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?

 

Not to be dissolved at Pleasure

Reading again in Matthew Henry’s commentary this morning, I was struck by his explanation of the nature of man and the relationship of family. In our day marriage is looked on as a thing suited to make me happy and, if I find myself unhappy, easily put asunder. However, Matthew Henry, relying on the pattern established by our Lord in the book of Matthew, establishes several doctrines concerning man that you likely have not heard from your pastor. I, at least, have not considered these facets of the doctrine of man as coming from the creation. However, it seems that once you see what Matthew Henry has to say about these issues you might ask why you haven’t heard these thoughts before since they do appear to be natural implications drawn from the text. It is my hope that these thoughts might bless you this morning.

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That man was made male and female, and blessed with the blessing of fruitfulness and increase. God said, Let us make man, and immediately it follows, So God created man; he performed what he resolved. With us saying and doing are two things; but they are not so with God. He created him male and female, Adam and Eve—Adam first, out of earth, and Eve out of his side, ch. 2. It should seem that of the rest of the creatures God made many couples, but of man did not he make one? (Mal. 2:15), though he had the residue of the Spirit, whence Christ gathers an argument against divorce, Mt. 19:4, 5. Our first father, Adam, was confined to one wife; and, if he had put her away, there was no other for him to marry, which plainly intimated that the bond of marriage was not to be dissolved at pleasure. Angels were not made male and female, for they were not to propagate their kind (Lu. 20:34-36); but man was made so, that the nature might be propagated and the race continued. Fires and candles, the luminaries of this lower world, because they waste, and go out, have a power to light more; but it is not so with the lights of heaven: stars do not kindle stars. God made but one male and one female, that all the nations of men might know themselves to be made of one blood, descendants from one common stock, and might thereby be induced to love one another. God, having made them capable of transmitting the nature they had received, said to them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. Here he gave them, 1. A large inheritance: Replenish the earth; it is this that is bestowed upon the children of men. They were made to dwell upon the face of all the earth, Acts 17:26. This is the place in which God has set man to be the servant of his providence in the government of the inferior creatures, and, as it were, the intelligence of this orb; to be the receiver of God’s bounty, which other creatures live upon, but do not know it; to be likewise the collector of his praises in this lower world, and to pay them into the exchequer above (Ps. 145:10); and, lastly, to be a probationer for a better state. 2. A numerous lasting family, to enjoy this inheritance, pronouncing a blessing upon them, in virtue of which their posterity should extend to the utmost corners of the earth and continue to the utmost period of time. Fruitfulness and increase depend upon the blessing of God: Obed-edom had eight sons, for God blessed him, 1 Chr. 26:5. It is owing to this blessing, which God commanded at first, that the race of mankind is still in being, and that as one generation passeth away another cometh.

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.

The Bible

Here we have a section from the introduction of Matthew Henry’s commentary on Genesis. His commentary work is the best devotional material I have found, and he is often much more insightful than our modern critical commentators. Perhaps today, we might consider this view of the Bible and be reminded of the majesty of the book and the beauty of its creator.

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We have now before us the holy Bible, or book, for so bible signifies. We call it the book, by way of eminency; for it is incomparably the best book that ever was written, the book of books, shining like the sun in the firmament of learning, other valuable and useful books, like the moon and stars, borrowing their light from it. We call it the holy book, because it was written by holy men, and indited by the Holy Ghost; it is perfectly pure from all falsehood and corrupt intention; and the manifest tendency of it is to promote holiness among men. The great things of God’s law and gospel are here written to us, that they might be reduced to a greater certainty, might spread further, remain longer, and be transmitted to distant places and ages more pure and entire than possibly they could be by report and tradition: and we shall have a great deal to answer for if these things which belong to our peace, being thus committed to us in black and white, be neglected by us as a strange and foreign thing, Hos 8:12. The scriptures, or writings of the several inspired penmen, from Moses down to St. John, in which divine light, like that of the morning, shone gradually (the sacred canon being now completed), are all put together in this blessed Bible, which, thanks be to God, we have in our hands, and they make as perfect a day as we are to expect on this side of heaven. Every part was good, but all together very good. This is the light that shines in a dark place (Pe2 1:19), and a dark place indeed the world would be without the Bible.

– Matthew Henry (Introduction to the Commentary of Genesis)