“And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.”
“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.” – Genesis 1:24, 26
The text for today tells of the creation of the animals and man, the work of the sixth day. First the mind with its lower affections is developed, then on the fourth day the sun and moon – love to the Lord and faith in Him – make their appearance, and the fishes and fowl created on the fifth day represent the first living affections for natural truth and for spiritual perception. The higher animals of the sixth day represent the spiritual affections for embodying these truths in life, in the practical forms of gentleness, usefulness, courage, and other truly human qualities. The creation culminates in man. All creation is incorporated and summed up in him. So it is said that man was created in the image of God.
Man is not man because of his body. The body is not the real man any more than the clothes that he wears are the real body. The soul is the real man, destined not to pass away but to live forever in a world where all things are spiritual. The body, marvelous as it is, is designed only for temporary occupancy, to be the instrument by which the man comes in touch with the world of nature.
Because the spirit is the real man it is in the human form, and the body has this form only that the soul may express itself through it. There are different planes or degrees of life, and the creation story tells of the opening and development of these planes. To the materialist the physical is all that we can know, and so for him God and real life vanish. His self-intelligence imagines that matter can do the work of the Divine, and he gives to matter the properties of the Divine. It is this lack of belief in the spiritual as something above and beyond the natural which causes the darkness in the Christian world today. Thinking only from the sense plane men cannot even understand themselves. This has happened several times through the ages, each time resulting in a spiritual decline and finally in the loss of the knowledge of God and of the spiritual world. Even many of those today in whom some belief in the spiritual is left think that if there is a life after death, the body must be resurrected.
The spiritual body is immortal not because it has life in itself – any more than the material body has – but because it is a form gifted not for a few years only but forever with the power of receiving life. It is said “God created” because all life is from the Lord, who alone is Life, and all things that live do so by reason of influx of this life into their varied forms. The reason why plants and animals do not last forever in this world is not because the life that animates fails but because the material forms that receive the life are gifted by the Lord with that power only for a time.
The creation story is the story of the formation and development of man’s spiritual faculties, and also of the process of recovery or regeneration – after any decline – bringing him back to that state in which he can be in accord with the laws of Divine order and be happy forever. This is not merely a work that was once performed thousands of years ago. It is a process that is going on all the time and is applicable to us and to all people.
The process of regeneration advances step by step until the understanding has been enlightened with heavenly truths, and the will or affections are purified to be the recipients of the Lord’s love. It is in this state only that man is man. There are various ideas of what constitutes a man. In one view – the lowest – he is a man because of his physical form alone. In our laws he is considered a man when he is twenty-one years of age. But throughout the Word the term is used approvingly only to denote moral and spiritual excellence. Hence the Lord, speaking through the prophet Jeremiah of the apostasy of the church, says, “I beheld, and, lo, there was no man.” And so it is declared in the same prophet that Jerusalem should be pardoned or delivered if a “man” could be found in her. It is interior excellence that is to be understood when the word man is used in Scripture.
The production of this excellence is the creation of man, and when it is completed, he is made in the image and likeness of God. Here again, as it often the case in the Word, are two words of apparently the same meaning. Man is made in the image of God when from knowledge of truths in the understanding he does the good which these truths teach him that he ought to do for himself, for his neighbor, for his country, for his church, and for the Lord, and he does them because he sees that it is his duty so to do. And because all truth and the power to do it are from the Lord alone it is said that man is an image of God. To this state the sixth day brings him. But he is as yet only the image, not the likeness. He does not come into the “likeness” of God on the sixth day.
There are three degrees of life in man which may be successively developed, and in each degree he is actuated by different motives. We all know from experience that in our natural state we act, whether consciously or unconsciously, from selfish motives. In this state we struggle for existence and to master the occupations in which we are engaged. And this is right, provided the rights of others are not infringed upon. But to be honest in order that we may succeed – because, as we say, “honesty pays” – is not the sign of real character. We must advance beyond this purely natural degree and its motives.
The next step is to do what is right because one sees that justice and right demand it, not because of our own selfish interests. Such a one may not live any differently outwardly, but inwardly he will be quite different.
The making of man on the sixth day is God’s symbol way of telling us how the spiritual man is made and what he is when made. The spiritual man is a human quality of life, organized in the soul and exercising its supremacy in the daily conduct seen from this Divine viewpoint. Anything short of this attainment is not man.
It is said, “Let us make man.” In the making of this spiritual man there must be a willing and intelligent cooperation on man’s part. And it is also said, “Male and female created he them.” The male is the Divine symbol of the understanding, and the female of the will with its power of love and affection.
The understanding must be formed to see and rationally to comprehend the truth, and the will must be formed to love the truth and to give it practical application in the life. In God this is represented under the terms Father and Son, the Father being the Divine Love and the Son the Divine Wisdom, for if God were love alone, he could not create anything, and if He were wisdom alone, the motive for creation would be lacking. A religion that is mere feeling runs to emotional enthusiasm, and a religion that is all faith runs into mere intellectualism and spends its time in abstract thinking, in mere idealistic speculation.
The “man” that was made in the beginning is the same man that is made now, and he is made by the same process. The man is formed through combats, represented by the six days of labor, and then comes into a state in which he can exercise dominion over all his thoughts and feelings and be enabled to eat the fruits of all the growths of his intelligence.
It is this development that makes man to be man and causes him to be an image and finally a likeness of his Creator. Each step in the formation of a true human character the Lord saw and pronounced good, but of the work of this sixth day it is said: “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.”