MAN was created in the image of God, a self-conscious, free, responsible, religious agent. Such identity implies an inherent, native, inalienable obligation to love and serve God with all the heart, soul, strength, and mind. This God could not but demand and man could not but owe. No created rational being can ever be relieved of this obligation. All that man is and does has reference to the will of God.
But man was also created good, good in respect of that which he specifically is. He was made upright and holy and therefore constituted for the demand, endowed with the character enabling him to fulfill all the demands devolving upon him by reason of God’s propriety in him and sovereignty over him.
As long as man fulfilled these demands his integrity would have been maintained. He would have continued righteous and holy. In this righteousness he would be justified, that is, approved and accepted by God, and he would have life. Righteousness, justification, life is an invariable combination in the government and judgment of God. There would be a relation that we may call perfect legal reciprocity. As this would be the minimum, so it would be the maximum in terms of the relation constituted by creation in the image of God.
This relation falls short in two respects of what may readily be conceived of as higher. (1) It is a contingent situation, one of righteousness but mutably so, and likewise of justification and life. There is always the possibility of lapse on man’s part and, with the lapse, loss of integrity, justification, life, the exchange of these for unrighteousness, condemnation, death. (2) There is the absence of full-orbed communion with God in the assurance of permanent possession and increasing knowledge.