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order to the subjugation of the flesh, and his transformation into the image of Christ, "are not worthy to be compared" - are, comparatively speaking, so small that they do not deserve to be taken into the account, when we are anticipating in hope the promised scenes of future bliss. No language, indeed, can more forcibly convey this notion, than that used by the apostle to the Corinthians on the same subject: "For our light affliction, that is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory."
19. "For the earnest expectation of the creature" — or, rather, "of the creation, waiteth for" or, "is directed to THE MANIFESTATION OF THE SONS OF GOD."
The apostle sees universal nature, fixed, as it were, in anxious suspense, and looking in expectation of some great event, which is none other than THE MANIFESTATION OF THE SONS OF GOD; the full exhibition and public acknowledgment of the heirs of promise, " in the glory that is to be brought to us at the coming of Christ," when " they that are the desire of all nations," "shall come;" and their dominion be established in righteousness under the whole heavens.
Now the "creation," it appears, as well as the believer, is much interested in this event; and every thing bespeaks its greatness, and its importance, and the superior blessedness of those whom God shall so delight to honour. By creation, St. Paul means the whole fabric of nature, as formed by the great Creator in subserviency to man, all of which has been much affected by his apostasy from God, and awaits a glorious restoration, when the work of the Redeemer shall be finished.
20. "For the creature was made subject to vanity, not
willingly, but by reason of Him that subjected the same in hope. Or, perhaps, "For the creation, (not willingly, but through Him who subjected it) was subjected in hope. Because the creature shall itself be delivered" — or, seeing the creation itself will be emancipated from the bondage" — or, slavery of corruption, into the glorious liberty of the children of God."
The fabric of nature, so much of it at least as is connected with man, and was formed for his habitation and service, is now subjected to vanity. It does not now answer the end and design for which it was created; not agreeably, at least, to the excellency of the plan devised in the mind of the Creator. In numberless instances, its noblest productions and greatest blessings are lost, or perverted to evil instead of good.' The whole scene around him has been affected by the fall of man. His aberration from his proper orbit has disordered the course of nature; and all inferior beings have, in a manner, been dragged after him into the same abyss of corruption. "Not willingly." The apostle personifies creation, and represents it as neither by its own will becoming subject to vanity, nor willingly enduring the bondage. When the Almighty considered the works of his hands, he pronounced every thing that he had made to be "very good." It is from no failure or imperfections of the creature, that what we now see has taken place; the subjugation of the creation to vanity, and the bondage of corruption. It was not its own act; but came to pass through its connexion with man. He has subjected it, or the great Creator on his account.
The sentence of God was, "Cursed is the ground
for thy sake; thorns also, and thistles, shall it bring forth to thee." This is not to be regarded as a particular instance, but as a general intimation of the subjugation of the powers of nature to vanity. By "thorns and thistles," we may understand noxious weeds in general; in the production of which, the same powers of nature are employed, as in the most valuable productions; yet they are useless, and do but mock the cultivator's toil. In the animal world, also, we see many instances of the same subjection of the creature to vanity. Here, how often does nature bring forth for nought! Birds, beasts, and fishes, let loose upon each other, full of evil dispositions, exhibit, as it were, in the oppressor and the oppressed, an exact counterpart to the wretchedness of man.
Consider, in this view, the disorder in the elements, experienced, more or less, in every climate. What ruin and devastation! What a continual frustration of purposes, and revocations of apparently destined blessings! How short, in a general point of view, of what the powers of nature could, and in some instances do, accomplish!
A promise, indeed, has been interposed in mercy; "that summer and winter, seed-time and harvest, shall not fail;" and man may therefore toil in hope of the reward of his labours. But the very circumstance of a promise having been given, implies, that such had been the disorder introduced such the perversion which the powers of nature and of all second causes had suffered; that but for His staying hand, who, in a similar manner, to prevent the entire destruction of the human race, put a check upon their evil propensities, the regular revolutions of the seasons, upon
which the subsistence of man and beast depends, were in danger of being interrupted, and might have failed in their expected returns.
Look again at the actual state of the surface of this globe, as subjected to the dominion of man. He was bid to subdue and replenish it: but see to this present hour its fairest parts lying desolate - the most valuable productions useless and waste; the "rain falling upon the land which no man inhabiteth;" extensive continents" the habitation of dragons-the joy of wild asses." See, too, whole races of men pining in want and in squalid misery, appearing scarcely human; where, had but the gifts of nature been applied to their destined end, they might have enjoyed themselves as in a paradise. Think, moreover, of the human intellect uncultivated-man, created in the image of God, become an ignorant hind'-a prowling savage, in the wilds of America and Africa a ferocious cannibal in the islands of the southern ocean.
What is worse, see the good things of nature, where they are enjoyed in the greatest perfection, and where the intellect of man is most cultivated; used to the dishonour of God, and become a snare, and an occasion of misery to man! See the fine powers of reason and imagination employed to counteract the mercies of God, and to establish more firmly the empire of sin! Surely this is that part of the subjugation to vanity, of which the creation, if it had a voice, would most loudly complain, and from which it would ask most earnestly for deliverance.
The abuse, however, is permitted but for a season. The apostle, still personifying the creation, says it is subjected in hope." It has the expectation that it
shall not always remain in this debased state, but shall one day be delivered from this subjection to the vain purposes of its degenerate master. It cherishes the hope of better times, and of being used to more noble and more suitable purposes. And it is no less extraordinary than true, that in every age of the world it has been the constant belief and expectation of mankind, that nature is not now in that state of perfection in which it once was; but that that primeval state of things, that "golden age," will at some distant period be again restored.
In the narrative of the sacred page we perceive the grounds of this tradition. Prophecy announces that the common expectation of mankind will not be disappointed.
22. "For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now," or "travaileth in pain to this present [hour.]"
Employing still the metaphorical language which he had adopted, St. Paul represents creation distressed at its present slavery and abuse, and big with expectation of this great event, as groaning like a woman labouring with child. So that imagination may hear in the jarring elements, in the raging storm, in the bursting volcano, or in the more tremendous earthquake, the convulsive throes, as it were, of an agonizing mother. Thus the fabric of universal nature echoes in loud responses the daily prayer of the church, "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven."
23. "And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within our