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THE CREATION OF MAN.
GENESIS, I. 26.
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; 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.
CURIOSITY naturally prompts us to inquire into the records of the family, or society, to which we belong. Every little incident that befell our ancestors, is collected with care, and remembered with pleasure. The relation it bears to us gives it consequence in our eyes, though, in the eyes of others, it may seem to have none. The mind, in its progress, finds attention excited, as the velocity of a falling body is increased; nor can it repose itself at ease on any account, which stops short of the original and first founder of the community.
Every motive of this sort conspires to animate our researches into the origination of mankind, and the history of our common progenitor. We cannot but earnestly and anxiously wish to be acquainted with the circumstances relative to the father of that family, of which all nations are parts; to discover and survey the root of that tree whose branches have overspread the earth.
Nor can such investigation be deemed matter of curiosity only. To form proper ideas of man, it is necessary we should view him as he came from the hands of his Creator. We must know in what state he was placed, what were the duties resulting from that state, and what the powers whereby he was enabled to perform them. We must learn, whether he be now in the same state; or whether an alteration in his state may not have subjected him to new wants, and new obligations. Upon a knowledge of these particulars, every system of religion and morality must be constructed, which is designed for the use of men. A system in which the consideration of these hath no place, is like a course of diet prescribed by a physician unacquainted with his patient's constitution, and with the nature of the disease under which he has the misfortune to labour.
It is obvious to remark, that this knowledge of human nature, of what it was at the beginning, and what alterations have since happened in it, is a knowledge to the attainment of which no strength of genius, no depth of reasoning, no subtilty of metaphysical disquisition, can ever lead us. It is a matter of fact, and must be ascertained, as matters of fact are,
by evidence and testimony. But he only who made man, can inform us how man was made, with what endowments, and for what purposes. If he hath not done it, the world is, of necessity, left in utter ignorance of so capital a point. And this reflection alone may supply the place of a thousand arguments, to convince us that he hath done it.
We find an opinion current through Heathen antiquity that all is not right with the human race; that things were not at first as they are now, but that a change hath been introduced for the worse. When the philosophers tell us, that mankind were sent upon the earth to do penance for crimes by them committed in a pre-existent state; what is it but saying that man once was upright and happy, but that, ceasing to be upright, he ceased to be happy; and that natural evil is the consequence and punishment of moral? Nor is it at all difficult to discern, through the fictions of the poets, those truths which gave birth to them; while we read of a golden age, when righteousness and peace kissed each other; of a man framed of clay, and animated by a spark of celestial fire; of a woman endowed with every gift and grace from above; and of the fatal casket, out of which, when opened by her, a flight of calamities overspread the earth; but not without a reserve of HOPE, that, at some future period of refreshment and restitution, they should be done away. Such are the shadowy scenes, which, by the faint glimmering of tradition reflected from an original revelation, present themselves in that night of the world, the era of pagan fable and delusion, when the imaginations of poetry and the conjectures of
philosophy were equally unable to supply the information which had been long lost, concerning the origin of the world, of man, and of evil.
With this information we are furnished by the writings of Moses, penned under the direction of Him who giveth to man the spirit of understanding, for the instruction of ages and generations. We are told by whom the matter, of which our system is composed, was brought into being; and in what manner the several objects around us were gradually and successively formed, till the whole, completely finished, and surveyed by its great Author, was pronounced good, or fit, in every respect, to answer the end for which it was designed.
After this, are related the particulars concerning the formation of man; the time of his production; the resolution taken upon the occasion; the materials of which he was composed; the divine image in which God created him; and the dominion over the creatures with which he was invested. It is intended in the following discourse, to offer such considerations as may be of use towards the explanation and illustration of these particulars in their order.
With regard to the time of man's formation, we may observe of the divine procedure, what is true of every human plan, concerted with wisdom and foresight; that which was first in intention, was last in execution. Man, for whom all things were made, was himself made last of all. We are taught to follow the heavenly Artist, step by step, first in the production of the inanimate elements, next of vegetable, and then of animal life, till we come to the master
piece of the creation, man endued with reason and intellect. The house being built, its inhabitant appeared; the feast being set forth, the guest was introduced; the theatre being decorated and illuminated, the spectator was admitted, to behold the splendid and magnificent scenery in the heavens above and the earth beneath; to view the bodies around him moving in perfect order and harmony, and every creature performing the part allotted it in the universal drama; that seeing he might understand, and understanding, adore its supreme Author and Director.
Not that, even in the original and perfect state of his intellectual powers, he was left to demonstrate the being of a God, either a priori or a posteriori. His Creator, we find, immediately manifested himself to him, and conversed with him, informing him, without all doubt, of what had passed previous to his own existence, which otherwise he never could have known; instructing him how and for what purpose the world and man were made, and to whom he was bound to ascribe all praise and glory on that account. The loss of this instruction occasioned some of his descendants, in after ages, to worship the creature instead of the Creator. Ignorant of him who gave the sun for a light by day, they fell prostrate before that bright image of its Maker's glory, which, to the eye of sense, appeared to be the god that governed the world.
The other parts of this the word of the Creator. "done." The elements
system were produced by "He spake, and it was were his servants :