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up too much time, or it encourages in us a spirit of sloth, or pride, or carelessness. If it does none of these, and if it be pursued with thankfulness, as the gift of God, then the thought of death need not disturb or sadden it; we may go to it without scruple from our most solemn thoughts and prayers; and we may be called from it without fear, if such be the will of God, to the pangs of the most sudden death.
ROMANS viii. 22, 23.
We know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth
in pain together until now; and not only they, but ourselves also who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption; to wit, the redemption of our body.
If what are considered the difficult parts of Scripture could neither be understood with any certainty after all the pains that we had taken with them, nor were capable of affording any practical good if we did understand them, then indeed it would be very improper to choose such places as the subject of what we have to say in the pulpit. But if they are of such a kind, as to be difficult only to those who have never studied them ; if they require no books or learning to understand them, but merely the plain sense of a thoughtful Christian seeking with prayers for the aid of the Holy Spirit to understand what is the mind of the Spirit declared in the Scriptures; and if they are very capable of making us know our own condition more justly, and teaching us to compare our feelings and conduct with what they ought to be; then I think that they may be very fitly taken as our subjects from this place; and that if any one of our hearers is brought by what we say to a more profitable understanding of any part of God's word, we need not consider our choice a foolish one.
The words of the text are taken out of the epistle to the Romans; a part of the Scripture, of which it would be vain to deny the difficulty altogether, although I cannot but think that it has been often unjustly magnified : and certainly if it were much greater than it is, yet the surpassing excellence of this epistle well deserves that we should take the greatest possible pains to understand it.
In the eighth chapter, the Apostle dwells at some length on the conditions in which Christians are placed. Amongst other things he says, that what has happened to their Lord, is an exact counterpart of what is to happen to them. Christ has gone through a term of humiliation and sufferings, during which he was supported by the hope of eternal glory. He died, and after that he entered into his glory. Such is the case with his disciples; they are to have their term of hope and of suffering, before they enter into their rest. Their state is in a manner midway between the ignorance and low principles of other men, and the perfect happiness and glory which they may expect hereafter. They are not taken out of the world, nor delivered from all its evils, although they are enabled to bear them better than others. The world is a scene of confessed imperfection, or in St. Paul's own words, the earnest expectation of the creature, or of all created things, waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God: that is, for the time when good men shall be openly owned by God as his children, and shall be taken to live with their Father for ever. Meanwhile, till that time arrives, the creature, or the creation, has been made subject to vanity : it has been put under the bondage of corruption, with only the hope of a future deliverance. The Apostle means that we all, even the best among us, feel from our very infancy, that we are not what we ought to be; that we cannot be good without a painful struggle; that a thousand slothful and selfish feelings stand in the way of our cheerful obedience to the will of our heavenly Father. When I say that we all feel this, I need hardly observe, that I speak only of those who think at all about themselves. Some I fear, there are, who are so utterly lost in their degraded state, that they are quite insensible to it, and who have no more care about their souls, and scarcely any higher principles of conduct, than the beasts which perish. But it is surely true of all who think or feel at all, that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now; and it is most certainly true of Christians who deserve the name, that although they have received the first fruits of the Spirit, they groan within themselves, waiting for the adoption; that is, for the time when God will openly adopt and own them for his sons, and when he will give them incorruptible bodies, fit to partake of his own immortality. For, says the Apostle, we are saved in hope ; I speak often of a man being saved by becoming a Christian ; but I mean that he is saved not actually and in enjoyment, but in hope ; the very expression then shows that we have not reached our salvation ; for what a man seeth, why does he yet hope for ? During the state of hope, and of unsatisfied longings for something more perfect than what we see or know, Christ's promise is fulfilled, and the Comforter is continually with