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spake of the natural world ; neither can we enter so fully into the subject as to remark upon the many proofs of this doctrine that are interspersed in the New Testament. We shall here fix our attention chiefly upon one passage, Romans viii. 19–22: "For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope : because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now."
The modern millenists, or anti-millenarians, accuse St. Paul of speaking, in this passage, in an unknown tongue, contrary to his own rule, to speak to the understanding that the church may be edified: but they need not doubt what language he spoke; for it is most clearly old millenarian. To these people, the millenarians, the passage is not unintelligible; they can read and understand it without an interpreter; for it is their plain mother tongue. But, for the sake of others, we will bring forward one or two interpreters.
Mr. Henry notes, “That must needs be a great, transcendent glory, that all the creatures are so earnestly expecting and longing for.
* By the creature here we understand, not, as some do, the Gentile world, and their expectation of Christ and the gospel, which is an exposition very foreign and forced ; but the whole frame of nature, especially that of this lower world; the whole creation, the compages of inanimate and sensible creatures; which, because of their harmony and mutual dependence, and because they all constitute and make up one world, are spoken of in the singular number, as the creature. The sense of the apostle, in these four verses, we may take in these observations :
“ (1.) That there is a present vanity, which the creature, by reason of the sin of man, is made subject to, verse 20. When man sinned, the ground was cursed for man's sake, and with it all the creatures (especially of this lower world, where our acquaintance lies) became subject to that curse; became mutable and mortal. Under the bondage of corruption, verse 21. There is an impurity, deformity, and infirmity, which the creature has contracted by the fall of man: the creation is sullied and stained; much of the beauty of the world gone. There is an enmity of one creature to another; they are al! subject to continual alteration and decay of the individuals, liable to the strokes of God's judgments upon man.
When the world was drowned, and almost all the creatures in it, surely then it was subject to vanity indeed. The whole species of creatures is designed for, and is hastening to, a total dissolution by fire. And it is not the least part of their vanity and bondage, that they are used, or abused rather, by men as instruments of sin. The creatures are often abused, to the dishonor of their Creator, the hurt of his chil. dren, or the service of his enemies. When the creatures are made the food of our lusts, they are subject to vanity, they are captivated by the law of sin.
"And this not willingly, not of their own
choice; all the creatures desire their own perfection and consummation. When they are made instruments of sin, it is not willingly. Or, they are thus captivated, not for any sin of their own, which they had committed, but for man's sin, by reason of him who hath subjected the
Adam did it meritoriously; the creatures being delivered to him, when he by sin delivered himself, he delivered them likewise into the bondage of corruption. God did it judicially; he passed a sentence upon the creatures for the sin of man, by which they became subject. And this yoke (poor creatures) they bear in hope that it will not be so always. We have reason to pity the poor creatures that for our sin are become subject to vanity.
(2.) That the creatures groan and travail in pain together under this vanity and corruption, verse 22. It is a figurative expression. Sin is a burden to the whole creation; the sin of the Jews, in crucifying Christ, set the earth a quaking under them. The idols were a burden to the weary beast, Isa. xlvi. l.
There is a general outcry of the whole creation against the sin of man; the stone crieth out of the wall, Hab. ii. 11; the land cries, Job xxxi. 38.
(3.) That the creature, that is now thus burdened, shall, at the time of the restitution of all things, be delivered from this bondage, into the glorious liberty of the children of God, verse 21; i. e., they shall no more be subject to vanity and corruption, and the other fruits of the curse; but, on the contrary, this lower world shall be renewed; when there will be new heaven's, there will be a new earth, 2 Pet. iii. 13, Rev. xxi. 1; and
there shall be a glory conferred upon all the creatures, which shall be in the porportion of their natures) as suitable, and as great an advancement, as the glory of the children of God shall be to them. The fire at the last day shall be a refining, not a destroying, annihilating fire. Compare with this Psalm xcvi. 10-13, xcviii. 7-9. Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad ; let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof. Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein: then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice. Let the foods clap their hands ; let the hills be joyful together, before the Lord; for he cometh, for he cometh to judge the world.
“ (4.) That the creature doth therefore earnestly expect and wait for the manifestation of the children of God, verse 19. At the second coming of Christ there will be a manifestation of the children of God. Now the saints are God's hidden ones, the wheat seems lost in a heap of chaff; but then they shall be manifested. It doth not yet appear what we shall be, 1 John iji. 2; but then the glory shall be revealed. The children of God shall appear in their own colors. And this redemption of the creature is reserved till then; for as it was with man and for man that they fell under the curse, so with man and for man they shall be delivered. All the curse and filth, that now adheres to the creature, shall be done away then, when those that have suffered with Christ upon earth shall reign with him upon earth. This the whole creation looks and longs for; and it may serve as a reason why now a good man should be merciful to his beast.”
And upon the 23d verse. “And not only they,
but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the re.demption of our body.” Mr. Henry notes, “ Not only they; not only the creatures, who are not capable of such a happiness as the first fruits of the Spirit; but even we, that have such present rich receivings, yet cannot but long for something more and greater. In having the first fruits of the Spirit, we have that which is very precious; but we have not all we would have.
“ We groan within ourselves ; which notes the strength and secrecy of these desires : not making a loud noise, as the hypocrites howling upon the bed for corn and wine, but with silent groans, which pierce heaven soonest of all. Or, we groan among ourselves. It is the unanimous vote, the joint desire of the whole church ; all agree in this, Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly. The groaning notes a very earnest and importunate desire, the soul pained with the delay. Present receivings and comforts are consistent with a great many groans; not as the pangs of one dying, but as the throes of a woman in travail; groans that are symptoms of life, not of death."
Mr. Poole, upon this 20th verse, has this note : “God for the sin of man hath cursed the creature, (i. e. the world,) and subjected it to vanity and corruption. See Gen. iii. 17, and iv. 12; Lev. xxvi. 19, 20. And though he hath done this, yet there is ground to expect and hope that the creature shall return again to its former estate wherein it was created; that it shall be delivered and restored into a better condition, as in the next