And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
I. THAT THE CREATION OF MAN PRESENTS US WITH THE MOST COMPLEX AND MYSTERIOUS NATURE IN THE UNIVERSE OF GOD. Man is a link between the material and the spiritual — the visible and the invisible — the temporal and the eternal. His is a compound nature. And to obtain a sufficiently enlarged view of that nature, we must reduce it to its primary elements. The creation of matter we resolve into the will and power of God. That which was created could not be eternal. It is a result — an effect. On the mode of this creation we touch not. How "things which are seen were not made of things which do appear" — in other words, how something was produced out of nothing, we can never hope to comprehend. But matter once brought into existence, almost equally marvellous is its organization into distinct living forms. Man was formed of the dust of the ground. Through what process of refinement the different particles which compose the human body passed previous to their combination and union we know not. But this process perfected, each atom was so arranged and disposed, and placed under such laws of affinity and mutual action, as to bring out that great unity, to which we give the name of — body. Every part was contrived with the most exquisite skill, and wrought into the most curious texture. Nothing can be conceived which would surpass the workmanship and elegance of this fabric. It sets forth preeminently the Divine art — the art of God in fitting up a structure including within itself so many miracles. Of the nature of the soul we are wholly ignorant. What was the emanation which came forth from the creating Spirit, and which raised man from a mere material and sensitive existence into a spiritual, intelligent, and immortal being, it is vain to conjecture. We can speak only of the properties of mind. It is not material; but something added to matter, and so essentially spiritual as to be distinct from matter and separable. It is also essentially vital. The body lives, and so long as the soul inhabits it, it will continue to live. But it does not so live that it must always live, which is the case with mind; and of which we cannot conceive but as of a vital, living thing. It has begun to exist, and it cannot cease to exist. Yet it is not enough that man should become a living soul, and that his life should run out into immortality. To subserve the great end of his creation he must have intelligence. With the breath of life came the power of thought. Nor is this all. A being endowed with mind, and to whose thoughts there is no limit — who by a single effort can grasp the past, the present, and the future — the whole universe — and if there be any limit to the universe, more than the universe itself — could not be left without the freedom of choice. To thought we must add volition. This freedom of will rendered him capable at once of duty and of happiness. Without liberty to choose his course of action, he would have been laid under no obligation; while the filling up of imposed obligation was followed by corresponding joy and felicity. The power to choose involved the power to act. Having made his election, nothing interfered to prevent him carrying his purposes into execution. He who gave him a self-determining power, gave him at the same time dominion over every inward operation and every outward action. This vital, thinking, self-active, and self-controlling spirit, admits of no decay. Whatever may be the changes incident to matter, mind remains the same. The only method by which this vital spirit could be reduced would be by an act of annihilation. Annihilation! It enters not into the government of God. We believe in the immortality of the soul. This is but the dawn of its existence. It will survive death, and hold on its course when that of nature is ended. There is another and perhaps the most striking peculiarity to notice in the creation of man. We refer to the mysterious union of this living soul with the corporeal frame, so close and intimate, that these two thus united are absolutely necessary to make up the one compound being — Man. Neither would of itself be sufficient. The body might be perfect in every part and property, but without the vital spirit it would be an inert mass, or at the best a mere animal nature. The soul might be endowed with every possible attribute and excellence, but denied "an earthly house" in which to reside, it would rise to the rank and order of angelic existence. And yet close as is the union between these two there is no confounding of their nature. The body does not so absorb the spirit as by incorporation to make it part of itself. Nor is the soul so linked to the body that it cannot exist and act separately from it. Mysterious is the bond of union; but the two natures are perfectly distinct.
II. THAT THE NATURE WITH WHICH MAN WAS CREATED IS SUSCEPTIBLE OF THE HIGHEST POSSIBLE RELATIONS, ACTIVITY, AND ENJOYMENT. This nature touches on the extremes of the universe — matter and mind. We cannot go lower; and higher we cannot ascend. On the one hand, we are allied to the dust of the ground; on the other, we are united to the one uncreated and eternal Spirit When God breathed into man the breath of life, and man became a living soul, He designed that this soul should be held in contact with universal spirit. Its properties and powers eminently qualify it for such association and union. And with spiritual existences it is forever to live and act. Let us rise into those regions of light where are countless thousands of the redeemed. In what close affinity are they with the firstborn sons of God. They occupy no lower ground. They exhibit no inferior nature. Angels in all their ascending orders acknowledge them as their compeers — their equals. To them even the seraphim give place before the throne. God takes them nearer to Himself. In His presence they dwell. Of His glory they partake. With Him they commune. This perfects our idea of the soul's relation; and proclaims the original design of the Eternal in the creation of man. In making him a living soul, He raised him to the highest possible relation in the universe. In taking him into closer union with Himself, He gave him the preeminence over every other species of created existence. This relation involves corresponding service. Where there is life there is motion. If the soul be essentially vital, it must be essentially active, and this activity will be in the degree of the life. In assigning to man this high relation, and endowing him with this unending activity, it is without controversy that the Creator had in view the most benevolent design. Endowed with the faculty of thought, here was a field over which he might travel with ever-rising interest, and enlarged discovery. But man was alone. There was no one to share his thoughts or partake his joys. The mighty God at once let Himself down to the necessities of His creature. In the cool of each day He appeared in the garden and communed with our first father. The thoughts and lessons which man had gathered from contemplation, he was taught and encouraged to express to his Creator, while his heart throbbed high with gratitude and love. Pure in the last recesses of his mind, and filled with the sublimest conceptions of his Maker and his God, his was no vulgar enjoyment. In the nearest attitude to the great Spirit of life, he was invited to the most intimate and familiar communion. It was no deputed representative of the Godhead with whom he enjoyed fellowship. He walked with God. His desires ran out infinitely beyond all that is created and finite. Unlimited in extent, and existing with the existence of mind itself, they must terminate on infinite fulness.
III. THAT THE LAW UNDER WHICH MAN WAS ORIGINALLY PLACED WAS ONE OF INFINITE RIGHTEOUSNESS AND GOODNESS. A state of trial is one of the conditions of all created existence. Give to the creature whatever freedom we may — let him be ever so conscious of his own subjective independence as a free agent — it was not possible that he should be ignorant of the fact that there is one Supreme Will, to which every other will must be subordinate. The moment that he lost sight of this primordial truth, he was in danger of entrenching on the Divine prerogative, and of losing both his life and his happiness. While due regard was had to the freedom of his will, yet everything within him and around him was calling up the fact of his dependence. This dependence was the condition of his being; but the law to which he was called to conform involved nothing above his capacity or power of fulfilling. It made probation easy. He might have stood, and thus maintained his original rectitude. Continual integrity was not more impossible than moral failure. As the subject of inward righteousness, he was simply called to conform to the law of his being.
(R. Ferguson, LL. D.)
Man became a living soul. —
Parallel VersesKJV: And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.