For the earnest expectation of the creature waits for the manifestation of the sons of God.…
It seems to me that many reasons justify us in regarding our time upon this earth as a season full of prophesyings of better things to come. First: Our own being is prophetic. We are organised for something more and better than as yet appears. We are inspired with the thought of the unseen and eternal. Each man of us has a prophecy of future rewards and punishments written in his own conscience. And does not human love have always hidden it in heart a prophetic hope of the future and its completions? Listen to your own soul. Make silence within, and listen to your own better self. You are that prophet whom you seek. You are chosen from your birth and called of God to be a witness to the higher order of spirit, and to live as an heir of the kingdom of God. Secondly, our human relations are prophetic. Accept your family relations and your human friendships as gifts of God — nay, as revelations to you of what God in His Fatherhood, and the Son of God in His brotherhood is — and then all these human relations through which God Himself comes near to bless you, will grow doubly sacred to you. There is a presence of God also in them. They are of holy worth. Any sin against them, any violation of these sacred human relations, touches something Divine. Observe further in this connection how broken, partial, and tragic, often, these human relations and friendships seem in this world to be. They all of them suggest something which should be complete, holy, perfect; and then they break off, and in the poor actuality of the present remain but suggestions of what should be. There is evidently eternal worth in such relations of life, but just as we begin to find it, we lose it. Those who made each other's lives so complete are no longer dwellers in the same world together. Love here has too often only the beginning of its good — the precious, yet too quickly broken fragment of its own blessing. Put then together in your thoughts these two facts — the self-evident worth of these human relations and friendships, and their present incompleteness — and do you not see how through their partial good the prophecy of the Lord of life begins to come into our lives? The earthly fragment which love has received was given as a promise of the Lord; it was never meant as a completed thing. The present, broken good is a Divine suggestion to us of the perfect life in which all that is now fragmentary shall be made complete. I have not yet in these statements led you to lay hold, as one may, of the strong principle of reason underlying this prophetic interpretation of our present human relations. These statements rest upon the prophetic principle which we find in nature pervading all growth, and pointing ever on from partial good, and lower types, towards the better things to come. The only difference is that when the geologist or the biologist reads the record of progress and ascent of life upon this earth, he can now read the Scripture of nature backwards, and having before him in man's present form and brain a fulfilled prophecy of nature, he can easily interpret, reading backwards, the lower prophetic forms and types. What from the beginning upwards was one constant prophecy of man's coming is now our history. But the Christian, when he now looks forward and thinks of the coming of the second man, even the Lord from heaven, has still to read the present prophetic signs and tendencies of things forwards by faith. Nevertheless, we proceed upon the same principle of reason whether we read the creation backward or forward; that which is good, but which is in part, is always a sign and herald of that which is perfect, which is to come. All partial good is prophetic. That is a first principle of nature. This is also a great principle of faith. It is a profound principle, reaching, I must believe, to the bottom of all natural evolution, and yet simple as the hope which will not die in the heart of human sorrow. It is a principle of life so true, and so strong to bear our faith, that you will allow me once more to endeavour to render this present deeply prophetic significance of human nature intelligible. There is a third prophetic element in this present life to which I should now allude. We have thus far considered the fact that man himself in his own being is essentially a prophet of the Lord upon this earth, and also the truth that our human relations in their eternal worth, but present incompleteness, all bear witness of something diviner to come in which they shall be made perfect. A further prophetic aspect of our life here we may find in the present relation of our spirits to outward things. Our present embodiment in nature is a good, but it is not a complete and permanent good. It is the best thing on this earth; there is nothing among all material things more wonderful than the brain of man. The stars in their courses, the infinite network of attractions which constitute the order of the heavens, excite our wonder and awe; but are they so marvellous manifestations of creative wisdom and power as the living centres and constellations of nerve-cells, and the balanced forces and ethereal fineness and complexity of the processes which the spirit that is in man finds given him in the organism and harmonies of his brain, for the purposes of recording and comparing his thoughts, and executing his free volitions? Man himself in his present embodiment is the consummation of nature, and the last wonder of the creation. But, nevertheless, this body is not enough for the spirit of man. Our present embodiment, in other words, is prophetic — wonderfully and profoundly prophetic of what shall be. Yes, in these bodies so wonderfully made, yet so incomplete, we have nature's prophecy of the resurrection, and the earthly preparation for the perfect, spiritual body which shall be. In these mortal bodies, in which we begin to live and to be formed for immortality, the earnest expectation of the creation waiteth for the revealing of the sons of God. I hold that the earnest expectation of the whole creation from the first organic cell up to the brain of man waits for the revealing of the sons of God; I would claim that the Christian doctrine of the resurrection and the consummation of nature, as laid down in St. Paul's chapter of inspired interpretation of God's thought, is in accordance with the present prophetic nature of things, and that we can and should believe in the Word of God, which confirms the whole up-look and on-look of the creation; and we may wait, therefore, in the patience of hope for the glory which the heart of man indeed cannot conceive, but which shall be known in us who are risen in Christ, when that which is perfect shall come.
(N. Smyth, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.