UNKNOWN MASTER, Netherlandish 
Paradise with the Creation of Adam and the Fall of Man 


4. The Creation of Man 

“Thou hast made him little less than the angels, and dost crown him with glory and honor. Thou hast given him dominion over the works of thy hands” (Ps. 8:5-6). So David sang in memory of the creation of man. And it is true: man, united to a body, is inferior to these pure spirits, but only a little beneath, for, like them, he has life and intelligence and love, and he is made happy by what makes them happy. God is the common happiness of each; and, in this regard equal to the angels, their brothers and not their subjects, we are only a little less than they.

You have crowned him with honor and glory, according to his soul and according to his body. You have given him justice, the original righteousness, immortality, and dominion over all bodily creatures. The angels, lacking bodies, have no need for these creatures, which confer no good upon them. Yet God has placed man in this sensible and corporeal world to contemplate it and to enjoy it. To contemplate it, according to the words of David, “I look at thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast established” (Ps. 8:3), amid the immense night sky that envelops them in their courses and is ruled by a law of inviolable stability. Man should also enjoy the world, according to the usages that God has prescribed for it: of the sun, the moon, and the stars, “for signs and for seasons and for days and years” (Gen. 1:14). All the rest of corporeal nature is submitted to his empire. He cultivates the earth and makes it fertile. He makes the seas serve his purposes and commerce. All the animals recognize his rule, either because they fear him or because he employs them to his various ends. But sin has weakened this empire and has left us only a miserable remnant of it.

As everything was to have been put into the power of man, God created man after all the rest, introducing him into the universe as one introduces into a room the one in whose honor the party is being held, after everything is ready and when the dinner is served. Man is the perfect complement to the other works of God, and after having made him as his masterpiece, God rested.

“Let us make man in our image and likeness” (cf. Gen. 1:26). At these words, the image of the Trinity begins to appear. It shines magnificently in the rational creature. Like the Father, man has being; like the Son, he has intelligence; like the Holy Spirit, he has love. Like the Blessed Trinity, he has in his being and his intelligence and his love, one same happiness and life. There is no way to take one from him without taking them all. Happy creature, and perfectly similar to God, if he would concern himself only with God. Then, perfect in his being, intelligence, and love, he would understand all that he is and love all that he understood. His being and its operations would be inseparable; God would become the perfection of his being, the immortal food of his intelligence, life, and love. Like God, he would say but one single word, which would comprehend all his wisdom; like God, he would produce one sole love, which would embrace all his good, and all of this would be undying in him. Grace comes in above this foundation and lifts up nature. Glory is shown to him and adds to his complement of grace. Happy creature once again, if only he knew how to preserve this happiness! But man has lost it. O man, where did your intelligence go astray? To what objects has your love descended? Alas! Return to your source.

Archbishop Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet


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