And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness (Genesis 1:26).

The living creatures generally, which were formed to dwell upon the face of the earth, are represented as coming forth from the earth when impregnated with the creative power of God’s Spirit, and assuming as they rose into being their severally distinctive forms. But in the case of man it is not the spirit-impregnated earth that brings forth; it is God himself who takes of the earth, and by a separate individualizing act, fashions his frame, and breathes into it directly from himself the breath of life;—a distinct personality, and in the attributes of that personality, a closer relationship to God, a form of being that might fitly be designated “God’s offspring” (Acts 17:28).

The hortative “Let us make,” is particularly striking because it is plural. Though almost all commentators of our day reject the view that this is to be explained in connection with the truth of the Holy Trinity and treat this so-called trinitarian view as a very negligible quantity, yet, rightly considered, this is the only view that can satisfy.… Those that hold that a reference to the Trinity is involved do not mean to say that the truth of the Holy Trinity is here fully and plainly revealed. But they do hold that God speaks out of the fullness of his powers and his attributes in a fashion which man could never employ. Behind such speaking lies the truth of the Holy Trinity which, as it grows increasingly clear in revelation, is in the light of later clear revelation discovered as contained in this plural in a kind of obscure adumbration. The truth of the Trinity gives explanation to this passage.


The Christian doctrine of God as personal, ethical, and self-revealing, carries with it a second postulate as to the nature of man. The Christian doctrine of God and the Christian doctrine of man are in fact correlatives. For how should man know that there is a personal, ethical, self-revealing God—how should he be able to frame the conception of such a Being, or to attach any meaning to the terms employed to express His existence—unless he were himself rational and moral—a spiritual personality? The two views imply each other, and stand or fall together. We may express this second postulate of the Christian view in the words, Man made in the image of God.


According to the Reformed theologians and the majority of the theologians of other divisions of the Church, man’s likeness to God included the following points: his intellectual and moral nature. God is a Spirit, the human soul is a spirit. The essential attributes of a spirit are reason, conscience, and will. A spirit is a rational, moral, and therefore also, a free agent. In making man after his own image, therefore, God endowed him with those attributes which belong to his own nature as a spirit. Man is thereby distinguished from all other inhabitants of this world, and raised immeasurably above them.

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We have to consider how we ought to glorify God in all our life, and hereby see also to what end we are created and why we live. Therefore if we wish to maintain our life before God we must always aim at this mark: that He be blessed and glorified by us and that we have such a burning zeal and affection to serve His glory as to assure ourselves that it is an intolerable and even a most horrible thing in all respects that his name should be blasphemed and as it were cursed through us, that is to say, that we should cause his glory to be as it were defaced, especially since he has put his image in us to this end that it should shine forth in us.



Man is a creature who, right from the beginning, was created after God’s image and likeness, and this Divine origin and Divine kinship he can never erase or destroy. Even though he has, because of sin, lost the glorious attributes of knowledge, righteousness, and holiness which lay contained in that image of God, nevertheless there are still present in him “small remains” of the endowments granted him at creation; and these are enough not merely to constitute him guilty but also to testify of his former grandeur and to remind him continually of his Divine calling and heavenly destiny.


The words of Moses are illustrated by those of an Apostle, who, addressing Christians on the subject of their restoration to the state from which Adam fell, says, “Ye have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him” (Col. 3:10); and again, “Put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph. 4:28). From these passages we learn, that the image of God, in which Adam was created, consisted, not merely in intellectual endowments, but also in holy dispositions. As a mirror reflects the brightness of the sun, so did his soul exhibit a counterpart of the moral attributes of God, according to its limited capacity. He who made all other creatures perfect in their kind, did not withhold from man what constitutes the chief excellence, the noblest ornament of his nature. It was as impossible that he should have come from the hands of his Maker with a mind laboring under ignorance, or a heart tainted with impurity, as that darkness should proceed from light, or evil from good.

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The possibility of redemption after man had sinned is as great a mark as any of the image of God impressed upon him. When man has fallen he is not left to himself, as one whose fall is a trifling matter in the great economy of God’s creation. It was because His own image had been impressed on man that God undertook to redeem him; it was because that image, though defaced, had not been wholly destroyed, that such redemption was possible.


God’s image upon man consists in knowledge, righteousness and true holiness. He had an habitual conformity of all his natural powers to the whole will of God. His understanding saw divine things clearly and truly, and there were no errors or mistakes in his knowledge: his will complied readily and universally with the will of God, without reluctancy or resistance: his affections were all regular, and he had no inordinate appetites or passions: his thoughts were easily brought and fixed to the best subjects, and there was no vanity or ungovernableness in them.… How is this image of God upon man defaced!… The Lord renew it upon our souls by his sanctifying grace!


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