What Is A Man?


We are surrounded by mysteries, and not the least of these is the mystery of our own being. "Whence did I come?" "Where am I going?" and - greatest mystery of all - "What am I?" are questions that have arisen again and again in the minds of many persons. If we try to solve the question, What am I? by our own understanding and reason, it remains but a question. There are within us the stirrings of strange emotions, a reaching out after things not seen, unutterable things that we cannot interpret. Is man only a material being? Is he a beast of the field? Was he created only to eat and drink and to enjoy material things? or is he something more and something higher, with relationships more profound and far-reaching than those of the mere material? The Psalmist viewed this question and exclaimed: "What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honor. Thou maddest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet" (Psalms 8:4-6). To him, man was something more than an animal; he stood only a little lower than that celestial host that surrounds God's throne. And man is something more, something higher, indeed, than those creatures which are his servants in this time world. When the Psalmist speaks of their death, he says, "Thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust" (Ps alms 124:29). Of man it is said, "If he set his heart upon man, if he gather unto himself his spirit and his breath, ... man shall turn again unto dust" (Job 34:14, 15). Man is a trinity, possessing the spiritual, the mental, and the physical. He has a body like the animal, in its functions and desires. He has reason and intelligence, and, above and beyond all these, he has a moral nature. This he alone of all the inhabitants of earth possesses. And it is with this moral nature that ma n is most concerned. His life in this world is of few days and full of trouble, and all the races of man look forward confidently to another and higher and better life when this life has come to an end.

Animals are creatures of instinct. They have implanted in them certain primary elements of knowledge or consciousness that guide them where their intelligence does not reach. And man also has instincts, higher than those of the beast, but no less significant. He feels intuitively that there is a power above him which is greater than his own power. It takes no argument to convince him of this, unless he has destroyed this primary intuition through the subtleties of his reasoning. He is also conscious that he is responsible to this higher power; that in some way he has some relation with that power that gives moral value to his actions; and that these actions are worthy of the praise of this higher power or else merit retribution as being evil. He instinctively places a moral value upon his conduct, and feels that somehow, somewhere he must give an account. He feels within him the stirrings of a life that is not merely animal life. He feels capabilities and powers which are undeveloped here and now, and to which he finds himself incapable of giving more than partial expression; and this consciousness speaks to him of a future life full of greatest possibilities.

All these instincts have a substantial basis of reality. The squirrel that has never seen a winter is led by instinct to hoard a store of nuts for the days to come. The bird that knows nothing of climate save the summer, wings its way in the autumn to a more genial climate, led by unerring instinct. The bird which has been reared in captivity in an artificial nest, if given its liberty will build a nest like those of its kind, though it has never been taught. These instincts do not mislead the unreasoning creatures. They are safe guides. Man's instinct is no less true, and if followed will guide him in the fundamentals of his life as it guides the lower creatures. Only man disregards these instincts. He deifies his reason, and it leads him in devious paths. He sets it up as the guide of his life and bows down and worships it, but alas! how often it causes him to disregard that which the truest wisdom would lead him to value most highly! How many people live as though they were only animals! "Eat. drink, and be merry," say they. They neglect that higher and better self. They silence the voice of conscience. They shut their ears to God. They close their eyes to their own knowledge. They live as though they w ere no better than the brute. They are concerned only with this world. They may recognize that there is a life beyond, but how little do they consider it!

Reader, you are more than a horse. There is in you that which is higher and better and nobler; and there is something better for you than to give your attention, your time, and your powers for this world alone. As you consider yourself higher than the beast, so should your life be higher than his. I beg of you, consider. How much higher is it? Are you living for eternity, or does your life-plan reach only to the satisfying of your own temporary and temporal desires?