And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea…
In man animal organization is carried to its highest. That which in the quadruped is a comparatively insignificant member becomes in man the hand, so wonderful in its powers, so infinitely versatile in its applications. That tongue, which the rest of animal creation possess, but which the highest among them use only for inarticulate signals, becomes in him the organ of articulate speech, so marvellous in its construction, and its uses. And of the same rich bestowal of the best of God's gifts of life and life's benefits on man, many other examples might be, and have been given. But it is not in man as the highest form of organized animal life that we are to seek for exemplification of the declaration in my text. His erect form, his expressive eye, his much-working hand — his majesty in the one sex, and beauty in the other — these may excite our admiration, and lead us to praise Him who made us; but in none of these do we find the image of God. God is without body, parts, or passions. He is above and independent of all organized matter: it sprung from the counsel of His will, it is an instrument to show forth His love and praise, but it is not, and cannot be, in His image. But let us advance higher. God bestowed on man, as on the tribes beneath him, a conscious animal soul. And here let me remind you that I follow, as I always wish to do, that Scriptural account and division of man, according to which the soul, the ψυχή of the New Testament, is that thinking and feeling and prompting part of him, which he possesses in common with the brutes that perish; and which I will call for clearness, his animal soul. Now here again, though he possesses it in common with them, God has given it, in him, a wonderfully higher degree of capability and power. The merely sentient capacities of the animal soul in the most degraded of men are immeasurably above those of the animal soul in the most exalted of brutes, — however he may be surpassed by them in the acuteness Of the bodily senses. And again, in speaking of man, we cannot stop with these animal faculties. To the brute, they are all. It is obvious, then, that we must not look for God's image in man in this his animal soul, because this is confessedly not his highest part; because it is informed and ennobled by something above it: moreover, because it is naturally bound to the organization of his material body. And this point is an important one to be borne in remembrance. It is not in our mental capacities, nor in any part of our sentient being, that we can trace our likeness to God; whenever we speak of any or of all of these in the treatment of this subject, we must look beyond them, and beyond the aggregate of them, for that of which we are in search. What, then, is that part of man at which we have been pointing in these last sentences? that soul of his soul, that ennobler of his faculties, that whose acknowledged dignity raises him far above the animal tribes, with whom he shares the other parts of his being? Let us examine his position, as matter of fact. By what is he distinguished from all other animals, in our common speech and everyday thought? Shall we not all say that it is by this — that whereas we regard each animal as merely a portion of animated matter, ready to drop back again into inanimate matter, the moment its organization is broken down — we do not thus regard ourselves or our fellow men, but designate every one of them as a person, a term which cannot be used of any mere animal? And is it not also true, that to this personality we attach the idea of continuous responsibility — of abiding praise or blame? To what is this personality owing? Not to the body, however perfect its organization; not to the animal soul, however wonderful its faculties; but to the highest part of man — his spirit. And here it is that we must look for man's relation to God. God is a Spirit; and He has breathed into man a spirit, in nature and attributes related to Himself: which spirit rules and informs, and takes up into itself, and ennobles, as we have seen, his animal soul. This spirit is wonderfully bound up with the soul and the body. The three make up the man in his present corporeal state — but the spirit alone carries the personality and responsibility of the man. The body, with its organization and sentient faculties, is only a tent wherein the spirit dwells; itself is independent of its habitation, and capable of existing without it. The spirit of man makes the essential distinction between him and the lower animals. His spirit, his divine part, that Whereby he can rise to and lay hold of God, was made in the image of God. And this leads us to the second division of our inquiry, How was man's spirit created in the image of God? What ideas must we attach to these words, "the image of God"? To this question but one answer can be given, and that in simple and well-known words. God is love: this is all we know of His essential character. He Who is Love, made man, man's spirit, after His own image. That is, He made man's spirit, love — even as He is love. In this consisted the perfection of man as he came from the hands of His Creator — that his whole spirit was filled with love. Now what did this imply? clearly, a conscious spirit; for love is the state of a knowing, feeling, conscious being. What more? as clearly a spirit conscious of God; knowing Him who loved it, and loving Him in return. Faith is the organ by which the spirit reaches forth to God. We never can repeat or remember too often, that faith is "appropriating belief"; not belief in the existence of God as a bare fact, distant and inoperative, but belief in Him as our God — the God who loves us — the God who seeks our good — the God to whom we owe ourselves — the God who is our portion and our exceeding great reward. And it is essential to faith, that we should not, speaking strictly, know all this — not have hold of every particular detail of it — not master the subject, as men say; this would not be faith, but knowledge. We are masters of that which we know; but we are servants of that which we believe. And therefore man, created in the image of God, loving God, dependent on God, tending upwards to God, is created in a state of faith. By this faith his love was generated — by believing God as his God — by unlimited trust of His love, and uninterrupted return of that love. And O what does not this description imply, that is holy, and tending to elevate and bless man? "Love," says the apostle, "is the bond of perfectness"; and the same command of our Lord, which we read in one place of the Gospel, "Be ye perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect"; in another runs, "Be ye merciful," i.e. loving, "even as your Father is merciful." One remark more. On this image of God depends the immortality of man's spirit; not on its own nature, as some have dreamed. As it had a beginning, so it might have an end. It can only be immortal by being united to Him who liveth forever. God's love called into being those who were in its own image, kindred to itself, bound to itself by love; how can we conceive that love annihilating again such kindred objects of its own good pleasure? And this immortality is not removed by sin: for it lies at the root of the race — is its essential attribute, not an accident of its being.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.
WEB: 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 birds of the sky, and over the livestock, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth."