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THE EXALTED AND DEPRAVED NATURES OF MAN.
(MAN) IS THE IMAGE AND GLORY OF God.-1st Corinthians, 11: 7.
FOR ALL HAVE SINNED, AND COME SHORT OF THE GLORY OF God.-Romans 3: 23.
The opinions given of man’s intellectual and moral natures appear to differ most widely. Some have represented him, even in a state of nature, as still possessing noble characteristics, and even bearing the image of his Maker; while others have held him to be grossly degraded and depraved. These two apparently conflicting theories, have had their strong champions, who have fought manfully to defend their respective positions.
We take the ground that both of these theories accord with observation and Scripture, while the champions of each may have often been wrong in looking at but one side of the question, pushing their favorite dogmas to the extreme, and in censuring each other. Man's noble nature is seldom too highly extolled; while his degraded nature is seldom too much decried. Theorize as we may, on this subject, the stubborn fact will stare us in the face, it will impress itself upon our minds as though it were a matter
of consciousness, and it will speak in the ear of our souls. the significant title of the book of Mrs. McIntosh, “Goon IN ALL AND NONE ALL GOOD."
Such a sentiment may not accord either with our philo-. sophy or theology, but the human mind cannot long be satisfied with any other, and it is upon no other ground that the many apparently contradictory Scriptures, touching this point, can possibly be reconciled.
The two Scriptures we have chosen as our motto, afford a specimen of the manner in which the Bible treats this subject. Man “is the image and glory of God.” On these words, Mr. Barnes says, " The phrase image of God," refers to the fact that man was made in the likeness of his Maker; and proves that though fallen, there is a sense in which he is still " the image of God.”
On the expression : “ Have come short of the glory of God,” Mr. Barns says: “Greek— Are deficient in regard to; are wanting, &c. Here it means, that they had failed to obtain or were destitute of.”
Now the only theory upon which the human mind can rest, is, that, which represents man both as an exalted and a degraded being, and the fact, that in opposition to the extreme notions of sectarians, the Bible endorses this native language of the human soul, affords a striking evidence of its truth.
Let us first notice what the Scriptures teach of man's exalted nature, and we shall see that all these teachings find A ready response in the human mind.
1. We expect to find some good in all, and we ara ever acting upon this principle. Why do we regard the
history of past ages, if unregenerate man has no mixture of good? Why study the Greek and Latin classics, if the minds that dictated them were utterly destitute of noble characteristics ? Why should the study of Mental Philosophy be regarded as so important, if the human mind, is, in every sense of the term, worthless? The fact is, the universal consciousness, reason and conduct of man, give the lie to his theory, when it represents the mind as a mere sink of pollution, with no redeeming quality. Such is the testimony of our minds, and it is fully corroborated by the Bible.
The Scriptures no where state that man has fully lost the image of God in which he was created. Even after his fall God said, “Behold the man is become like one of us, to know good and evil.” He not only knows good and evil, but the Scriptures testify that in all ages his works have contained a proportion of good as well as evil. The whole Jewish nation, amongst whom we must suppose there were many, who were not habitually righteous, are often represented as engaged in devotional and other good acts. King Amaziah did right in the sight of the Lord, yet not with a perfect heart, like David his father ; Azariah did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, save that the high places were not removed; “the Levites were more upright in heart to sanctify themselves than the priests ;' Jehu, who took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord, did " well” and “right," and all that was in God's heart, in destroying the house of Ahab; and in the son of Jeroboam was found "some good thing toward the Lord God of Israel."
2. Man, in his fallen state, does his race more good than evil. In what age or in what country has not human society been considered a blessing? Who would suppose it for the advantage of the community in which he lives to banish all but the truly pious ? Such a course would certainly be best, were the wicked nothing but wickedness. But every one knows, that even from the worst of men, we expect a hundred truths to one lie, and that, in every community, honor, justice and kindness, will greatly predominate over the malevolent passions.
Now the Bible teaches that man was designed for society. God saw that it was not good for man to be alone, and hence he made him a helper as a counterpart. The Scriptures sanction this relationship amongst the wicked, as they do also the parental relationship. Parents “being evil, know how to give good gifts to” their "children.” Civil governments also have the Divine sanction, and bad governments are usually better than none. 66 The Powers that be are ordained of God," and rulers are God's ministers for good. God never would have established these relationships of human beings, unless it had been for the good of man; and it never could have been for the good of man to associate, had he been utterly destitute of goodness.
3. Man's conceptions of God depend very much upon his own intellectual and moral character. He has an idea of goodness, justice, wisdom and truth himself, and very much in proportion to his possession of these attributes himself, does he recognize and appreciate them in others. And hence it is, that the ideas of God entertained by the extremely wicked are low, while those of the virtuous are
high; but inasmuch as all have some ideas of God, and have some admiration of his character, we may suppose that all possess, at least, some faint shadow of his character. We do not in to intimate that God is nothing more than human consciousness made objective. This, we regard as one of the most unreasonable and abominable heresies ever hatched in Germany. We do, however, say, as we have intimated in another lecture, that the mind's own finite attributes are suggestive of one who possesses those very attributes in an infinite degree.
Is there not something in the Bible to confirm such views ? God says to the wicked, “Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself;" while of the most devotedly pious, it is said, " Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Seeing God, implies the highest possible conception of God, and this is a boon restricted to those who most resemble God in moral character.
4. Man's progress in wickedness consists in his breaking away from the good, and in annihilating the good principles that may be in him. No man becomes a notorious sinner all at once. The sinner does violence to his own nature; and it is only by degrees that he can still the voice of reason and conscience so as to sin with impunity. Why is it that the child shudders at the guilt of the murderer? Is it not because his innocent nature is opposed to deeds of blood ? That nature must be crushed little by little, till he can do deeds of darkness, the very thought of which would once have chilled his blood with horror. The following anecdote affords a striking illustration of the hardening effect of vain amusements.