Genesis 2:7

1. Life is a Divine bestowment.

2. Dust which is Divinely inspired is no longer mere dust; the true life is neither groveling on the earth, nor so much away from the earth as to be no longer the life of a living soul.

3. The creature who is last formed, and for whom all other things wait and are prepared, is made to be the interpreter of all, and the glory of God in them. - R.

And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground.
"The Lord God formed man," etc.


II. THEN MAN OUGHT NOT TO INDULGE A SPIRIT OF HOSTILITY TO GOD. Shall we contend with our Maker, the finite with the infinite?

III. THEN MAN SHOULD REMEMBER HIS MORTALITY. "Unto dust shalt thou return."

(J. S. Exell, M. A.)

1. The emblem of frailty (Psalm 109:14).

2. The emblem of nothingness (Genesis 18:27).

3. The emblem of defilement (Isaiah 52:2).

4. The emblem of humiliation (Lamentations 3:29; Job 42:6).

5. The emblem of mourning (Joshua 7:6).

6. The emblem of mortality (Ecclesiastes 3:20; Ecclesiastes 12:7).

(H. Bonar.)

Man hath received from God not only an excellent fabric and composure of body, but, if you consider it, the very matter of which the body is composed is far more excellent than dust or earth. Take a piece of earth, a handful of dust, and compare them with the flesh of man; that flesh is earth indeed, but that flesh is far better than mere earth. This shows the power of the Creator infinitely exceeding the power of a creature. A goldsmith can make you a goodly jewel, but you must give him gold and precious stones of which to make it; he can put the matter into a better form, but he cannot make the matter better. The engraver can make a curious statue, exactly limbed and proportioned to the life, out of a rough piece, but the matter must be the same as put into his hands: if you give him marble, it will be a marble statue; he cannot mend the matter. Man's work often exceeds his matter; but man's work cannot make the matter exceed itself. If the body, then, be but clay and hath a foundation of dust, do not bestow too much cost upon the clay and the dust. In an over-cared body there ever dwells a neglected soul. We usually laugh at children, when they are making houses of clay. They whose care is overactive for the body are but children of a greater stature, and show they have as much more folly in their hearts than they. There is no child like to the old child.

(J. Caryl.)

God made the human body, and it is by far the most exquisite and wonderful organization which has come to us from the Divine hand. It is a study for one's whole life. If an undevout astronomer is mad, an undevout physiologist is still madder. The stomach that prepares the body's support; the vessels that distribute the supply; the arteries that take up the food and send it round; the lungs that aerate the all-nourishing blood; that muscle engine which, without fireman or engineer, stands night and day pumping and driving a wholesome stream with vital irrigation through all the system, that unites and harmonises the whole band of organs; the brain, that dwells in the dome high above, like a true royalty; these, with their various and wonderful functions are not to be lightly spoken of, or irreverently held.

(H. W. Beecher.)




1. Let our souls seek unto Him, who gave them, and serve Him, as we are directed (1 Corinthians 6:20).(1) Praising Him with all that is within us (Psalm 103:1).(2) Submitting all the abilities of our souls to be guided by His Spirit, that we may be led by it and walk in it.(3) And labouring with all our endeavours to lay hold on heavenly things, whence we had our original, forgetting the things that are here below (Colossians 3:1).

2. Lay hold on this as a ground of special comfort; that which God hath given more immediately, He will certainly most carefully preserve and provide for, as it appears He hath done, by redeeming the soul from hell, and purging it from sin by the blood of His own Son, and adorning it with the graces of His Spirit, and reserving it hereafter to enjoy His presence, and there to be satisfied with His image.




(J. White.)

This is most humbling. It was not formed of heavenly matter, as the radiant sun, or the sparkling stars, nor the most precious jewels. Gold and silver were not melted down, nor were sparkling diamonds made use of, but God formed it of the vile dust which is trodden under foot.

( J. Flavel..)

Out of the ordinary elements of the material world is that body made, and into those elements it is resolved again. With all its beauties of form and expression, with all its marvels of structure and of function, there is nothing whatever in it except some few of the elementary substances which are common in the atmosphere and the soil. The three commonest gases, oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen, with carbon, and with sulphur, are the foundation stones. In slightly different proportions, these elements constitute the primordial combination of matter which is the abode of life. In the finished structure there appear, besides, lime, potash, and a little iron, sodium, and phosphorus. These are the constituents of the human body — of these in different combinations — and, so far as we know, nothing else.

(Duke of Argyll's "Unity of Nature. ")It is because of the composition of our body that the animals and plants around us are capable of ministering to our support, that the common air is to us the very breath of life, and that herbs and minerals in abundance have either poisoning properties or healing virtue.

(Duke of Argyll's "Unity of Nature.)

The breath of life.

Breathing, according to the physiologists, is a genuine burning, and consumes organic substance in us, as fire does in our stoves. It takes the same oxygen from the air, combines it with the same elements, with the same evolution of heat, and gives off the same products in our breath as in smoke. Respiration is a real fire. Still, may we not find under this destructive process some beneficent spiritual law? We ought to, for it is also a most vital process. "Breath of life," the Bible calls it, in a phrase I take for text; and life seems more closely connected with breath than with anything else, beginning on earth with it, ever depending on it, ever advancing with its increase. So the lesson of respiration seems to be that destruction does not destroy, that consuming does not kill, that even burning brings life. This is the lesson I wish to illustrate. But respiration is not limited to animals. It begins in a much lower and rises into a much higher field.

I. We notice it in the VEGETABLE world. For even plants, besides that taking of food for growth, take true breath to burn out their growth. We are wont to speak of Moses' burning bush as a miracle unique in nature. But botanists say that every bush on earth is burning. Through its every living cell that fiery oxygen works all summer. In autumn, too, the colours come from oxidation of the chlorophyll, so that Whittier put good science in his poem when he called "yon maple wood the burning bush." And in certain processes the breath and fire become active enough to show their heat. Such is the ease in sprouting seeds. Such is the ease in flowers. In the sight of chemistry, flowers are all fires; and one great genus is well named phlox — flame. There was fact enough in Hafiz's fancy that roses were the flames of a burning bush; and botany adds that every blooming plant is another, whether blazing in the cardinal flower or only smoking in the gray grass blossoms. And, just as in that bush of old story, this burning does not harm. Rather, it is so helpful that the plant dies without it as surely as a man without air, and quickly, too. And not only does it not consume the life, but with still greater miracle creates new. Out of that burning seed it brings a new plant. It brings new energies, too. In each cell the fire creates force, just as in the boiler of a boat; and, as a result, the celiac of some algae lash the water like oars, the diatom moves across the field of the microscope like a propeller across the lake, and the beautiful volvox goes rolling through the water like the wheel of a steamer. And out of that warmer fire in the flower how many new creations come! One is beauty. The leaves are refined to softer petals and grow radiant with gold and purple, and proclaim to us that spiritual law that the highest beauty is reached only through the burning out of our substance. The same process brings sweetness, too — oxidizes starch to sugar, and loads the flower with honey and perfume. It even brings something like love; and the corolla becomes a real marriage bower, and stamen and pistil join in the genuine wedding, and give themselves for each other and their offspring. And so the flower is consumed only to rise again from its ashes, and extend its life to distant lands and ages.

II. But we see this law clearer in its revelation in the ANIMAL world. Here breath is more active, and grows evermore so through the rising animal scale. And this deeper breathing always means faster burning. Analysis shows, for instance, that the breath of an average healthy man consumes carbon at the rate of one hundred and seventy pounds a year — literally burns up within him every month the substance of over a bushel of charcoal. With this increasing fire comes increasing warmth. And here, too, the fire does not consume. It does, indeed, waste our substance, so that the animal, unlike the tree, soon gets his growth. Some poor-lunged creatures are said to lengthen as long as they live, like an elm; but better breathers burn up their accumulations, and men and birds keep but little body. Nor do they keep even that; but it is continually consumed — several times during our lives, the doctor says: muscles, nerves, lungs, heart, brain, bones, and all. But this consumption is always restored, and does not harm us in the least. Rather, it is just the thing that keeps us alive. If we were not thus perpetually destroyed we should get sick, and die; and the only way we can keep alive and well is by being annihilated every few years. And the curious thing to notice is that this destructive process is just the one which cannot be suspended at all. Other functions may be stopped for a season, even the nutritive ones. The really important thing is burning up. When the fire goes out, we die; but so long as it is consuming us we thrive. Such is the paradox and first principle of this mysterious thing called life. Burning saves and increases it. Increases all its energies, too. The faster this breath burns, the greater the activity. Such a breath of life is this fire in the animal world.

III. But this breath rises to a third stage in HUMAN ARTS. For man breathes more largely than with lungs; and, learning how to burn that carbon anywhere, he adds to nature's slow fire within him a much faster one without. So he heats his hut and home; and, instead of having to migrate like an animal, he brings Florida to his own fireside, and makes the tropics anywhere to order. And, learning how to make this artificial breathing faster and fire fiercer, he gains new forces that far outdo those of animals. Instead of crawling through the country, like that quadruped, he makes this fire carry him and all his family and furniture further and faster. Instead of flying fifty miles for his breakfast, like a bird, he sits still like a lord and orders it, beefsteak from Texas, rolls from Dakota, an orange from Italy, and coffee from Asia. And, by this breath under a boiler, he gets them brought so easily that Mr. Atkinson says a good mechanic in Massachusetts can get his whole year's meat and flour fetched from beyond the Mississippi for one day's work; and Sir Lyon Playfair said this summer that a ton of freight can be carried on land a mile by two ounces of carbon, and on water two miles by a little cube of coal that would pass through a ring the size of a shilling. Nor does man stop with moving nature's products, but works better by this same principle. In his manufactures and his varied arts, he learns to consume not merely a little in the form of food, like an animal, but enormously in other forms — not only acorns, but oaks; not only fruits, but whole forests; not only a few acres, but long ages of them condensed in coal; and not only coal and other organic products, but ores and rocks and the original elements themselves. Human art becomes a boundless burning, destroying about everything on earth. Yet this burning, too, only helps. It turns the forests into force, and the whole carboniferous era into energy — turns ores and everything into something better. It consumes only to create. Indeed, strictly speaking, it does not consume at all. Not an atom of carbon or anything else has ever been destroyed. Burning only sets it free from old forms to enter into life again: and nature is always waiting to start it into life, and is all the summer turning our smoke and ashes back into new trees and corn.

IV. But above these material fields we trace the same principle through a fourth phase, in SPIRITUAL LIFE. Thought is a breathing, ever inhaling fresh truth, which consumes old ideas in society, just as oxygen does old cells in the body. Indeed, those arts we have just noticed have all come from this mental breathing. How many established opinions had to be consumed to bring that ease of travel! Once, even science argued that no steamer could ever cross the Atlantic; and there was a time when everybody knew that steam could not carry anything on land, either. The first modern who suggested such a thing is said to have been shut up in the Bicetre for it as a lunatic. Afterward, the Englishman who first advocated passenger railways was called by the Quarterly Review, "beneath our contempt," while the wise old Edinburgh Review said, "Put him in a straitjacket." So many and so firmly established ideas have been consumed this century in this mere matter of travel. And this is only an illustration of the consumption of old theories that has been going on through the arts and sciences and philosophies and all fields. Yet here, too, it has consumed only to create, and been in still higher degree the "breath of life." It has aided all those arts and sciences. It has advanced society, too — just as breathing has advanced the animal kingdom — and has brought to mankind a progress about as great as from mollusks to mammals. It has burned out social wrongs only to bring rights. What an advance history shows, from savages eating each other to modern society feeding its hungry and founding hospitals and charities of a hundred kinds! What an advance in morality, even since the praised days of our pious ancestors last century, when Parton says the best Christian in New England saw nothing wrong in buying slaves for rum and selling them for West India molasses to make rum to buy more! What a moral progress from even the boasted Bible days — when David could slay a man to steal his wife, and still be revered as most sacred Psalmist; and Solomon, with a whole regiment of wives, could be sainted for wisdom and thought worthy to make the longest prayer in the Bible — today, when such saints would be thought hardly so fit for writing sacred poetry as for working in the penitentiary! For religion, too, has felt the effects of this spiritual breathing, and been advancing by it. Here, too, ancient ideas have been burning out to bring better; and Samuel's Jehovah, ordering innocent men to be slain like mice, gave way to Isaiah's God of justice and Jesus' of love. Here, too, the burning has been a very "breath of life"; and religion ought to have learned ere this to breathe fearlessly, and let its old forms be consumed as fast as they will. All that is really alive and worth living, in our beliefs and bodies alike, will not be harmed. Only the effete and hurtful will be burned out, and will bring new warmth and life in the process, and be replaced by better. Let religion, then, breathe away, and continue to enlarge its lungs and elevate its life. But breath brings its best lessons to private life. It rebukes our greed, and bids us burn out our gains generously. Gain is good, but must be followed by giving, as eating by breathing, if we would rise above vegetables. Indeed, our gains have to be given away, to get the good of them. Miserliness is very near to misery, as even etymology teaches. The wise preacher advocated foreign missionary contributions, since, he said, if they were of no help to the heathen, they greatly helped the Christian contributors at home; and giving does enrich the giver, whether it does anyone else or not. Beneficence is the bank that pays the best interest on deposits, and pays back in better coin than was put in; and our proverbs have well declared that the best way to keep what we get is by giving it away to some good cause. But this truth of external possessions is still truer of ourselves. They, too, must be given away in order to be kept, or even to be found at first. "The life of life is when for another we're living," says a poet; and another tells of one to whom love was the first waking, — "The past was a sleep, and her life began." Love, whether of a person or a cause, is indeed the highest form of the breath of life. It consumes as nothing else can, wastes with self-sacrifice and sorrows, yet only to lift to larger life, to bless with new powers and higher happiness. Selfishness is as fatal to the soul as holding the breath to the body; and burning ourselves out in sacrifice for something is the only way to keep the heart warm and the soul alive.

(H. M. Simmons.)

Upon the bodily side man stands among the animals as the noblest of them; but he has another side by which he holds communion with God and invisible things. He has a spirit as well as a body — a spirit not like that "spirit of the beast which goeth downward to the earth," having but an attraction to the things of sense, and that an unreflecting attraction; the spirit of the sons of man is one "which is ascending" (Ecclesiastes 3:21). The spirit is in us the element of self-consciousness and freedom. By it we see our true relation to the things of sense, and are able to claim affinities above them. It is a gift from God (Ecclesiastes 12:7), and unless it be unfairly tampered with, it must by its very constitution "ascend," and aspire after God and what is Godlike. In it is the seat of the higher, the only true, free will, as opposed to the random animal impulses of the flesh. There lies the power of conscience, by which we are able to judge our own actions, comparing them with what we see to be the right standard, and condemning ourselves when we have allowed the true will to be mastered by the inferior appetite. Such a spirit is not, and cannot be (so far as we can understand), a product of natural evolution, but comes direct from the hand of God. Man is thus a dual being, living at one in two worlds, not two separate lives, but one life in the two. The spirit lives in the body, and acts through it and makes it its vehicle. The meeting point of spirit and body appears to lie in the soul.

(Canon Mason.)

There are two ways in which we are accustomed to estimate the relative importance of events — one by considering what they are in themselves; and the other by considering what they are in their consequences. Viewed in either of these aspects, the event referred to in the text is by far the most important that ever occurred in our world. The creation of the heavens and the earth, with all their various appendages, is not to be compared with it. In the one case only matter was created and arranged under fixed laws; in the other mind was created, intelligent, immortal mind, made in the image of God, in dignity a little lower than the angels, commencing its fight for eternity. And then the consequences of that event, how surpassing all finite comprehension! From that moment commenced the history of the human race; from that moment began to flow the great stream of human life, which, now for six thousand years, has been deepening and surging onward, pouring itself into the ocean of eternity. That living soul, into which God first breathed the breath of life, is still alive; and so are all the countless myriads of souls which in successive generations He has brought into being; all are still alive and will live forever. What, then, is life, that mysterious principle which was enkindled within us by the Creator when we began to be, and which makes us living souls? This question, viewed in its physiological aspect, I shall not attempt to answer, as I find the ablest writers on the subject are entirely undecided in respect to it, or rather they are decided that we cannot know what life is in itself, or in its essence. We know some of the conditions on which it depends; some of the laws which govern it, and the phenomena which it exhibits; but what the vital principle, what life is, we seem not to have the means of knowing. There are various kinds of life which belong to different orders of being, and which are characterized by distinct qualities. There is vegetable life, and a portion of this belongs to the human being in common with plants and trees. There is animal life, and this we have in common with birds and beasts that live and move around us. And there is intellectual or spiritual life, and this we are wont to regard as belonging exclusively to the soul, and which makes us, in the sense of our text, living immortal souls. It is of life in this last sense that I am now to speak; not of life as simple animal existence, nor of life as a mere period of continuance on earth; but of life in the soul, viewed as the source of consciousness, thought, desires, purposes, and acts, all tending to develope and form character, and fit the subject for blessedness or woe in the future world. In this view we can know what life is, what are the means of its development, and how it may be so nurtured and trained on earth that it shall conduct us to everlasting life in heaven. I remark, then —

I. Life is INTERMINABLE; it has no end. The principle on which it depends, whatever it be, is beyond the reach of man or angel, or any other being, but God who made us living souls. The life of the body can be destroyed, for it depends on a material organization; and this may be so deranged and disturbed in its functions, that the life which depends upon it shall cease to be. But the life of the soul is independent of matter. It is not the result of any material mechanism, or of any nice adjustment of particles of matter, as of nerves and other finer portions of the body. It has its seat in the inner spirit; in that thinking, intelligent, conscious principle, which we call the soul, and which the Bible assures us, as does sound philosophy, survives the dissolution of the body and is to live forever. The vital spark is kindled; it must burn on forever. Have you ever asked what and where you shall be ten thousand years hence?

II. Life is DISCIPLINARY. By which I mean that in the present world we are subjected to various influences, adapted and designed to exercise the vital principle within us; to elicit and draw forth its powers, and thus form and fix its character for a future state of being. All the ills we endure and the blessings we enjoy; the sicknesses, disappointments, sorrows, that come upon us, together with the various blessings and privileges of our condition — all are to be regarded as disciplinary. They are the means appointed by Providence to wake up and call into action the living principle within us; to make us, as it were, conscious of life and ever solicitous to be found in an attitude to be rightly affected by all the various influences that act upon us. Now, this view of life as disciplinary, is of the greatest practical importance. It changes the whole aspect and bearing of things around us. It sheds light upon a thousand facts and occurrences which would otherwise be entirely mysterious. It gives a new and significant view of the dealings of Providence with us in this world, and attaches a meaning and an importance to the events of every day, which they would not otherwise possess.

III. Life is PROBATIONARY. By this is meant, we are now living and acting with reference to a future state of retribution. We are not only subjected to discipline and training in this world, but results are to follow in the world to come. The life that now is, is preparatory to a life in the state beyond the grave; and the life we are to live hereafter is to receive its character and destiny from the life we are now living on the earth. Every word and every act is a seed for eternity, and daily, as our time on earth is hastening to its close, we are laying up treasures of immortal joy in heaven, or preparing for ourselves a cup of woe in the world of despair. I may add, in this connection, that life passed by us in this state of discipline and probation, acquires of necessity a fixed and permanent character. Neutrality is here impossible. As no one can destroy the vital principle which the Creator has implanted in his bosom, so no one can stop its feeling, thinking, acting.

IV. It might perhaps seem commonplace and trite to say THAT LIFE, VIEWED AS A PERIOD OF CONTINUANCE ON EARTH, IS ENCOMPASSED WITH INNUMERABLE ILLS, AND IS EXCEEDINGLY UNSATISFYING, AS WELL AS VERY SHORT AND UNCERTAIN. Yet these are facts which lose none of their importance by their triteness, and they demand to be seriously considered by us, if we would form a just estimate of life, and train it, in a right manner, for a future state of being. Why is it, that life, in the present state, is so unsatisfying, so subject to changes, disappointments, and trials: One great reason is to make us realize that this is not our home, not the place of our rest, but of our discipline and training, the place of our tarrying for a night as strangers, and then pass on to our future abode.

1. How infinitely we are indebted to our Lord Jesus Christ for marking out to us the way, and furnishing us with the means whereby our life may be rendered immortally blessed.

2. Our subject teaches us how we may make a long life even of a short one. Life, in its proper sense, is not mere existence. A stone has existence. It is not mere animation; for a tree has animation, and so has an oyster and an ox. But neither has life understanding by life, the vital principle of a living intelligent soul. Nor has such a soul life, any further than its living energies are brought out in action, and its existence is filled up with thought, and feeling, and with deeds and fruits of useful living. Life, says Fuller, is to be measured by action, not by time; a man may die old at thirty, and young at eighty; the one lives after death, the other perished before he died.

3. Our subject is fitted to show us how serious and how important to us are the daily events of life — the influences which act upon us in the various circles in which we are called to move. These are the instrumental means employed by Providence for our discipline and training; the development of our life, the formation of our character, the fixing of our state in eternity.

4. Life in respect to each of us is every day becoming more and more serious and impressive in its responsibilities and prospects. It is so, because its powers are being more fully developed, and its character more and more permanently fixed. It is so, because the period of discipline and probation is fast drawing to a close, and results are thrown forward to greet us on our entering into eternity with welcomes of joy or signals of woe. It is so, in fine, because every day we live bears us nearer and still nearer to that awful point in our history, a point unknown to us, when the great work of preparation for eternity will be ended, and we shall each one take our place among the redeemed in glory, heirs of immortal life, or with the lost in despair, children of wrath. With what serious concern, then, does it become every one of us to review our past course in life and inquire, whither it has been conducting us; for what state we have been preparing, during the time we have spent on earth.

(J. Haines, D. D.)

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.

I. THEN MAN IS SOMETHING MORE THAN PHYSICAL ORGANIZATION. Man is not merely dust, nor merely body; he is also a living soul. His bodily organization is not the seat of thought, emotion, volition, and immortality; these are evoked by the inspiration of the Almighty. From this text we learn that the soul of man was not generated with, but that it was subsequently inbreathed by God into his body. We cannot admit the teaching of some, that the soul of man is a part of God; this is little better than blasphemy. It is only a Divine gift. The gift is priceless. It is responsible.

II. THEN MAN SHOULD CULTIVATE A MORAL CHARACTER, PURSUE EMPLOYMENTS, AND ANTICIPATE A DESTINY COMMENSURATE WITH THIS DIVINE INSPIRATION. Men gifted with immortal souls should endeavour to bring them into harmony with their Author and Giver, to make them pure as He is pure, and benevolent as He is benevolent; they should never be degraded by sin.

(J. S. Exell, M. A.)

Rowland Hill once conversed with a celebrated sculptor, who had been hewing out a block of marble to represent that great patriot, Lord Chatham. "There," said the sculptor, "is not that a fine form?" "Now, sir," said Mr. Hill, "can you put life into it? else, with all its beauty, it is still but a block of marble." God put life into His creation, and man became a living soul. Christ puts new life into dead men.

(Bishop Harvey Goodwin.)

I. First, among the properties of the soul, consider ITS CAPACITY OF ENJOYMENT AND ITS CAPACITY OF SUFFERING. I could appeal on this point to the experience of everyone who has lived but a few years in this fallen world: few have done so who cannot bear inward witness of what the soul is capable of suffering. How acute is the sense of disappointed hope; how sad the anticipation of expected evil: how bitter the feeling of desire, long indulged, and still deferred, making the heart sick: how intense are the pangs of sorrow; how intolerable the agony of remorse! I will only remind you that God, who in His justice remembers mercy, seldom dispenses in this world unmixed suffering. To the wicked, even, there is commonly some hope of relief, which mitigates the sense of suffering; to the righteous there is always an alleviation. Think, then, what must be the weight of unmitigated suffering, aggravated by the assurance that it must endure forever. In proportion to the capacity of suffering in the soul is also its capacity of enjoyment. We have some knowledge of this likewise. We can conceive the joy by which the heart of Jacob was elated when his sons "told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said unto them: and when he saw the waggons." We can conceive the feelings of David when he found himself seated upon the throne of Israel, and the promise made unto his children after him, and the natural satisfaction arising from greatness and prosperity was enhanced by the spiritual gratification of the consciousness of Divine favour. How intense again must have been the delight of the aged Simeon when the sight which he had been so long expecting was granted to him, and it was revealed to him that the child which his parents were now presenting in the temple was indeed the promised Saviour. But as in this preparatory world, sorrow comes attended with mitigation, so there is always some drawback to our joy. Even it the joy itself were perfect, there is fear it would be short-lived; and He that gave may see fit to take away. There will be no such diminution of the eternal enjoyment prepared for the righteous in His heavenly kingdom: nothing to disturb the happiness of those who have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

II. Consider another capacity of the soul — ITS CAPACITY OF GOODNESS AND OF WICKEDNESS. I speak, you will observe, not of any goodness which it naturally has, but of that of which it is capable. The natural imagination of man's heart is evil, and that continually, since he fell from the innocency in which he was created. The soul, however, which was created in the image of God, and which has lost that likeness, is capable of having that image restored. It is capable of much which our reason tells us is good in itself, and which Scripture tells us is pleasing in the sight of God. How beautiful is the conduct of Abraham, as recorded in Genesis 13, when the land in which they were dwelling grew too strait for himself and his nephew Lot, and it became needful that they should separate. How admirable is the affection of Moses towards the Israelites, and the disinterestedness with which he entreats God to spare them. Look at the piety of Daniel, who, though he knew the writing was issued which should condemn him before an earthly tribunal, yet, "his window being opened in his chamber before Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and he prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime." Once more, admire the spirit of the martyr Stephen, who returned blessing for cursing, and kneeled down and cried with a loud voice, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge." The soul, then, is capable of goodness; the fruits of the Spirit may grow upon it, which are love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness. There is less need of proving that it is capable of wickedness; for "from within, out of the heart, proceed evil thoughts, adultery, murder, fornication, theft, false witness, blasphemy; and these defile the soul"; they have defiled it ever since the time that Adam transgressed the command of God, and brought sin into the world. What envy, hatred, and malice were in the heart of Cain, when he rose up against his brother Abel and slew him; or of Esau, who "hated Jacob, because of the blessing wherewith his father had blessed him": "And Esau said in his heart, The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then will I slay my brother Jacob." Look at the history of Pharaoh, one while entreating and repenting, and promising obedience, and then repenting of his repentance, and defying the power of God. Or take the case of Judas, daily hearing the word of righteousness — words such as never man spake, doctrines at which the people were astonished — yet not subdued, not converted, cherishing a secret sin, indulging covetousness, and appropriating to his own use what was designed for the poor.

III. Let me now proceed to remind you, in the third place, THAT BETWEEN THIS WICKEDNESS AND MISERY, AS ALSO BETWEEN GOODNESS AND HAPPINESS, GOD HAS APPOINTED AN INSEPARABLE CONNECTION. "The righteous shall go into life eternal; into that world where is fulness of joy, and pleasures for evermore"; and where "there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away; but the unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." We do not stop to enter into the question of what is meant by this "second death": whether it speaks of actual material fire, or whether the fire be figurative, it expresses the greatest imaginable misery. But this we know, that the unrestrained wickedness of the unrenewed heart leads on to misery in the Way of natural consequence: it needs not the idea of material fire to form an addition to bodily anguish. The souls of the wicked, as well as of the good, are immortal; separated, indeed, into their respective folds, as a shepherd separates his sheep from the goats, but still continuing immortal.

(Bishop Sumner.)


1. Our own experience. It combines, compares, and reasons on all subjects (Psalm 104 and Job 38).

2. By observation.

3. By Scripture.

(1)In the account it gives of the origin of the soul,

(2)of its redemption,

(3)its regeneration, and

(4)its everlasting portion.


(Alexander Shanks.)

1. Its nature and property. "Nephesh," to breathe or respire. Not that the breath is the soul, but it denotes the manner of its infusion, and the means of its continuation. It is spiritual in essence. The Chaldee renders it a sparkling soul, Speech only belongs to man.

2. Its descent and original. It is not a result from matter, but from the inspiration of God (John 3:6). Man's spirit comes from the Father of spirits.

3. Its manner of infusion into the body. By the same breath which gave it. says, "It is created in the infusion, and it is infused in the creation."

4. The bond that unites the soul with the body. The breath of his nostrils. It is a mystery to see heaven and earth united in one person; dust and immortal spirit clasping each other with tender love. What a noble guest to take up residence within mean walls of flesh and blood! That union comes in with the breath of the nostrils, and so soon as that breath departs, it departs also. All the rich elixirs and condiments in the world will not avail to make it stay one minute longer after the breath departs. One puff of breath will carry away the wisest, holiest, and best soul that ever inhabited a human body (Psalm 104:19; Job 17:1).

( John Flavel..)

It is said that above the door of the celebrated temple of Apollo at Delphi there was a Greek inscription, the whole of which consisted in a simple monosyllable of two letters signifying THOU ART, which is not only a proper, but a peculiar title of God, because He alone is being, the ever-existing One, and is derived from the Hebrew name Jehovah; but it had nothing to do with the heathen god, for I am persuaded that the evil one was there worshipped under the name of Apollo. His ambition was to be like the Most High, and therefore he assumed God's name; but he was a murderer from the beginning, and also a thief and a robber. It is also said, that on the same temple this often repeated admonition was written, "Know thyself," which, being connected with the preceding, reminded man of his frail and mortal nature. But without Divine revelation man could never have been in possession of these Divine truths. Hence we learn the wonderful condescension of God. After the Lord for His own pleasure called man into existence, He revealed Himself to him.

I. Concerning THE ORIGIN OF MAN, various and absurd opinions have been put forth by men, who presume to be wiser than the inspired writers. Some have asserted, but devoid of all reason, that men have existed from eternity, or existed by an infinite succession of beings; and others have as absurdly asserted, that the first man and woman, or several pairs, sprang into being from some spontaneous action of the earth, or chance combination of the natural elements, independent of any adequate power or designing cause. But this is opposed to the clearest deductions of reason, and involves impossibilities. Now, although men generally admit the absurdity of the notion that man has existed from eternity, and that he came into being by the spontaneous action of the earth or elements, independent of a designing cause, yet many assert that God in the beginning created a plurality of pairs, from whence arises the great difference in complexion and form which distinguishes the several races of mankind. This idea seems very plausible; but those who are most competent to pronounce an opinion on comparative anatomy have declared that the whole race of mankind has sprung from one original pair — one man and one woman, and on physiological grounds agree with the Mosaic account.

II. HIS NATURE, AND THE REASON OF HIS NAME. Formed of dust; therefore suitably called Adam or earth.

III. We shall now consider THE DIGNITY, MORAL EXCELLENCE, AND IMMORTALITY OF MAN, as be came out of the hands of God.

1. In the creation of matter, and bringing it into a harmony of spheres, the fiat of the Almighty was sufficient. He merely said, "Let there be light," and light was, as a necessary consequence; but in the creation of man it was otherwise. The Holy Ones reasoned together, which indicates the dignity and moral excellence of the being about to be called into existence. That Divine consultation was significant of the God-like nature of man.

2. But one of the chief features in man, as he came out of his Creator's hand (if anything can be chief where all is perfect), was, that he derived immediately from God the breath of life; for God "breathed into his nostrils the breath of life," and he became a living, or, as some of the Hebrew paraphrasts have it, a rational, soul. His spirit partook of the immortality of its Divine author, and was destined to live forever; and therefore the tree of life was placed in the midst of the garden, the virtue of which was such, that if he partook thereof, he would live forever.

(A. Jones.)

1. We are, as to the outward man, mere dust of the ground. Is not this plain enough from experience? Does not the food that maintains our bodies come directly from plants, or indirectly from them, through the beasts that feed upon them? And do not those plants draw all their support from the ground?

2. We have in this living body passions and affections common with the brute creation. And too many act as if they had nothing more, as if they had only to exercise their brutal appetites, eat and drink, and tyrannize over the poor brute creation, as its merciless kings, and then like them to die. How many have passed through this world from the womb to the grave, with no higher exercise of their faculties, and with a much more brutal one of their appetites, than a dog or an elephant?

3. But we are living souls. God has given unto us reason and not instinct, free agency and not mere necessity. We are rational, and therefore accountable beings. We are servants of a heavenly Master, sons of a heavenly Father, to whom we have to render faithful service and affectionate obedience. We have a reckoning to render of the manner in which we have employed our bodies, our appetites, our faculties.

(R. W. Evans, B. D.)

When God Almighty bad in six days made that common dial of the world, the light; that storehouse of His justice and His mercy, the firmament; that ferry of the world, the sea; man's work house, the earth; chariots of light, the sun and moon; the airy choristers, the fowls; and man's servants, the beasts; yet had He one more excellent piece to be made, and that was man, a microcosm, even an abstract of the whole, to whom, having fashioned a body, proceeding by degrees of perfection, He lastly created a soul. And as the family of Matri was singled out of the tribe of Benjamin, and Saul out of the family of Matri, being higher than the rest by the shoulders upwards, so is the soul singled out from the other creatures, far surpassing them all in excellency, whether we consider the efficient cause of its creation, Elohim, the blessed Trinity, being then in consultation; or the material cause, a quinta essentia, noble and Divine substance, more excellent than the heavens; or the cause formal, made after the image of God Himself; or, lastly, the cause final, that it might be the temple of God and the habitation of His blessed Spirit.

(J. Spencer.)

About forty-five years ago a funeral was passing through the streets of Carlisle, Pennsylvania. It was the burial procession of John Hall Mason, the son of the eminent Dr. Mason, President of Dickinson College, one of the most powerful and eloquent preachers in America. The son was distinguished for his piety and talents, and his death had cast a gloom over many hearts. Many gathered to the funeral, from far and near, and especially young men. After the services at the house had been performed, and the pallbearers had taken up the bier, a great concourse obstructed the entrance, and great confusion and noise ensued. The bereaved doctor, observing the difficulty, and following closely the pall bearers, exclaimed in solemn sepulchral tones: "Tread lightly, young men! tread lightly! You bear the temple of the Holy Ghost." These sentiments, as though indited by the Holy Spirit, acted like an electric shock; the crowd fell back and made the passage way clear. Through the influence of these words a most powerful revival of religion sprung up, and swept through the college, and extended over the town.

When Praxiteles, a cunning painter, had promised unto Phryne one of the choicest pieces in his shop, she, not knowing which was the best, began to think upon some plot whereby to make him to discover his judgment which of them was the piece indeed, and suborned one of his servants to tell his master (being then in the market, selling his pictures) that his house was on fire and a great part of it burnt down to the ground. Praxiteles, hearing this, presently demanded of his servant if the "Satyr and Cupid" were safe, whereby Phryne, standing by, discovered which was the best picture in the shop. And shall a silly painter set so high an esteem upon a poor, base picture, the slubbered (imperfect) work of his own hands, and shall not we much more value the soul, that is of an immortal being, the most precious piece that ever God made, the perfect pattern and image of Himself. Let riches, honour, and all go, if nothing but this escape the fire, it is sufficient.

(J. Spencer.)

Some time ago the Rev. James Armstrong preached at Harmony, near the Wabash, when a doctor of that place, a professed Deist, called on his associates to accompany him while he attacked the Methodists, as he said. At first he asked Mr. Armstrong if he followed preaching to save souls. He answered in the affirmative. He then asked Mr. Armstrong if he ever saw a soul. "No." If he ever heard a soul. "No." If he ever tasted a soul, "No." If he ever smelled a soul. "No." If he ever felt a soul. "Yes, thank God!" said Mr. Armstrong. "Well," said the doctor, "there are four of the five senses against one that there is a soul." Mr. Armstrong then asked the gentleman if he was a doctor of medicine; and he also answered in the affirmative° He then asked the doctor if he ever saw a pain. "No." If he ever heard a pain. "No." If he ever tasted a pain. "No." If he ever smelled a pain. "No." If he ever felt a pain. "Yes." Mr. Armstrong then said, "There are also four senses against one to evidence that there is a pain; yet, sir, you know that there is a pain, and I know there is a soul." The doctor appeared confounded, and walked off.


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