What is man,
That thou art mindful of Him?

Sacramental Meditation V

By John Willison, Practical Works (London: Blackie & Son, 1844), 248-9

“What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him” (Ps 8:4)
When David beheld the heaven, with its glorious luminaries, the sun, moon, and stars, and the mighty works of God in the creation, and considered what a mean figure man made amongst them; he admired God’s condescension and goodness in his concern and pains about him, in his works of providence and redemption. Lord, what is man, fallen man, that thou shouldst notice him so much? A poor, vile, sinful worm! And yet how singularly minded and honoured is he, in God the Son’s undertaking to be his cautioner and ransom? Had he done it for angels, it had not been so marvellous; but what is man, that God should visit him in this manner? Should pay him a homely visit in human nature, to see what ailed him, to hear his complaints, and know feelingly his wants and miseries, that he might the better sympathise with him, relieve and supply him?

But, who is this that comes to pay this visit to man? Even he, that is King of kings, and Lord of lords, who is infinite in majesty and power, in riches and glory. How awful are the descriptions given us of him in the Bible! “Great is our Lord, and of great power, his understanding is infinite. He calls the stars by their names. Whatsoever he pleaseth, that doth he in heaven and in earth, in the sea and all deep places.” And it is said of his coming to judgment, Daniel 7:10, “A fiery stream issued forth from before him, thousand thousands ministered unto him and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.” And yet this almighty person, the Great God, condescends to clothe himself with our nature, and stoops to the very ground, in the most lowly manner, to pay a kind visit to his rebellious creature, man, even man that is a worm; and when he gets not access to him at first, he continues to stand and knock at his door; oh how marvellous is this, that he, who is omnipotent, that could, by a word, have annihilated fallen man, and created a more amiable creature in all respects in his room, should stoop so low to him! that he who is omniscient, and perfectly knew man’s unworthiness, his enmity, his ingratitude, and what unkind returns he would make for the greatest kindness, should court him so earnestly that the Judge of heaven should come down from the bench, and put on the pannel’s clothes, that he might answer and satisfy the law for him! That the great General of the armies of heaven should put himself in the room of a poor condemned deserter, to suffer for him! That the Creator should stoop to die for the creature, even the great God for a worm, is love that swallows up our thoughts and language! What can we think, what can we say of it! It is love that passeth knowledge! The most penetrating angel cannot fathom its height, its depth, its breadth, or its length! Why? For its height, it is infinitely higher than the highest heavens. For its depth, none can see its bottom, for it made him stoop as low as hell. For its breadth, it is as broad as the whole earth, and the whole heavens too; it comprehends all his people, even the poorest outcasts on earth, as well as the highest saint in heaven. For its length, it never ends, but continues without interruption, notwithstanding of provocations; nay, it is drawn out parallel with the line of eternity.


Lord, what is man that thou shouldst have minded him, visited him, and loved him so! A creature most unlovely, that had got the image of God razed out, and the image of Satan pictured in its room. A creature lame and impotent, that could not rise but as Christ lifted him, could not stand but as he upheld him, could not walk but as he led him, nor move but as he drew him. A rebel that was in league with hell, that hated his Sovereign, and was plotting with the devil to pull the crown off his head. A creature made loathsome by sin in God’s sight: yea, more loathsome than a new-born infant wallowing in its blood, than Job when full of boils, than Lazarus full of sores, or a dead carcass crawling with worms. A creature that was undesirous of God’s visit or help, and unwilling to accept of it; that said to him, “Depart from us, we desire not the knowledge of thy ways.” A creature that contemned his love, rejected his offers, and trampled his blood. Who would have pitied such a creature? One so poor, so vile, so miserable! It had been much to have given him an alms; but for the Son of God to give his life for him, may strike men and angels with astonishing surprise forever. “Lord, what is man!” a poor, feeble, crawling worm, “that thou shouldst be mindful of him “after this manner? And, what are we, that we should still have the offers of this love continued to us? Oh, shall we ever make light of this love any more? “I believe, Lord, help my unbelief.”

There is a parallel text, Psalm 144: 3, “Lord, what is man that thou takest knowledge of him? or the son of man, that thou makest account of him? “What a little thing is man, that thou shouldst make so great account of him, put such respect upon him above all other creatures, so as to condescend to stand in a nearer relation to him, than to any other, as that of a father, a brother, a husband, a friend, etc., yea more, thou hast dignified this poor thing, so much as to assume his nature into an ineffable personal union with the second person of the ever glorious Trinity, whereby the nature of man is exalted above all the angels of heaven. It is not the angelical, but the human nature which God hath chosen to tabernacle in; and now it is honoured so far as to be set on the right hand of the Majesty on high. The great account God hath of this little thing, man, appears further in the great cost he hath laid out for him. Why? God not only gives his creatures to die for man, to yield him food, but he also gives Christ to die for him, to procure him eternal life. Again, how great is the goodness which God hath laid up for him hereafter! Eye hath not seen it, ear hath not heard it, nor hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive how great it is! Oh what a favourite of heaven must this little creature, man, be!

Lord, who can but wonder at the honour thou hast already put upon man, and at the favours thou still designest for him! Great things hast thou laid out, and great things

hast thou laid up for man. I admire thy low stoop in the visit thou madest man, in the incarnation of thy dear Son, and in thy visit in the gospel proclamation, and offer of pardon through him! But let me still plead for another visit in the effusion of thy Holy Spirit. This other visit thou knowest is necessary to make the former effectual to my salvation. May then thy Holy Spirit work faith in me, to fall in with thy glorious device for the redemption of man in all points, to accept of thy love offers, and rest upon thy free promises of salvation through Jesus Christ, and his most perfect righteousness. Amen.

—JJ Lim