliography, and when Bible history shall have again become Bible doctrine and a Bible life.
And then, just as the full truth about the atonement led the apostle back from Christ to Adam, so in another epistle of his, the resurrection of Christ, and the resurrection of all those who have fallen asleep in Christ, leads Paul back again to Adam in this way. 'For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven.' The 'second man' and the 'last Adam' are most happy names and most illustrious titles of Paul's bold invention for his Master, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Which glorious Man is called the Second Adam, says Theophilus, as having in His regeneration that very perfection which the first Adam had in his creation. And because He is to do all that for us by a birth of grace, which we should have had by a birth of nature from Adam, had he kept his first estate of sinless perfection.
Praise to the Holiest in the height,
And in the depth he praise;
In all His words most wonderful,
Most sure in all His ways.
O loving wisdom of our God!
When all was sin and shame,
A second Adam to the fight
And to the rescue came.
Now, what say you, Academicus, to all that?
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Whyte, Alexander. Entry for 'Adam'. Alexander Whyte's Dictionary of Bible Characters. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​wbc/​a/adam.html. 1901.