A Pity, Then, That it Should Cleave to the Earth

Today, I thought it would be wise to follow up with Matthew Henry’s second point concerning the creation of man. In the first post he showed that man was made of clay and therefore comes from a low origin. This was designed to keep us from thinking too highly of ourselves. However, this second section from his commentary is in regards to our soul and its high origin. I find it intriguing that his argument appears to be that we do not value our soul and its origin enough. I have to agree with him on this point. I think he is also correct concerning the tragedy it is that we focus so much on our body and its appetites when it is such a base thing, but forget that our spirit has appetites that must be fulfilled and it is a high thing. It must indeed be a devilish scheme that keeps us from looking upon the higher things with gratitude and from truly appraising them for their worth. Let us not be distracted with dirt!

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The high origin and the admirable serviceableness of the soul of man. (1.) It takes its rise from the breath of heaven, and is produced by it. It was not made of the earth, as the body was; it is a pity then that it should cleave to the earth, and mind earthly things. It came immediately from God; he gave it to be put into the body (Eccl. 12:7 ), as afterwards he gave the tables of stone of his own writing to be put into the ark, and the urim of his own framing to be put into the breast-plate. Hence God is not only the former but the Father of spirits. Let the soul which God has breathed into us breathe after him; and let it be for him, since it is from him. Into his hands let us commit our spirits, for from his hands we had them. (2.) It takes its lodging in a house of clay, and is the life and support of it. It is by it that man is a living soul, that is, a living man; for the soul is the man. The body would be a worthless, useless, loathsome carcase, if the soul did not animate it. To God that gave us these souls we must shortly give an account of them, how we have employed them, used them, proportioned them, and disposed of them; and if then it be found that we have lost them, though it were to gain the world, we shall be undone for ever. Since the extraction of the soul is so noble, and its nature and faculties are so excellent, let us not be of those fools that despise their own souls, by preferring their bodies before them, Prov. 15:32 . When our Lord Jesus anointed the blind man’s eyes with clay perhaps he intimated that it was he who at first formed man out of the clay; and when he breathed on his disciples, saying, Receive you the Holy Ghost, he intimated that it was he who at first breathed into man’s nostrils the breath of life. He that made the soul is alone able to new-make it.

… and what have we then to be proud of?

Once again I find myself in Matthew Henry’s commentary on Genesis. Here our brother points our the humble origin of man, dust. He uses this little fact to remind us that we have nothing to be proud of. How can one be proud of that which is going to crumble? he writes:

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The matter was despicable. He was made of the dust of the ground, a very unlikely thing to make a man of but the same infinite power that made the world of nothing made man, its master-piece, of next to nothing. He was made of the dust, the small dust, such as is upon the surface of the earth. Probably, not dry dust, but dust moistened with the mist that went up, Genesis 2:6. He was not made of gold-dust, powder of pearl, or diamond dust, but common dust, dust of the ground. Hence he is said to be of the earth, choikosdusty, 1 Corinthians 15:47. And we also are of the earth, for we are his offspring, and of the same mould. So near an affinity is there between the earth and our earthly parents that our mother’s womb, out of which we were born, is called the earth (Psalm 139:15), and the earth, in which we must be buried, is called our mother’s womb, Job 1:21. Our foundation is in the earth, Job 4:19. Our fabric is earthly, and the fashioning of it like that of an earthen vessel, Job 10:9. Our food is out of the earth, Job 28:5. Our familiarity is with the earth, Job 17:14. Our fathers are in the earth, and our own final tendency is to it and what have we then to be proud of?

 

Jesus christ, your life… that is, your delight

Is Jesus Christ your life? Such a question would likely have been a normal question coming from a pastor in the 16th-17th centuries. It is surely a tragedy that this question seems so rare, and likely odd to one reading it now. The question comes from Col. 3 where the apostle speaks of our life being hidden with Christ in God. However, the implication is more amazing. If our life is hid with Christ then He is our only hope in this life, and moreover He is our greatest delight and in that delight the one we seek to obey.

Consider all of the great things that we proclaim that we would do for a loved one. Better yet, imagine all of the ways that you have gone above and beyond to either woo a lover or sacrifice for a relative. People sacrifice for their family all of the time. In fact, that is often considered the hallmark of love. Then why is it that we often find no strength to do so for Jesus Christ? I believe it is because we do not recognize the fact that He is our life. There is nothing if His work is not finished. We are to be pitied above all men if there is no resurrection.

This little section out of a work on Christ by Thomas Brooks sets forth a teaching on this doctrine that I think is much needed in the church today. So many are looking for a “purpose driven life”, but in that pursuit have forgotten our true purpose. Do we beget children to have slaves? Then why would we imagine that God merely birthed us spiritually for the sake of laboring in the vineyard? He saved us so that we might delight in Him and, through Christ’s work, He might find us to be delightful as well:

But, secondly, If the Lord Jesus Christ be a believer’s life, then this serves to bespeak all believers highly to prize the Lord Jesus. Oh, it is this Christ that is thy life; it is not thy husband, it is not thy child, it not this or that thing; neither is it this ordinance or that, that is a believer’s life. No; it is the Lord Jesus Christ that is the author, that is the matter, that is the exerciser, that is the strengthener, that is the completer, of a believer’s life. You prize great ones; the Lord Jesus Christ is great—he is King of kings, and Lord of lords. You prize others for their wisdom and knowledge: the Lord Jesus hath in himself all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, Col. 2:3. You prize others for their beauty: the Lord Jesus Christ is the beautifullest of ten thousand, Cant. 5:10. You prize others for their usefulness: the Lord Jesus Christ is the right hand of a believer, without which he can do nothing. The believer may say of Christ as the philosopher .said of the heavens, Tolle coelum, nullus ero—Take away the heavens, and I shall be nobody; so take away Jesus Christ, and a believer is nobody—nobody to perform any action, nobody to bear any affliction, nobody to conquer corruption, nobody to withstand temptation, nobody to improve mercies, nor nobody to joy in others’ grace. Oh, prize Jesus Christ!

Again, Consider the Lord Jesus Christ doth highly prize you; you are as the apple of his eye; he accounts you his fulness; you are his jewels; therefore prize him who sets such a high price on you. But I hasten to what I intend—

In the last place, Remember a Christ highly prized will be Christ gloriously obeyed. As men prize the Lord Jesus Christ, so they will obey him. The great reason why Jesus Christ is no more obeyed, is s because he is no more prized. Men look upon him as a person of no worth, no dignity, no glory; they make slight of him, and that is the reason they are so poor in their obedience to him. Oh, if the sons of men did but more divinely prize Christ, they would more purely, and more fully, and more constantly obey him. Let this bespeak all your hearts highly to prize the Lord Jesus, who is your life.

Our Pleasure and Advantage, Work!

This morning, I was reading in Matthew Henry’s commentary regarding the fourth day of creation when I was struck by a point that he made regarding God’s creation. he writes concerning the Sun and Moon:

They do also give light upon the earth, that we may walk (Jn. 11:9 ), and work (Jn. 9:4 ), according as the duty of every day requires. The lights of heaven do not shine for themselves, nor for the world of spirits above, who need them not; but they shine for us, for our pleasure and advantage.

He states that the lights of Heaven shine for “our pleasure and our advantage”. This appears to echo the great words of the Westminster catechism which asks “what is the chief end of man?” The wonderful answer is, “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” It would seem that, in pointing us to the Sun and Moon as workers for our advantage and pleasure, Matthew Henry is stating that these work so that we might glorify God and enjoy Him. It is then tragic when He points out what men typically do with the light given by these luminaries:

Lord, what is man, that he should be thus regarded! Ps. 8:3Ps. 8:4. How ungrateful and inexcusable are we, if, when God has set up these lights for us to work by, we sleep, or play, or trifle away the time of business, and neglect the great work we were sent into the world about! The lights of heaven are made to serve us, and they do it faithfully, and shine in their season, without fail: but we are set as lights in this world to serve God; and do we in like manner answer the end of our creation? No, we do not, our light does not shine before God as his lights shine before us, Mt. 5:14 . We burn our Master’s candles, but do not mind our Master’s work.

Let us, friends by faithful to our master as His luminaries are faithful to serve us! Lets not trifle away the day on vain things, but rather let us be about glorifying God and enjoying Him! How does one go about this work? In a day when “audacious faith” and “mighty acts” are preached to the believer, it would be wise to remember the words of the apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12. We are there commanded to lead a quiet life and to be about our business. Are you a plumber or a carpenter? perhaps you are a teacher or a parent in the home? Then be about honoring God in your work and testifying to His goodness as you are able. Do not be a lazy worker, but seek to honor the Lord where you are. In being faithful and working to His glory, you are testifying to His goodness and faithfulness on your behalf. Come friends, let us be faithful like the luminaries, and let us see that they work for our pleasure (enjoyment) in God and our Advantage (glorifying Him) in our work.