Romans 8:19
The creation waits in eager expectation for the revelation of the sons of God.
The Christian, ApocalypseS.R. Aldridge Romans 8:19
The Revelation of SonsAlexander MaclarenRomans 8:19
The Privileges and Responsibilities of the Children of GodC.H. Irwin Romans 8:12-30
The Redemption of the CreationT.F. Lockyer Romans 8:18-25
Salvation in Spite of SufferingR.M. Edgar Romans 8:18-30
Creation GroansT. Boston, D.D.Romans 8:19-23
Creation's GroansRomans 8:19-23
Creation's Travail and DeliveryT. Boston, D.D.Romans 8:19-23
Creation's WaitingProf. F. G. Peabody.Romans 8:19-23
Divine SonshipD. Thomas, D.D.Romans 8:19-23
Glorious LibertyW. Jay.Romans 8:19-23
Groans of Unrenewed and Renewed NatureE. B. Pusey, D.D.Romans 8:19-23
Life a ProphecyN. Smyth, D. D.Romans 8:19-23
Man Made Subject to VanityC. Wills, M.A.Romans 8:19-23
Nature Perfected Through ManT. G. Selby.Romans 8:19-23
Our Present Attainment not the End of God's DesignC. H. Spurgeon.Romans 8:19-23
Spiritual LibertyJ. Parker, D.D.Romans 8:19-23
St. Paul's Account of the CreationR. W. Dale, D.D.Romans 8:19-23
Subjected -- in HopeDean Vaughan.Romans 8:19-23
The Bondage of CorruptionProf. Beet.Romans 8:19-23
The Chrysalis State of ManStopford A. Brooke.Romans 8:19-23
The Coming Deliverance of the CreatureThomas Horton, D.D.Romans 8:19-23
The Connection Between Man and NatureC. J. P. Eyre, M.A.Romans 8:19-23
The Creation Groans for DeliveranceJ. Garbett, M.A.Romans 8:19-23
The Creature Subjected to and Delivered from VanityPreb. Clark.Romans 8:19-23
The Expectancy of CreationA. K. H. Boyd, D.D.Romans 8:19-23
The Expectation of the CreatureProf. Godet.Romans 8:19-23
The Expectation of the CreatureT. Chalmers, D.D.Romans 8:19-23
The Final Deliverance of BelieversR. Watson.Romans 8:19-23
The Groaning CreationD. Thomas, D.D.Romans 8:19-23
The Hope of a Fallen WorldCanon Stowell.Romans 8:19-23
The Hopes and Aspirations of the New CreatureD. Katterns.Romans 8:19-23
The Longing of the Creature for PerfectionThomas HortonRomans 8:19-23
The Manifestation of the Sons of GodT. Manton, D.D.Romans 8:19-23
The Manifestation of True Men the Supreme Want of the WorldDavid Thomas, D.D.Romans 8:19-23
The Solidarity of Man and NatureProf. Godet.Romans 8:19-23
The Travail of the CreatureThomas Horton, D.D.Romans 8:19-23
The Universal TravailJ. Baldwin Brown, B.A.Romans 8:19-23
The Upbuilding of the RaceH. W. Beecher.Romans 8:19-23
The Vanity of the CreatureJ. Lyth, D.D.Romans 8:19-23
The Vanity of the CreatureThomas Horton, D.D.Romans 8:19-23
The Vanity of the Present State Consistent with God's PerfectionsH. Grove, M.A.Romans 8:19-23
The Whole Creation Groaneth Under the Burden of Our SinsT. Manton, D.D.Romans 8:19-23

The kingdom of God is a kingdom of progress; "forward" is its watchword. That outgoing of the character of God which constitutes his works and laws cannot be other than an advance. For God to retrograde is impossible. In Judaism at its brightest period, the eyes of the noblest men directed their vision to better days to come. The saints "died in faith," not having received the promises, but embracing them afar off. And today the Christian, much as he loves to read of the illustrious sacrifice of himself on earth of the Son of God, regarding the events of that earthly sojourn as the foundation of his hope and religion, yet sighs not for a return of past wonders, but believes in a more glorious unveiling of the plan of God. Times of apparent defeat and humiliation are but valleys to be traversed in ascending to the topmost mountain-peak.

I. THE GOAL OF EXPECTATION. "The revealing of the sons of God." The sons are at present in obscurity. The statue is partially hidden, its proportions are visible, but we shall hereafter discern its lustrous beauty and perfection, complete, unstained. Princes, heirs to the throne, may be for a season in poor habiliments and amid mean surroundings; but they are to be brought forth like Joash, to be crowned as kings and priests unto God. God has given us "the firstfruits of the Spirit." As when a friend despatches his carriage and servants and son to conduct us with all honour to his house, so God has sent his Spirit into the hearts of his children - the earnest of the joys of heaven. Sweet voices whisper a coming state of larger possibilities and nobler felicity. The dawn heralds a cloudless day. We "wait for the redemption of the body," the removal of every trace of sin, the deliverance from every yoke, the complete abolition of death. Here a mean presence may conceal a beautiful personality; there the body shall be the out-flashing glory of the perfected spirit, as at the Transfiguration the soul of Christ in its intensity tinged with splendour the very skirts of his garments.

II. THE WHOLE CREATION IS INTERESTED IN THIS UNVEILING. With uplifted and outstretched head does the "creature" wait to decry the long-desired event. Genesis tells us of the ground cursed for man's sake. Man was formed to rule over the world, but, unable to control himself, his dominion has been broken in upon by disorder. And the beasts have suffered through the degradation of man. If the master deteriorate, so will his household. The howling of the dog, the moaning of the lion, the writhing of the worm, the fluttering of the imprisoned bird, all confirm the assertion of "subjection to vanity unwillingly," The poor brutes at the mercy of rough men may well pant for the redemption of the sons of God. Had man continued upright and grown in true wisdom, doubtless the very character of nature had changed for the better. Then had the glowing language of Isaiah been descriptive of common occurrences: "The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and a little child shall lead them." All things in God's universe are linked together. Man was formed out of the dust of the ground, and we must despise nothing.

III. IT IS ALREADY OBSERVABLE THAT THE PREVALENCE OF CHRISTIANITY ALLEVIATES THE HARDEST LOT. Many are the philanthropic agencies which owe their origin to the diffusion of the Spirit of Christ. First deemed quixotic, sentimental, then plausible and possible, and further becoming actual, the contrary has at last come to be thought disgraceful and unnatural. More consideration is shown to the lower animals. Earth yields up her stores to investigation, rejoices in the augmenting power of man to use her forces and bring her marvels to light. That sympathy with nature which modern poetry exhibits was almost unknown to the ancients. We are learning the language of Creation, interpreting her smiles and tears. At the death of Christ, the association with nature's pangs was made visible by the rending of the rocks and the darkening of the sun.

IV. If this tendency to amelioration is even now patent, WHAT SHALL BE THE EFFECT OF THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF GOD'S PURPOSES! Then shall "earth be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God." Moses in his song called the "heavens to hear, and the earth to give ear." Our Saviour showed his command of the elements. Winds and waves, trees, sickness, and evil spirits obeyed his word. In the desert the wild beasts hurt him not. In anticipation of the day when men shall be like the Saviour, the psalmist called upon earth to "make a joyful noise before the Lord. Let the floods clap their hands, for he cometh to judge the earth." Isaiah predicted that in Israel's millennium "the mountains and hills shall break forth into singing." And in the Book of Revelation we hear the chorus of redeemed creation: "Every creature which is in heaven and in earth, and under the earth, heard I saying, Blessing... be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever." The cross of Christ is the great rectifier, reconciling all things unto God. If we cannot fathom the deep secrets of God, it is good, howler, for us to meditate on the hints of a widespread redemption. There is something in the prospect which dwarfs our selfish earthly plans, and ennobles all that is linked on to God and his kingdom. It makes the paros and strifes and aches of the world bearable, because "our redemption draweth nigh." Are we doing aught as the sons of God to quicken the approach of the apocalypse? May our awaking be not to shame and everlasting contempt, but to the glorious emancipation of redeemed humanity! - S.R.A.

For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.
The Greek for "expectation" is one of those admirable words which that language easily forms. It is composed of three elements: κάρα, the head; δοκέω δοκόω δοκέω to wait for, espy; and ἀπό, from, from afar; so "to wait with the head raised and the eye fixed on that point of the horizon from which the expected object is to come." What a plastic representation! An artist might make a statue of hope out of this term. The verb "longeth for" is not less remarkable; it is composed of the simple verb δέχομαι, to receive, and ἐκ, out of the hands of, απο, from, from afar; so "to receive something from the hands of One who extends it to you from afar." The substantive and the verb together vividly describe the attitude of the suffering creation, which in its entirety turns, as it were, an impatient look to the expected future.

(Prof. Godet.)

There is a sort of vague, undefinable impression, we think, upon all spirits, of some great evolution of the present system under which we live — some looking towards, as well as longing after immortality — some mysterious but yet powerful sense within every heart of the present as a state of confinement and thraldom; and that yet a day of light and largeness and liberty is coming. We cannot imagine of unbelievers that they have any very precise or perhaps confident anticipation on the subject any more than the world at large had of the advent of our Messiah — though a very general expectation was abroad of the approaching arrival of some great personage upon earth. And, in like manner, there is abroad even now the dim and the distant vision of another advent, of a brighter period that is now obscurely seen or guessed at through the gloom by which humanity is encompassed — a kind of floating anticipation, suggested perhaps by the experimental feeling that there is now the straitness of an oppressed and limited condition; and that we are still among the toils, and the difficulties, and the struggles of an embryo state of existence. It is altogether worthy of remark, and illustrative of our text, that, in like manner as through the various countries of the world, there is a very wide impression of a primeval condition of virtue and blessedness from which we have fallen, so there seems a very wide expectation of the species being at length restored to the same health and harmony and loveliness as before. The vision of a golden age at some remote period of antiquity is not unaccompanied with the vision of a yet splendid and general revival of all things. Even apart from revelation, there floats before the world's eye the brilliant perspective of this earth being at length covered with a righteous and regenerated family. This is a topic on which even philosophy has its fascinating dreams; and there are philanthropists in our day who disown Christianity, yet are urged forward to enterprise by the power and the pleasure of an anticipation so beautiful. They do not think of death. They only think of the moral and political glories of a renovated world, and of these glories as unfading. It is an immortality after all that they are picturing. While they look on that gospel which brought life and immortality to light as a fable, still they find that the whole capacity of their spirits is not filled unless they can regale them with the prospect of an immortality of their own. Nothing short of this will satisfy them; and whether you look to those who speculate on the perfectibility of mankind, or those who think in economic theories that they are laying the basis on which might be reared the permanent happiness of nations — you see but the creature spurning at the narrowness of its present condition, and waiting in earnest expectancy for the manifestation of the sons of God.

(T. Chalmers, D.D.)

First, the creature. This is to be taken not in a limited sense, as sometimes it is taken in other places, for the human reasonable creature — that is, for mankind (Mark 16:16) — but in an extended sense. For all these outward and visible things which are in the world besides ourselves — the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and all that is in them. The whole frame and body of the creation, as the original word carries it here in the text, the creation itself. And so the Syriac and Arabic interpreters translate it "every creature," or the "whole creation." The second thing is, the earnest expectation of the creature waiting. The word which is here translated "earnest expectation," is in the Greek very emphatic, and signifies properly the stretching or putting out of the head with vehement intention, as one that looks out for some special friend, whom he expects and desires should come unto him. According to that which is expressed of the mother of Sisera, waiting for the return of her son (Judges 5:28): she looked out at the window for him, and cried through the lattice. Now in the third place, by the manifestation of the sons of God, we are to understand the day of Christ's second coming as the proper time and season wherein the sons of God shall be made manifest. We begin. The party expecting: the creature. It is usual with the Spirit of God in Scripture to fasten upon the unreasonable creatures those expressions which do properly belong to reasonable men. As for example Psalm 96:11; Psalm 98:7, 8; Habakkuk 2:11; Genesis 4:10; James 5:4. And so here now the creature is to expect and to wait earnestly. That the whole course and frame of the creation is so ordered and disposed of by God, as that it carries in it a vehement desire and longing for the future estate of God's children. There are three things in this passage which are ascribed to the creature, which are accordingly observable of us. There is expectation, desire, and patience. First, I say, it expects or looks for it. This is spoken metaphorically. First, it is in a state of defectiveness, and so looks to be supplied. The creature hath lost very much of that beauty and vigour and strength which it had in its first beginning, and which God at first did bestow upon it. The present imperfection of the creature shows that it waits for such a time as this is, because every defect calls for some kind of supply and making of it up. Secondly, it is in a state of motion, and so looks to be fixed. When we see a man going up and down, and running from one place to another, now in this corner and then in that, and afterwards again in another, and never at rest, we conclude that certainly there is somewhat which he looks after that he has not yet obtained. Even so is it also here with the creatures. Thus we see how the creature is expressed under a great deal of inconstancy; which shows that it hath not yet attained to its consistent condition which it expects to come unto. As the needle in the mariner's compass, which is touched with the loadstone, it is never quiet, but hovers up and down till it be fastened upon the north, which is the place of its proper rest. The second is the creature's longing for the time of this manifestation also, as that which it desires may be. This is also signified in the text, in this earnest expectation, which does not only denote a mere wishing, but an express desire and vehement seeking. When we see the earth sometimes to be dried, we say it thirsts and longs for rain; not that it hath such desires in it, which we ourselves are capable of, but because it is in such a condition as does occasion such desires in us. It earnestly longs for the manifestation of the sons of God in another world. But why or whence does it come to do so? What has the creature to do with that? The dumb and unreasonable creature, with the glorious perfection of the saints? Yes, it is very much concerned in it; and that upon a threefold account. First, by way of sympathy and suitableness of affection to us, as in some sort delighting and rejoicing in the good of God's people; for as the creatures were made for us, so they do in some manner take part with us, and have impressions upon themselves answerable to those things which happen unto us. That the creature hath some sympathy with us in such things as befall us. And amongst the rest, especially in this — for the perfection and consummation of our happiness, Secondly, and further. Out of respect to itself, for its own consummation likewise. For God in His wisdom and Providence hath so ordered things that the good of His own children shall be the good of everything else. Thirdly, out of respect to the honour and glory of God Himself, which is concerned in it. The third is the creature's tarrying or staying; as that which it is content with till it be. The creature, although for the present under manifold evils, yet notwithstanding is patient under this condition. Though it groans, yet it does not complain; but keeps within its own bounds and limits for all that. All the creatures, they still keep their course; they are not sullen, but do that work which is proper to them. And thus have we seen this passage made good in this particular — in looking, in longing, in staying. Now the use of all to ourselves comes to this: First, as a shame and reproach to all carnal and worldly persons. We see here how far they are inferior and below the very creatures themselves. Those which are below them in regard of creation, yet they are above them in regard of affection. These look and long for the second coming and appearance of Christ, which the others do not. Secondly, this serves to strengthen and confirm the faith of Christians themselves. If the creature doth thus wait for the time of the second coming of Christ, why then certainly such a thing as this there is to be expected and looked for by us, forasmuch as this is put into them by God Himself. And the earth is not only to feed us, but also to teach us; and a gracious and spiritual heart will be careful accordingly to improve it. Thirdly, here is an argument also for patience under present sufferings, in hope of future deliverance. While the creatures are patient in their condition, as making account to be one day freed from it, how much more should we be so in ours, and do that from the principles of piety, which they do only from the instincts of nature? The sum of all comes to this: All the creatures wait for their perfection; and why should not we? No creature does as yet attain its end; why should we seek for happiness here below? The second is the thing expected in these. The manifestation of the sons of God, that is, by taking it passively; the time when as the sons of God shall be manifested. For the better opening of this present point, we must know that the manifestation of God's children is considerable in a threefold distribution. First, as to their persons. They shall be revealed and manifested here; who are so, and who are not. Here in this present world there is a mixture of one with another; of tares and wheat together; but then there shall be a plain separation and distinction of either. God will put a difference betwixt His jewels and other stones. There is a threefold manifestation Of God's children again in reference to their persons. First, a manifestation of them to themselves. Secondly, a manifestation of them to one another. Thirdly, to wicked men. Thus shall there be a manifestation of the children of God in their persons, which is the first explication. Secondly, in their actions. They shall be manifested in these likewise. "Every man's work shall be made manifest" (1 Corinthians 3:13). As the Lord knows their works Himself, so He will cause others to know them also. And secondly, it is also an encouragement to us in secret goodness and the present concealment of worth, or questioning of it. And so as for the actions which men do, so also the cause and interest which they own; they shall be manifested here also. There is a double party and side in the world — God's and Satan's. Now it shall one day be manifested who has taken the better part, and owned the juster cause, and been on the strongest side, as Christ will then be sure to manifest and discover all his enemies, and those that would not that He should reign over them. Thirdly and lastly, in their condition. They shall be manifested so also. And that especially as a condition of glory. The consideration of all these things laid together — that there is such a time to come wherein the children of God shall be made manifest, and withal that the creature itself does earnestly hope and wait for this time, when it shall be so indeed; it should have this practical influence upon us, even to raise our hearts and affections to it. It was the commendation given to old Simeon, that he waited for the consolation of Israel. And to Joseph of Arimathea, that he waited for the kingdom of God. Let us take in these directions with us. First, be well settled in our judgments, that there is such a state indeed as this is. For that which we do not believe we cannot desire. Secondly, let us be much in the thoughts and meditations of it. Contemplation, it raises affection. We see how it does so in other things, and how much more then in this? Thirdly, let us get our hearts weaned and taken off from the world and the things of it; so long as we do anything more than ordinary admire earth, we cannot very much desire heaven. The worse in such a case as this will make us to neglect the better. Fourthly, let us labour to be purged and freed from sin, both as to the guilt of it and also to the power of it. And, lastly, to all the rest and fruitfulness and activity in goodness. Those who are much in arrear, they do not care to come to an account.

(Thomas Horton, D.D.)

As we read these words there rises before us a vast, majestic vision, the imagery of a whole universe — fields, trees, rivers, clouds and slurs, endless crowds of immortal beings, numberless hosts of creatures without souls — all standing with the head thrust forward, and silently, eagerly, gazing far away for something hoped and longed for, something that is slow, indeed, in coming, but that is sure to come at last. The teaching of the entire passage is —


1. Of course only intelligent and responsible man is capable of falling in the sense which involves guilt; and whatever other creatures may suffer, cannot be regarded as the punishment of their sin. But who does not know what suffering man's sin, cruelty, and thoughtlessness, inflict day by day upon dumb animals? And even that conduct which we call vice is always the result of some wrong conduct upon man's part. There would be no such thing as a vicious horse if there had not previously been a cruel or injudicious man.

2. But to go into the general question —(1) Think what millions of innocent lives were cut short by the waters of the Deluge, and what hosts of guiltless creatures have yielded up their lives as sacrifices of sin! Now, we know God cares for oxen. Rely upon it, it was a thought to God when almost all the brute creation perished at the Flood. Rely upon it, He did not overlook the suffering of the beasts with whose blood under the law "almost all things were purged."(2) As for the inanimate creation, of course, it cannot suffer consciously. Man can both sin and suffer. The inferior animals can suffer but not sin. And as for the inanimate universe, it can neither sin nor suffer. But it is a mistake to fancy that a thing is perverted from the end contemplated by the Creator only when it knows the fact and suffers from it. The inanimate creation is involved in man's fall, according to its nature. You would almost think that Nature is obliged, by man's sin, unwillingly to do many things which she would not do if she could help it. The atmosphere is constrained to carry words which are false, impure, profane. Surely that beautiful liquid ether was never made for that! Food is constrained to strengthen for sinful deeds. Is it not hard, so to speak, upon the innocent grain, upon the generous grape, that they should be compelled to yield their energy to the arm of the murderer as readily as to the hand that does the deed of mercy? And since the days of the friar, who stumbled upon that combination of materials, separately innocuous, which hides the battlefield with its sulphureous clouds; think how great a share of human ingenuity has been directly given to wresting from Nature that which shall quench or torture human life. Look at a ship of war! What a grand and imposing spectacle it is! But is it not one great proof that man is fallen? Think of the costly material, skill and industry, that have gone to make that — a grand weapon of destruction: and say if the consequences of man's fall do not reach to the oak in the forest, the iron in the mine, the flax in the field, the very air and water! And, not lingering on instances of noble material agencies perverted to evil by man — such, for instance, as the printing-press; think how the whole landscape is often darkened by the brooding cloud of sin.

II. NATURE IS WAITING FOR BETTER DAYS. All things are unconsciously looking forward. There is a vague, dumb sense, that surely better things are coming. All conscious things live in an undefined hope. And wherefore? Simply from some vague, general belief that surely evil will one day die, and the reign of good begin! Why does the man who has got more money than he can ever spend, and no one to leave it to, still save as before: why, but from some shadowy looking-forward, which he does not care to define. Why do most men, when they begin any task, feel eager to get through with it, but for that onward bent that is in all "the creature"? And we can discern traces of the same feeling in inferior natures. Why does the poor hack lean to his collar so eagerly, and toil up the steep street overburdened, but from some vague, dull, confused hope that surely all this will end. Goethe has recorded that he could never look on a beautiful summer landscape without feeling as if it were waiting for something, asking for something, which was not there.

III. WHAT IS THE END FOR WHICH ALL CREATION IS SO EARNESLY WAITING? You who feel a constant craving, believe it, it is no earthly end that will satisfy the longing of your nature! Whenever you have attained one end you see another, and cannot be content till you have reached that: and, that reached, you will see before you another still. The poor man wishes to be rich; the rich man longs for a recognised position in society; the man who has got that thinks how pleased he would be could he obtain a title, fame, nobility. Ah, there is no end of it! Yes, there is more in this than the mere morbid feeling of restless discontent: it is "the earnest expectation of the creature waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God! "That is the only end in the universe that shall absolutely satisfy the great craving which is in the centre of man's nature — that is the only summit on reaching which you will see no farther summit stretching away beyond. What a blessing it is to be told what it is we really need! But the Christian only knows what shall fully satisfy that longing; we know that "man's chief end is to glorify God, and enjoy Him for ever." "Thou madest us for Thyself," said , "and our souls are restless till they find rest in Thee!"

(A. K. H. Boyd, D.D.)


1. Its own "manifestation" in its true character. It is now "the creature" subject to vanity, laden with sorrow and corruption. This creature is to be developed. It does not now appear what it is in reality. Some marks of his destination are upon the Christian: he enjoys some foretastes of his inheritance, but nothing in comparison with the glory that shall be revealed in us.

2. A glorious liberty — in opposition to vanity, corruption, and affliction.

3. Bodily resurrection.


1. It is subject to vanity. "When a thing neither fills that which contains it, nor supports that which leans upon it, nor yields fruit to him that labours in it, it is a vanity."

2. In the bondage of corruption. The phrase chiefly refers to the corruption which must actually take possession of the body in the grave; but it may not inaptly describe the state of Christians themselves in the present world. Though the commanding power of sin is destroyed in conversion, yet its relics exist, and impede the child of God, so that he cannot do the things that he would.

3. This is an unwilling subjection. The desires, affections, and purposes of the renewed nature, all rebel against the yoke of sin, and contend for their perfect freedom.


1. Earnest expectation. Let the ungodly tremble at the thought of Christ's approach; but to the saints it will be a day of glory, as well as to their Master: to them the consummation of their brightest hopes, to Him the public display of His victories. The proper state of mind, therefore, in which it should be contemplated is that of expectation and desire. We ought so to live that when we shall be summoned to meet Him we may be able to lift up our heads and say, "Even so come, Lord Jesus!"

2. This earnest expectation is associated with patient waiting for the event; the principal ground of which is that God Himself has subjected us to the same in hope. A willing acquiescence in His wise arrangements is one of the best proofs of our filial spirit. No doubt it would be far better to wear the crown than to carry the cross; but so long as there is a work for us to perform on earth, and scope is given to glorify God by resignation under toil and suffering, we must be satisfied to endure temptation; knowing that patient continuance in well-doing leads to glory, honour, and immortality.

3. It is impossible that these strong affections of the new creature should be unproductive of practical results. Do you hope to be acknowledged as sons of God then? Show us the evidences of your adoption now. What traces of your heavenly birth and destination should be visible in your dispositions and lives! Christian patience is not a sluggish grace. It has a work to do, a stewardship to occupy, while it is waiting for the Master's coming.

(D. Katterns.)

St. Paul is primarily thinking only of the little Church at Rome, and giving them rules for their duty. And yet, with the mind of a great philosopher — or, rather, with the vision of a great prophet — he is swept beyond the special case before him into the general principle which it involves, and in giving rules to Rome he is led to survey the method of the universe.


1. This whole creation is not a dead, but a living thing. Its movement is not the movement of machinery, but of life. Instead of a blind, mechanical process, this man sees a universe with a desire of its own, bringing forth at last, through the pains which we now call the struggle for existence, the state of things we see. Instead of a world-factory grinding out with indifference its tides and storms, its plants and animals, and the emotions and ideals of men, he sees a universe working out with expectancy a divinely appointed end. Thus he simply anticipates the philosophers and poets who have seen in Nature a living and purposeful process, manifesting at each step the presence of one comprehensive will.

2. Having reached its present point, for what does creation now wait? The "revealing of the sons of God." Without them the universal evolution pauses. The movement of the universe goes its way from the beginning to a certain point under mechanical laws, fit for material things. But at a certain point the elements of evolution become changed. The problem of the universe is no longer to mould and harden a world — it is to unfold and quicken the higher faculties of man; and for this new work of God a new necessity appears — the help of man. God's ends are reached, not by such laws as could create or maintain the world, but through His sons. Up to a certain point, things go toward making man what he is; but at that point man takes these things which have moulded him and shapes them to their higher uses. For this reaction of character on circumstance the whole creation waits. Until this occurs, the process that God would fulfil toward the world is retarded. Here is a vessel eager to reach her port, and God's winds invite her to move on. But not the fairest wind can bring her on her way unless man does his part. The earnest expectation of the vessel waits until the captain spreads her sails; and then, man working with God, the creation which lay dead and lonely on the sea becomes a thing of life and motion. So it is with all the higher movements of God's creation. God may create the best of circumstances, but the whole creation simply groans and labours, like a vessel labouring in a sea, until man spreads her sails to catch God's favouring breeze. The patient expectation of the vessel waits for the manifestation of the captain's will.


1. Take the forces of Nature. Here, e.g., is electricity. It is a creation of God. The force was always there, eager to serve the wants of man; but God's purposes through it could only be worked out by the sons of God. Finally, after ages of a patient creation, the inventor thinks God's thoughts after Him, the sons of God are revealed in their relation to Nature, and then the creation moves on into its higher uses, and lights, moves, warms us. And it is awful to consider how many other powers we dwell among without any discernment of their significance and end, while the creation waits for the revealing in its midst of the sons of God.

2. Now turn to the nearer creations — the institutions and affairs of men. Look, e.g., at —(1) The simplest form of human institutions — the life of the family and the home. Here, in this smallest group of human beings, has been the beginning of all social evolution. In the family, civilisation begins. And its beginnings were natural, inevitable, mechanical. The family group became permanent because it was the group fittest to survive. But is this the end of the evolution of the home? No! A new possibility opens before this primitive institution. It becomes the best symbol of the relation of God to us, and of ourselves to Him. Now, what brings the home into these higher stages of its evolution? Nothing but the revealing in it of the sons of God. Walk along any street to-day, with its row of houses. How far has the evolution of each home proceeded? Within one door the sons of God have revealed themselves, and domestic life is moving straight on to be the complete image of the heavenly world. Here, at the very next door, the evolution has been arrested, and the whole creation groans and travails with the pains of a disordered home. The two houses are alike in outward form, but the one is a home and the other a shelter; the one is a school for immortal souls and the other a pen for domestic animals. Turn to your own home with this thought of its higher intention, and you see with a new clearness your place in it, and its place in the world. You have not been thrown into this place by accident. You are the heir through it of the whole history of man. And now the question lies before you whether that history shall proceed or wait.(2) The larger world of human society. There never was a time when so many minds were so busy with thoughts of a healthier and happier social state. Dreamers and agitators, working men and scholars, poor women and prosperous women — all are looking for some golden age, when there shall be a more even distribution of the good things of life. But suppose the fortunes of the rich laid low, and the poverty of the poor turned to competency; suppose all the mechanical difficulties of such a revolution overcome. Would the evolution of society be complete? Would its new relations work without friction or check? No! We should be at precisely the point where this whole industrial creation would show itself a waiting creation for the revealing of the sons of God. We should be like people who had created the most delicate of engines, and then had only unskilled mechanics to set it at work. People seem to think that if they can only reconstruct the machinery of society, it will run itself. They see that in the lower stages of social evolution machinery does a great deal. They see the State preserving itself by legislation; they see some evils checked and some gain made by law. But the fact is, that at a certain point the movement of society becomes not mechanical, but moral. It is not a question of controlling men, but of calling forth the best in men; and at that point the movement waits, not for new economic laws or social schemes, but for better souls, for higher impulses, for the revealing of the sons of God. You devise the most ingenious system for making all work for the good of all, but you can perpetuate such a system only by making men love one another. Given a competing race of men, and no device of legislation can abolish competition. Given a regenerated race of men, and a new social state of common life and ownership might be maintained; but one must also say, given a regenerated race and a new social state would seem to be superfluous.

III. ITS PERSONAL LESSON AND LAW. Why should any one of us try so hard to make the most of himself? Why not abandon himself to passion or indolence?

1. There are various answers to this question.(1) "Because the higher path is the path of happiness." True. But with the happiness come the conflict and pain; with the new ideals the disappointments; and always there is the pull of animal pleasures dragging one down to other ways of happiness. The search for happiness will not reveal the sons of God.(2) "Because you are here to save your soul." True again. For what is a saved soul? It is a healthy, a developed soul — a soul grown up into the stature of Christ, revealed to itself as a son of God. But, after all, this, as a supreme motive of life, is mere self-interest, mere self-culture.

2. Contrast these personal considerations with the reason which St. Paul lays down, and see the tremendous chasm which lies between it and the desire for happiness, or even for salvation itself. What the apostle says is, "Here is God working out through the long ages His purpose toward the world. He comes to a certain point, and there, by the very necessity of things, His work passes out of the region of natural law and self-acting methods, and has to be done through human beings. Now, suppose any soul fails of its higher capacities and remains stunted and unrevealed: is that merely a personal loss of happiness or of salvation? On the contrary, it is a loss so vast as to make every personal motive shrink into insignificance. It is simply so far the retarding of the perfect and universal work of God." To be sinning, not against one's self, but against the universe; to be a hinderer of God's great ends in the world — that is what gives awfulness to every thought of sin. It is, again, some great factory where the looms go weaving with their leaping shuttles the millions of yards of cloth, and then of a sudden one thread breaks, and the loom stops short in its progress, lest the whole intricate work be marred. And then to turn the matter round, think how this thought affects every desire for good. A man looks at his life, and it is a poor, feeble, insignificant thing. He says to himself, "Of what earthly importance is it that I should struggle thus against the stream of my tendency and taste?" That is the unconscious defence of many a ruined life. For one man who errs by thinking too much of himself, ten fail by not thinking enough of themselves. But now comes the apostle into the midst of this spurious modesty, and says, "Yes, taken by itself your life is certainly a very insignificant affair; but placed in the universe which God has made, your life becomes of infinite importance. For God has chosen to work out His designs, not in spite of you, but through you; and where you fail, He halts. God needs you." It is as though you were a lighthouse-keeper. Can any life be more unpraised or insignificant? Why sit through weary nights to keep your flame alive? Because it is not your light — that is the point. You are not its owner; you are its keeper. The great design of the Power you serve takes you thus out of your insignificance, and while you sit there in the shadow of your lonely tower, ship after ship is looking to you across the sea, and many a man thanks God that, while lights which burn for themselves go out, your light will be surely burning. The earnest expectation of many a storm-tossed sailor waits for the revealing of your friendly gleam. The safety of many a life that passes by you in the dark is trusted from night to night to you.

(Prof. F. G. Peabody.)

I. TRUE MEN ARE THE "SONS OF GOD." What constitutes men such?

1. Negatively.(1) Not that they are mere productions of God. All creatures are His productions.(2) Not that they resemble the Divine nature. Man is spiritual, reflective, free, but so are devils.

2. Positively.(1) Moral resemblance; similarity of governing disposition. Love is the ruling element in God. All thus ruled resemble Him, whether men or archangels.(2) Filial devotion. A man may have six male offspring, and not one true son. The grand purpose of the gospel is to give men the disposition of true children.

II. These sons of God ARE TO HAVE A GLORIOUS MANIFESTATION ON THIS EARTH, "Waiting for the manifestation." Glorious —

1. In the perfection of their character. The best of God's "sons" on the earth to-day are not perfect.

2. In the vastness of their numbers. These imperfect "sons of God" are comparatively few. But the manifestation will be one of countless multitudes, each perfect. They are the coming men.

III. This glorious "manifestation of the sons of God" IS THE SUPREME WANT OF A SUFFERING WORLD. They are the objects of the "earnest expectation" of suffering humanity. What is the great want of the teeming millions to-day?

1. More churches? Some think so, and ecclesiastical edifices are being multiplied. But the people do not want them, and they are half empty almost everywhere.

2. More converts to conventional Christianity? This does not make true men, but formalists and hypocrites.

3. More official preachers? Preaching there should be, but it should be the preaching of the living man, not of the professional pulpiteer.

4. More religious organisations? No; they with their committees and vested interests are drag-chains on the wheels of spiritual independency and true progress.

5. More Bibles? No, there are millions lying unread and uncared for. What the suffering world profoundly longs for is the advent of true men, "sons of God." Such men will be living Bibles, editions of Him who went about doing good.

(David Thomas, D.D.)


1. How?(1) As to their persons (1 John 3:1). It is not exactly known in the winter, when the roots lie in the earth, what will appear in the spring.(2) As to their life (Colossians 3:3). They are hidden not only in point of security, as maintained by an invisible power; but in point of obscurity. Because the spiritual life is hidden under —(a) The veil of the natural life; it is a life within a life (Galatians 2:20).(b) The veil of afflictions, outward meanness, and abasement (Hebrews 11:37, 38).(c) The veil of reproaches and calumnies (1 Peter 4:6). They are presented in the world as a company of hypocrites (2 Corinthians 6:8).(d) The veil of infirmities, by which they often obscure the glory of that life which they have.(3) As to their privileges, and the glory of their estate. There must be a distinction between earth and heaven. For the present, our glory is —(a) Spiritual, and maketh no fair show in the flesh, as the image of God is an internal thing (Psalm 45:13).(b) Future. The time of our perfection and blessedness is not yet come, and we cannot for the present judge of it, nor the world imagine what it shall be.

2. From whom? Not from God (2 Timothy 2:19); not from Christ (John 10:14); not from angels (Hebrews 1:14); but —(1) From the world, as colours from a blind man (1 Corinthians 2:14).(2) In a great measure from ourselves. What with corruptions within, and temptations without, we have much ado to be persuaded that God is our Father, and we His children; our condition being so unsuitable, and our conversations so much beneath our rights and privileges; so that it needeth to be cleared by the Spirit of adoption (ver. 16). When that is done, yet the glory intended to be revealed in us is not sufficiently known (1 Corinthians 2:9).

3. Why?(1) Because now is the time of trial, hereafter of recompense. Therefore now is the hiding-time; hereafter is the day of manifestation. If the glory were too sensible, there were no trial, neither of the world, nor of the people of God.(2) God hath chosen this way to advance His glory, that He may perfect His power in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).(3) To wean us from things present to things to come (2 Corinthians 4:18).


1. Their persons shall be known and owned (Revelation 3:5). No more doubt when owned, not by character, but by name.

2. They shall be manifested to themselves, and their glory also revealed to the world by the visible marks of favour Christ will put upon them, when others are rejected (Isaiah 66:5; 2 Thessalonians 1:10).


1. To this end the apostle mentions the earnest expectation of the creature, and the day principally concerns us (Song of Solomon 8:14; Revelation 22:20). The saints look for Christ's coming (Titus 2:13) by faith and hope; and long for His coming (2 Timothy 4:8) in a way of love.

2. Now His coming must be desired by us with —

(1)Earnestness (2 Corinthians 5:2).


(3)Patience (1 Thessalonians 1:10).

(T. Manton, D.D.)

We are told that in these countries where the night lasts for many months the inhabitants, when they conclude that the dayspring is at hand, climb the loftiest mountains, and there wait and watch the first streak of returning day. That streak is the signal for gladness and melody. Such was the attitude of those who "waited for the consolation of Israel" before the Son of God came, and such ought to be our attitude who look for Christ's second coming. Note —


1. It is in the "bondage of corruption" through the iniquity of its inhabitant man, The mansion has been spotted and stained by the leprosy of him that dwells in it. Before man fell the whole creation, as it came from God, was "very good"; but when man became corrupt and turned the good creatures of God into occasions of sin and idolatry, the whole creation, in a sense, became partaker of the defilement of its rational inhabitants. Drunkenness and debauchery have been made to find their fuel and their food in the good things that God had made for man's good and for His own glory.

2. And, being thus enthralled by corruption, it is made "subject to vanity." It is a peculiarity in the Divine government that things should partake in each other's weal or woe. "A fruitful land maketh He barren, because of the wickedness of them that dwell therein." Think of Sodom and Palestine. And what God has thus, in a smaller measure, done in individual instances, He has, in the grand scale, in creation. God brought vanity on His beautiful works, and marred, though He did not wholly deface, the lovely structure He had built and furnished.

3. To complete the dark picture, "the whole creation travaileth and groaneth in pain together until now." What a grandeur there is in this personification of the whole visible universe! The Psalmist thus made all nature, animate and vocal, to praise her Creator, and await her Deliverer's coming, and it is by a similar bold flight of imagination that the apostle personifies all creation as wearied with the bondage of corruption, mourning through the continual vanity, waiting for the wondrous transformation that is in store for her, and striving after it as a woman drawing near to her delivery longeth for the hour when it shall be said, "a man is born into the world." And it is not mere fancy that we may seem at times to hear, in the moaning of the tempest, the roar of the storm, the dashing of the billows, the sounds and the sighings that we may often hearken to from troubled, tempest-tossed nature, to construe these into the "groaning and travailing of creation," after that great redemption and deliverance that the Redeemer hath in store for her.

4. Must we not be arrested with the lesson thus taught us? What a fearful thing is sin, that it casts its dark shadow over the whole universe of God! When we make light of sin, let us look around us, as well as look within us, that we may be humbled, and cry, "God be mericiful to me a sinner!"

II. THE HOPE THAT ANIMATES CREATION in her mournful and fallen state (ver. 19).

1. That is the great epoch to which creation turns her anxious eye, anticipating her glorious deliverance. For we are hid; "our life is now hid with Christ in God." The world knoweth us not, and we sometimes know not one another. But a day of manifestation cometh — a day of public adoption in the presence of the whole intelligent universe, a day of adoption in the day of "the redemption of the body," when, invested with the similitude of their glorious Head, they shall stand forth, confessed of all to be the sons of God. Then creation shall find her glorious deliverance. This is that bright epoch foretold by the prophets, the time of the restitution of all things, when the Creator shall say, "Behold, I make all things new."

2. Behold the hope of the creature. It shall be "delivered out of the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the sons of God!" This cannot be annihilation. Would it be deliverance to creation, any compensation for its involuntary suffering, to be blotted out? The very fact that creation has suffered with man is in itself strong presumption that it shall triumph and be exalted with man. And so we look for "new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness." The whole visible creation is anticipating this blessed hope, when, with in its renewed inhabitants, it shall undergo renovation, and shall receive perfection.Conclusion:

1. The subject is fitted to alarm every one who is making earth his portion. They that corrupt the creature and defile themselves therewith shall never know the creature's promised bliss.

2. For those that profess to be waiting for Christ's coming, this contemplation is fitted to impart exalted hope. "Eye hath not seen," etc.

(Canon Stowell.)

I. THE PERIOD WHEN THIS STATE OF DEGRADATION AND SUFFERING SHALL GIVE PLACE TO THE FULL HOPE WHICH THE GOSPEL NOW SETS BEFORE THEM. The day of the second advent of Christ. This, indeed, will be, in some most important respects, a day of "manifestation" — the manifestation of Him whom the heavens have received, of judgment, of the long-delayed punishment of sinners. But it shall be also the day of "the manifestation of the sons of God."

1. Of their number, which now we possess no mean of calculating.

2. Of persons whom, perhaps, we never anticipated — for many that are last shall be first, and the first last.

3. Of their virtues, which the world slandered.

4. Of that glory with which they shall be eternally invested.


1. Deliverance from the bondage of corruption." See this bondage —

(1)In the weakness of the body. It has lost its strength and perfection.

(2)In the diseases of the body.

(3)In that moral corruption to which the natural corruption ministers.

(4)In the manner in which this law sports with every feeling, care, interest.

2. The contrast to this is "the glorious liberty of the children of God" —

(1)From the bondage itself, as resulting from the lapse of Adam.

(2)From the grave, for Christ opens, and no man shuts.

(3)From the grossness of the body, for that which is sown a natural is raised a spiritual body.

(4)From irregular appetites, implying perfect liberty from sin.

(5)From affliction and suffering, for there shall be no more pain, no more chastening.

(6)From death.


1. To the groans and expectations of the creature, i.e.,, the whole race of fallen and unrecovered men. The apostle sees before him the multitudes of mankind. He marks their miseries, groans, struggles against their lot, their aspirations after a something unattained. As a powerful intellect at its first dawn aspires after a knowledge of which as yet it has no conception; as an ambitious spirit tends upwards to a height beyond its gaze; as a heathen in his ignorance feels after a God unknown — so will the soul of fallen man wrestle with its bondage and strive for deliverance. It is a mighty power, though bound, and it sighs, and heaves, and tends, though blindly, to the good which it has forfeited. How elevated, then, the Christian's hope! It is the hope of mankind. But let us attend to some instances by which this truth may be illustrated.(1) Man feels his miseries more sensibly than any other creature — not only because he reflects, which is itself a heightening of his distress, but because he has a consciousness that he possesses a capacity of perfect bliss. The very poignancy of his misery is in proof of his aspirations after unmingled felicity.(2) Man carries his desires beyond the limits of any present enjoyment. Winged with desire, he hastens to an object; he obtains it; he stops; he finds it not sufficient, and hastens on to another. Onward, and onward still, beyond all that earth can supply. What, then, is the true philosophy of this? A distant, though unapprehended, good attracts us.(3) Man is displacent at the very vices which he indulges. And how are we to account for this? Why, but because the soul aspires for liberty from its moral corruption.(4) Man struggles against disease and death. Life is the object of most passionate desire, and death of equally strong aversion. What is this but a tendency to a state like that which shall be enjoyed at "the manifestation of the sons of God."

2. To the revealed hope of the believer, to which all his longings are directed (ver. 23). "They have the first-fruits of the Spirit." Even this exempts not from the miseries of life, nor is there in them, however glorious they are, anything which can satisfy the vast desire of glory.(1) True, the soul is reconciled to God, but the bondage of corruption still places them in circumstances of temptation. They may sin against God, and they long for the deliverance which shall make sin no longer possible.(2) True, the manifested presence of God is the delight of the soul; but even this, in its full extent, is veiled and hidden.(3) True, there is the glorious attainment of a regenerate nature, but how many imperfections yet remain!(4) True, there is the presence of heavenly graces, but these are like exotic plants, and an unfit soil prevents their full expansion, their flagrancy, and fruitfulness.(5) True, there is heavenly knowledge and sacred converse with God, but the wants of the body demand supply, and hence numberless cares and anxieties.(6) True, there is the communion of saints, but to what interruptions is not this exposed by human mortality!(7) True, religion strengthens your social affections and heightens domestic enjoyment, but from those whom you love you have been, or you must be, severed.(8) True, you are saved from the fear of death, but still there is death, the last enemy, and the struggle with him. Thus do we "groan within ourselves," even though we have the hope which alone prevents our sinking in despair. But, while groaning under the pressure of life's burdens, we are "waiting for the adoption," the glorification of the body, and its establishment in the perfect and everlasting joys of heaven.

(R. Watson.)

For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of Him who hath subjected the same in hope
I. THE GOSPEL GIVES US ASSURANCE OF A MOST EXCELLENT AND HAPPY STATE RESERVED FOR GOOD MEN IN ANOTHER LIFE, described in the text by these two characters; of its being the manifestation of the sons of God, and a state of the most glorious liberty.

1. Let us consider this future happy state which the gospel describes as the manifestation of the sons of God. Good men are the sons of God upon a double account, viz., of their nature, and of their state; each of which is becoming that high title of the children of God. In respect of that new nature of which they are partakers, they are justly styled the children of God; He being both the Author and the Pattern of it. Are they regenerate or born again? it is of God (1 John 5:1; 1 Peter 1:23; John 3:5).

2. It is farther represented as a state of glorious liberty. This most desirable freedom is indeed begun in the present life; for where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty: but then, as long as men continue in this world it is only begun.(1) Since the future state of good men will be so glorious, what reason have they to bear all the sufferings of the present time with a contented mind.(2) Since such is the glory of that future state, in which there shall be a manifestation of the sons of God, it should be a powerful motive with them to hasten more towards it in their desires and preparations.(3) Since such is the honour and privilege of all good men who are now the sons of God, and since such will be their happiness when the time is come for their fuller manifestation, would not one think that all should be desirous of this character, and resolve to do everything which may entitle them to it? Would not one think that the kingdom of heaven should suffer violence, and that all who hear of such a state should be hastening into it in crowds?


1. In the present life, mankind are subject to many fruitless desires and expectations.

2. The present is a state of suffering. "Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upwards." Who can pretend to reckon up the several sorts of pains and diseases to which the body of man is liable? or the many disagreeable accidents and mournful events to which we are continually exposed, and which so often befall us in the course of life?

3. The present is a state of great moral weakness and disorder. The fall has introduced a sort of anarchy into the human frame: the passions are broke loose, and the mind has not that command over the appetites and inclinations of the animal part which it were to be wished, and which we believe the mind enjoyed in the state of innocence.

4. This is a state which quickly passes away, or, which is the same, out of which we quickly pass by death into another, in every respect almost exceedingly different from the present.

III. TO THIS VAIN AND CORRUPTIBLE STATE, MANKIND WERE ORIGINALLY BROUGHT INTO SUBJECTION, NOT BY THEMSELVES, BUT BY ANOTHER. By him who subjected the creature to vanity, may be meant either the first man by his transgression, or God for the sin of man; I rather incline to the latter, though the difference is not very material. Such honour had man in his creation, that God subjected to him, or put under his feet, all other things. Such was the unhappy consequence of man's offending God, that from henceforth man himself becomes subject to vanity. But how shall we vindicate this dispensation of Divine providence?

1. As to the justice of God, the case to any one who rightly considers it is attended with no difficulty at all. This dominion of God, or right to take away what He has given, or to withhold from some of His creatures what He gives to others, is as unquestionable as in the exercise it is uncontrollable. And as the dominion of God or His right to put mankind into what state or circumstances He pleases is indisputable, so He never exercises this supreme dominion of His without good reason.

2. To vindicate the wisdom and goodness of God in this dispensation.(1) In respect of the chief consequences of the fall, God does little more than leave things to produce their natural effects.(2) Supposing God had interposed in a supernatural way, directing and overruling the course of things, so that the posterity of Adam should suffer no inconvenience by his fall; yet in that case it cannot be imagined their condition would have been fixed without their having first gone through a state of probation, which must have been suited to the nature and advantages they would then have enjoyed. There might have been no room for repentance after they had sinned, and the reward of their obedience, if they had persevered to the end, might not have been so great, as the reward of the virtuous now will be. Which being considered, it may be justly questioned whether, on this supposition, the circumstances of mankind upon the whole would have very much exceeded those in which they now are, if at all.(3) If it has pleased God to subject the race of mankind to a state of vanity and corruption, it does, in many respects, better answer the ends of a state of trial. Every virtue, both active and passive, such as self-denial, fortitude, benevolence, charity, compassion, and the like, have now room for exercise, which they would not in a state of perfect ease and tranquillity.(4) God suits His government of man and dealings with him to the state he is now in. If he has given less to the posterity of fallen man than he did to their first parents, He requires less of them. Are we weak? He knows it, and expects no more from us than He hath given us, or, upon our humble application to Him, will give us strength to perform.(5) There is this advantage in the present state as a state of vanity, and corruption, that it carries in it a continual admonition to turn our thoughts and affections towards a better state, and to be more diligent in our preparations for it.(6) We may reasonably conceive God has the rather chosen the present scheme of things, because hereby He has an opportunity of dispensing His justice and bounty in two most remarkable acts of providence which occur in His dealings with mankind: His justice in punishing the sin of the first Adam and all his descendants; His bounty in rewarding the obedience unto death of the second Adam.


1. All creatures naturally tend to their perfection, so does the race of mankind in particular; and the future state of the saints in the text, styled the "manifestation of the sons of God," importing the highest perfection to which the nature of man can be advanced; with the greatest propriety, men who are reasonable creatures and breathe after immortality may be said to wait for such a state, though they are far from having a distinct idea of it.

2. In proportion as any of the sons of men have improved their rational faculties, and lived up to the light they have enjoyed, this desire of perfection and happiness has been more ardent and more explicit.


1. Mankind have always been possessed with the hope of a better state of things than the present. They have not only desired it, but hoped for it. Now hope implies some degree of belief that the thing desired will come to pass. And such a belief has obtained in all ages.

2. God has given men some ground for this hope, though He was pleased to permit sin, suffering, imperfection. To this effect was the very first promise after the fall. But besides this first promise, God, as the God of nature, the Author of reason, and the Governor of the world by His universal providence, has encouraged men to hope they shall, some time or other, be freed from that vanity and corruption to which, in this mortal state, they are subjected. By the large capacities and faculties of the human soul, to which the things of this world bear no manner of proportion, and which, in our present circumstance, have not an opportunity to unfold and show themselves, God plainly points us to another life, where all who behave well in the state of trial shall attain to much higher degrees of perfection and happiness.

III. This hope is raised into assurance by the Christian revelation. APPLICATION:

1. Let this lead us into proper reflections on the nature of man, and of his present condition, and excite in us affections and purposes suitable to such reflections.

2. Let what we have heard raise our value for the gospel of Christ. We are to be thankful for our natural hopes, but especially for those which we derive from the gospel revelation, which are at once the strongest, the most extensive, and the most satisfying.

(H. Grove, M.A.)

See how all things testify to the Christian's hope.

I. See THE CREATION itself restless with an otherwise inexplicable longing. It is not often that we have indications in Paul's writings either of a painter's eye or a poet's fancy. We rather conceive of him as one to whom scenery and history, time and space were something less than indifferent. Here, however, we see that he has observed nature — yes, as only poets read her. Paul has seen nature's imploring look, and heard her complaining voice, and felt her yearning thought, and sympathised with her confession — of waste, as she brings one seed and one blossom to perfection out of ten thousand — of discord, as she is made to launch her thunderbolts, and to lift her waves, and to let loose her hurricanes — of cruelty, in her ruthless laws of consequence, and which take no account of innocence or penitence. St. Paul is not satisfied with lovely landscapes. He is no tourist of pleasure or fancy. He looks within and beneath, and feels that beauty might be more beautiful, and life more vital, and strength yet more robust, and that in all actual being there is a possible being more satisfactory; so that he must write nature an expectant, not an inheritor — he must claim her testimony as on the side of that gospel which makes hope, not contentment, the attribute of God's creature.

1. See the very face of nature scarred with tokens of conflict. How unmelodious and often barbarous are the agencies of nature as she heaves in elemental agonies. Is this quite the scene which God pronounced to be very good? Hear the cry of the brute world, itself the prey of man, and, in turn, its own tyrant and murderer.

2. Mark the unrest of a humanity which prides itself upon its position at the top of God's handiwork, as it pours the waters of an inexhaustible ambition into the sieve of a perpetual disappointment. Listen to that sigh of thankless satiety which echoes from the pampered child of fashion to that other sigh from the heart of the sorrow-laden. See that fever-stricken village, that battlefield. Is not the creation making confession, in all these manifold utterances, of a condition neither original nor final? Is not the creation travailing as in birth-pangs with a mysterious and compensating future? Can it be that God, the good and the great One, can suffer these blots and stains upon His own work to continue thus for ever? If God be, and be God, every symptom of ruin is a prophecy of reconstruction. Very mysterious, this subjection of the creature to vanity, to the dominion of disappointment, of dissolution, of decay! The word and the thought fills one book of the Old Testament, as it is here summarised in one chapter of the New. And you will see, if you study that Book of Ecclesiastes, how comprehensive is the word here before us. It is the perpetual filling of that which is never full, the ceaseless round of a monotony which has no harmony and no melody. St. Paul instructs us how to deduce a positive from all these negatives. He claims this vanity as an evidence for hope — as a witness to the necessity of the reconstruction which Christ promises to us in His gospel.

II. He who thus read "vanity" as the legend of nature; he who saw even here the record of a fall mysteriously interwoven with the condition of creation incapable of sinning, now calls as his involuntary witness to the Christian expectation THE LIFE OF MAN AS LIVED OUTSIDE CHRISTIANITY.

1. It was with a pitying and compassionate eye that St. Paul looked upon humanity. Could he gaze unmoved upon this great, swarming population "looking for so much, bringing in so little," earning its wages only "to put them into a bag with holes"? St. Paul saw this great busy earth subjected to vanity by reason of sin; he saw how each generation, each life, sets out, as though it were the only one, full of confidence, full of conceit, on its little race of ambition, passion, interest, only to say at evening, "Vanity of vanities." "Not willingly," he says. It would not have it so. Not of its free will does it find every effort defeated, or the successful effort turned into bitterness.

2. St. Paul calls this vanity as a witness to the hope. He says, Could these things be if there were no hereafter? Is not this nothingness, this bondage of corruption, proof enough of the true character of this present as a mere birth-pang of the true, the satisfying, the everlasting? Is there not, indeed, in all men, an inward witness to this hope? Who does not wish to leave something, some one behind him? Who has not some vision of a perfection, if not for himself, then for the race? Who that is engaged in business, or philanthropy, who that has framed for himself any idea of a religion, of a God, has not done so in an expectation? These experiences of vanity are the birth-pangs of glory. God has written vanity upon the present that every eye may be directed towards a dawn, of which the only visible streak is the instinct of the longing. Cherish that longing, for it is your hope. Base and dastardly is that contentment which would call darkness light and shadow substance. This is the great lie, against which God in nature, in providence, in conscience is waging perpetual warfare. Say to yourself till you feel it, "I am here, subject to vanity; if I pitch my tent here, if I choose the thing that is seen, then I am a part of the vanity." Let me be true at all risks — true to the inward voice which says, "Be thou a stranger and a sojourner here, and then thou hast a home, and a city, and an immortality beyond." How magnificent the thought — "The creature itself also shall be emancipated." "I saw new heavens and a new earth." "Times of refreshing shall come." The Spirit of God shall move again upon the face of a second chaos, and shape a new universe out of the confusion of this subjugation. Let us not refuse a hope for which every voice within, around, and above us cries aloud.

III. There is A PART, EVEN OF THE CHRISTIAN, which St. Paul places side by side with nature and humanity as a witness. "We groan within ourselves, waiting." There is a redeemed part within us, and there is an unredeemed. "The Spirit of life in Jesus Christ hath made me free from the law of sin and death." But what then? That very emancipation makes the remaining fetter gall and fret and wound more than before. The body, which is the outlet and the inlet of all temptation, is still unrenewed, over-ruled, consecrated, but not yet transformed. Therefore I, as a Christian man, am a witness to the great hope. I could not live thus for ever. I could not go to heaven thus. Nay, the more I know of the spiritual life, and the more sensitive I become to the thing which God hates, and the more I acquire the mastery over sin and corruption, so much the more do I become aware of the burden which I carry everywhere in this body. So much the more am I a witness to the necessity of a death and a resurrection. So much the more do I, in this body, groan being burdened, having a desire for the heaven of God's saints.

(Dean Vaughan.)

I. ITS EVIDENCES. Creation. —

1. Has lost its original charm, beauty, durability, harmony, perfection.

2. Is corrupted by much that is pernicious or useless.

3. Has been subjected to abuse.


1. Man's sin.

2. God's purpose.

3. The hope of restoration and development.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)


1. In the frailty of his body and its subjection to death, and in the precariousness of his life (Genesis 2:17).

2. In the unsatisfactoriness and uncertainty of his pursuits.

II. MAN UNDERGOES THIS SUBJECTION UNWILLINGLY. It was not a pleasant change from a body preserved in independent vigour and immortality by the efficacy of the Tree of Life to a mortal body; from gardening in Paradise to ploughing a stubborn and comparatively barren soil. So reluctant was Adam to the change that compulsion was necessary — "So He drove out the man."

III. THIS SUBJECTION WAS A CONSEQUENCE OF THE DIVINE PERFECTION. It was rendered necessary by Divine justice and wisdom, and executed by Divine power.

IV. THIS SUBJECTION IS ALLEVIATED BY HOPE. Redemption by Christ was the hope of the fathers, founded on God's promise — "The seed of the woman," etc. It is our hope now.

1. It is a hope of deliverance from vanity to a state answerable to the rank of "the sons of God." This deliverance is "the redemption of the body" and "the manifestation of the sons of God."

2. It is strengthened by the spiritual renovation which is the pledge of its fulfilment.Learn —

1. The folly and wickedness of a worldly mind.

2. The reasonableness of patience.

3. The duty of yielding to that Spirit who is working out our deliverance.

(C. Wills, M.A.)

Two wrong ways of regarding the visible creation around us —

1. Making an idol of it.

2. Professing to despise it. Scripture teaches that nature is not our master, but our fellow-servant. The passage before us teaches its connection with us, past and present, its actual condition, and its future destiny.

I. NATURE IS IN SYMPATHY WITH FALLEN MAN. — "Whole creation groaneth," etc.

1. Subjected by, and for, some one: "By reason of Him." Whom? God, not Adam, as some think.

(1)He subjected it.

(2)And "in hope."

(3)See Genesis 3:17.

2. As to the manner of subjection, two views —(1) A part reserved, Paradise; and the outside world then what it is now.(2) A mighty shock passed upon the world, previously paradisaical. Either admissible. Perhaps, in a measure, both.

3. As to the nature of the subjection.(1) To vanity (see Ephesians 4:17; 1 Peter 1:18; Ecclesiastes 1:2, 14; Psalm 62:9; Psalm 39:5). Expressive of inefficacy, aimlessness.(2) To bondage of corruption. Deeper: outcome and result of vanity. Sickness, pain, death, restraint, bondage.


1. Groaneth and travaileth — not willingly subjected. Evidences of this in nature. Decay, discord, pain.

2. This longing verified by Scripture. Subjected in hope. "Earnest expectation" in creature.

3. In sympathy with regenerate man: "We ourselves groan," etc.

III. THIS HOPE WILL BE REALISED. "The creature also shall be delivered," etc.

1. General truth of this asserted in Scripture (Isaiah 11:6; Isaiah 65:17; Acts 3:21; 2 Peter 3:13, etc.).

2. More particularly in this passage. From bondage of corruption to liberty of glory. Just as Christ was raised to the glory of the Father, and the sons of God to the glory of Christ, so will be the redeemed creation to the glory of the sons of God.

3. At or after the second advent. "Behold, I make all things new." Different opinions as to time and manner. As regards the thing itself, a truth of revelation. A subject of deep interest to all Christians.

(Preb. Clark.)

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.)

I. St. Paul says that "THE CREATION IS SUBJECT TO VANITY," AND IS UNDER "THE BONDAGE OF CORRUPTION." He sees in the creation a good deal of effort that comes to nothing, a waste of power, general imperfection, universal decay.

1. The apostle's description is confirmed by facts. There is an ideal form of beauty for the leaf and blossom of every plant; but no leaf or blossom is quite true to its ideal. The human eye is a very wonderful organ; but it is said that there are most curious faults in it. Man is not the only creature whose growth is often stunted, powers repressed, and glory obscured. Birds and beasts die of famine and in cruel conflict with each other. They are sometimes blind, deaf and lame. Epidemics sweep them away, They are tormented by diseases precisely analogous to our own. Flowers, plants, and trees, spring up in soil which gives them no food, and they die of starvation. They perish from want of rain. They are burnt up by heat. Their fruit fails to ripen for want of sun. They, too, are liable to diseases, which are curiously similar to ours. What makes all these facts the more appalling is that this apparent waste and suffering have been going on for millions of years. St. Paul might have read one of Mr. Darwin's books, for this is what Mr. Darwin has made certain: "The whole creation groaneth and travaileth together in pain until now."

2. But is not the creation God's own workmanship? Do not the heavens declare His glory, and all His works praise Him? Did not St. Paul say that "the invisible things of God," etc.? Yes; and it may be true that there has been more of happiness than of pain. There is "vanity" and "the bondage of corruption" everywhere; and yet Nature is fairer than the poets have ever sung; there are intricacies of skill which transcend all that genius has ever yet discovered; and there is an infinite wealth of goodness, in the presence of which our most fervent gratitude is cold.

3. You have listened to the work of a great master when it has been imperfectly rendered. The chorus just missed a sudden leap of exulting triumph, or they did not sink to the soft hush of harmony, or their voices were too coarse, or the instruments were not quite in tune, or the band and the voices parted company. And yet the genius of the composer shone through it all. Sometimes, too, you have seen on the walls of a church the work of a great artist. The frescoes are falling away from the wall; the canvas is rotting. And yet there are lines and colours which reveal the skill of the immortal painter. These illustrations fail to touch the mystery of the imperfection and pain of the universe; and yet they may suggest the blended dissatisfaction and rapture with which St. Paul thought of the works of God. The things that God has made reveal His eternal power and Godhead; but the creation is subject to vanity by the will of the Creator, and the bondage of corruption is upon all things.


1. As those that are in Christ are to inherit eternal glory, so all created things are to pass into new and higher forms of existence. Speculation, indeed, on this subject has no materials to work upon. "We know not what we shall be"; still less do we know what the glorified creation will be. We may dream of sweeter music, fairer flowers, and nobler fruits, etc., in the new creation than in the old. But all these are dreams. All that we can say is, that we have not seen the last and consummate manifestations of the power and wisdom of the Creator. The great "hope" of the creation has yet to be fulfilled. "Now is the winter of its discontent"; its spring has not yet come; the splendour of its summer is still far off.

2. The birth-throes of which the apostle speaks are an effort of imagination which closely touches some of the theories which we are asked to receive on the authority of scientific proof. We are told that the fierce struggle for existence is the condition of the development of higher and yet higher forms of life. By a law which could not be resisted, the feebler and the less perfect forms of life have been crushed whenever they have come in collision with the nobler and the more vigorous. The birth-throes of nature have extended through all time, and they are not yet over. Through how many more ages the suffering will last, whether it will ever cease, are questions upon which there is no general consent of scientific opinion.(1) M. Renan dreams that through the operation of this law of development there will at last arise an intellectual aristocracy which will have absolute command of all the resources of the world; that in every country there may be a dozen or a score of men as superior in their intellectual force to the rest of the nation as men are now to brutes; and that, perhaps, eventually the whole force of the weed, all its knowledge, and therefore all its power, may even be concentrated in the hands of a solitary individual, who will have absolute control over the life and fortunes of the race — a god that the human race had developed for itself.(2) There are others who tell us that the great movement must be at last arrested. The play of the mighty forces which sustain it will cease. There will be equilibrium. The anguish will be over, and with the anguish life, in all its forms, will be no more.(3) Paul believed that the creation has a glorious future. Christ, "the brightness of the Father's glory," has become man, and has brought all the regenerate members of the race into immortal unity with Himself, so that His glory is certain to become theirs. Man, however, belongs to the visible creation. From the earth we sprang; and we are the children of the earth, though we have been made the children of God. As we are to share the glory of Christ because of our union with Him, the earth is to share our glory because of its union with us.

3. You see, therefore, at what points St. Paul is in agreement with the results of scientific observation, and where he is hostile to philosophical theories which have been hastily erected on a scientific basis.(1) If the man of science maintains that he discovers signs of imperfection in every living organisation; that the organs of sense are imperfect; that in the lower types of life there are the mere rudiments of limbs which are found in a useful and complete form only in the higher; that in the higher there are survivals of elementary forms of structure which were useful only in the lower; that there is a universal waste of life; that there is an appalling amount of suffering — St. Paul is ready to accept all these facts. The creation is subject to "vanity" and is under "the bondage of corruption." But if the man of science goes on to argue from the imperfections, and failures, and waste in creation, that the universe had no intelligent Creator, St. Paul vehemently persists that with all the imperfection, failure, and waste, there are transcendent manifestations of the Creator's "eternal power and Godhead."(2) If the man of science maintains that all created things have gradually been developed by conflict and pain from lower forms of life, and that the history of the development has been a history of protracted anguish, St. Paul will find in the facts which illustrate this doctrine the most startling confirmation of his own statement that "the creation groaneth and travaileth together till now."(3) If the man of science maintains that the physical nature of man is the result of the same development, so that man on the side of his inferior life belongs to the inferior universe, St. Paul will listen with an open mind, remembering that his own sacred books had taught him that the physical nature of man came from the dust, though nothing had been said of the gradations by which the dust ascended to the dignity and power of the human form. But if the man of science further maintains that the history of man's physical development is a complete account of human nature, St. Paul will again protest vehemently. He will affirm — and the consciousness of the human race supports him — that there is a mysterious power in man which cannot be explained by this process of development. The ascending movement of physical life — if science can establish the reality of the movement — was met by the descent of the power of God, and the living creatures whose organisation had become capable of receiving inspiration from God received it.(4) If, again, the man of science argues that the groaning and travailing of creation are to end in stagnation and despair, St. Paul protests again and exults in the certainty of the hope that the creation will be delivered at last from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

(R. W. Dale, D.D.)

1. The word translated "creation" has a variety of significations in the New Testament. It sometimes means the act of creation (Romans 1:20); sometimes finite existence generally (Matthew 10:6; 1 Peter 5:4; Romans 1:25; Romans 8:39); sometimes the human race exclusively (Mark 16:15; Colossians 1:23; 1 Peter 2:13); and sometimes the class of regenerated men (Colossians 1:15; Romans 3:14; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15; Ephesians 2:10).

2. That the meaning we attach to it here should agree with the scope of the context and the aim of the writer. The aim of the apostle is evidently to exhibit the sublime privileges of the Christian amidst all the trials of this life.

3. That whatever meaning we attach to the word, it should be the meaning that the word will carry through the whole passage. Attending to these three things we have been compelled to regard the word "creation" as intended to designate regenerated humanity. Substitute the word, regenerated humanity, for "creation" throughout the whole passage, and you will give it a consistency both with itself and the aim of the writer. Our subject is "The Groaning Creation; or, the Apostolic estimate of the life of Regenerated Men." This estimate —

I. HAS RESPECT TO TWO WORLDS — the present and the future. As the average conduct of a man should be taken into account in order to estimate his character, so the entire life of a man, future as well as past and present, must be taken into account in order to estimate the balance of his joys or sorrows as a whole. Let us look at Paul's viewer —

1. The present life of the good. He describes it —(1) As a scene of vanity.(2) As a scene of slavery. "Bondage of corruption."(3) As a scene of suffering. All good men from the beginning have been "groaning." It is our happiness, however, to know that all our sufferings are parturitional; they are all travailing together; they will give birth to a higher order of things that will be more than a compensation for the throes.

2. The future life of the good.(1) It is a scene of spiritual glory. "Glory that shall be revealed in us." The glory of wordly men is outside; the glory of the good is within.(2) It is a scene of triumphant freedom. "The glorious liberty of the children of God."(3) It is a scene devoutly anticipated. "They are waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God." "When He who is our life shall appear," etc.

II. IS MOST SALUTARY IN ITS EFFECT. "We are saved by hope." Such a hope saves us —

1. From scepticism. Did we not take into account the life of future blessedness that awaits us, our present trials and afflictions would shake our faith in the wisdom and love of God's government of the world.

2. From murmurings. Did we not keep the future blessedness in view, we should be likely to complain and repine under our present afflictions; but looking at the glorious things awaiting us, we say with Paul, "Our light afflictions, which are but for a moment," etc.

3. From indolence. How the blessed prospect stimulates to activity! How the racer kindles with fresh fire as he glances at the goal!

(D. Thomas, D.D.)

We begin with the creature's condition, in these words, "The creature was made subject to vanity." That all the creatures which are in the world, or ever have been since the fall of man, they are for the present in a vain condition: they are vain and subject to vanity. First, take it in its insufficiency, and consider it there. A thing is, then, said to be vain when it does not reach its proper end, nor does that for which it was intended. The creature, in its original ordination and the first appointment of it, was ordained for two ends. The one was the glory of God, and the other was the good of man. Now both of these ends does it in a sort very much come short of; yea, is opposite unto them. Secondly, the good of man. It also fails of this, and is perverted in this particular likewise; and that, again, in a double respect, whether temporal or spiritual. His temporal good, for the preservation of his body, and his spiritual good, for the edification of his soul. The creature has a vanity upon it, so far as it is opposite to either, in the improvement of it. The use which we may make of this observation to ourselves comes to this, namely, to teach us to labour to have the creature sanctified to us; and so in a sort reduced to that estate which at first it was set in. First, the creature is sanctified on God's past by His word; and there is a threefold word of His, which is considerable to this purpose. First, the word of donation. Secondly, the word of benediction. And thirdly, the word of promise. The word of donation, whereby He bestows the creature upon us; the word of benediction, whereby He blesses the creature to us; the word of promise, whereby He makes a tender of this blessing. But prayer helps us to use them conscionably, that those things which in themselves are lawful may not become through our improvement sinful. Secondly. To enjoy them comfortably; for without God's special favour and blessing, though we partake of the things themselves, yet we can relish no sweetness in them at all. Now prayer, it fetches this from Him. And so much may suffice to have spoken of the first piece of vanity of the creature, consisting in its insufficiency and failing of that first end whereunto it was ordained. The second is in regard of its uncertainty, its transitoriness and shortness of continuance. The creature is subject to vanity in this regard also. And so the Scripture does everywhere represent it to us. "The fashion of this world passeth away" (1 Corinthians 7:31; 1 John 2:17). This is the nature of these worldly matters, but as a show and pageant, and there is an end. This it hath a twofold ground for it. First, the sin of man that hath deserved it The heavens and earth are harmless, yet, because they were made for man's sake, they bear the tokens of God's wrath against man for his sin (Isaiah 24:5). Secondly, God's counsel that hath so ordained it. God has cursed the earth for man's sake, and thereby brought destruction upon it. The consideration of this point is thus far useful to us. First, it teaches us from hence to put no stress or confidence in the creature. "When riches increase, set not your heart upon them" (Psalm 62:10). Secondly, is the creature thus subject to vanity in regard to the transitoriness of it, then let us hold ourselves so much more to the Creator, in whom is no vanity, or variableness, or shadow of turning. And so now I have done with the first general part of the text, which is the creature's condition in these words: "For the creature was made subject unto vanity." The second is the cause or occasion of this condition, which is laid down two manner of ways. First, negatively: "Not willingly." Secondly, affirmatively: "But by reason of Him who hath subjected the same in hope." First, take it in the negative, "not willingly" — that is, not of its own proper instinct and inclination; for what the will is in things rational, that the inclination is in things natural, and the one is by a borrowed speech transferred to the other here in this place. The creature of its own accord is not subject to vanity, forasmuch as every thing naturally desires the preservation of itself. So that this is that which is here observable of us, that the vanity of the creature, it is accidental and preternatural to it; and therefore is afterwards in this chapter called "bondage," which is an unwilling subjection. First, in the failing of its first end, for which it was made. This is preternatural to it. The creature in its first institution was made in reference and subordination to man, and so naturally does delight to be useful and serviceable to him for his good, and especially, and above all things, for the good and welfare of his soul. But now for to be a slave to his lust and instrumental to his execution of wickedness, as sometimes it proves to be through man's corruption, this is a thing which is directly contrary to its nature and disposition. It is so likewise in regard of the uncertainty and transitoriness of it. It is subject to vanity thus, not willingly, or of its own accord neither. There was an enmity and kind of reluctancy in their entirest being, and by the law of their first creation they were subject to change and alteration, so that this transitoriness of them is thus far as it were natural to them; but in this sense it is said to be preternatural, so far forth as they do naturally desire the preservation of themselves. If the creature be not willingly subject to vanity in reference to naturals, what a shame is it for men and women to be so in reference to morals! Never were people more vain and willingly subject to vanity than now they are. Vanity in all kinds, and in all expressions of vanity — vanity in our speeches and discourse, vanity in our pastimes and recreations, vanity m our garments and attire, vanity in our houses, and especially vanity in our hearts; we cannot look aside but we behold vanity, and love to do so. The creatures groan under their vanity, but we laugh and sing under ours, which is the highest degree of madness and distemper that can possibly be thought of. And so much may be spoken of that particular: the account of this condition in the negative, "not willingly." The second is in the affirmative: "But by reason of Him who hath subjected the same in hope" — that is, by reason of God the Creator, who for the sin of man cursing the creature hath subjected it to vanity and to corruption. In hope, that is, not irrecoverably, but reserving to it a possibility of returning to its former estate. There are two particulars which are here observable of us. First, for the dispensation itself, that is, the subjecting of the creature to vanity, which is here intimated and implied to be done by God Himself. The creature, it is subjected to vanity for man's sin. And as this holds good in general, so to some persons more especially in particular who do more fully and directly partake of the vanity of the creature in this particular which God threatens to them for their sin. There's a curse which belongs to everything which they deal withal, or have interest in, a curse upon their estates. The ground of this dispensation does proceed from that near relation which is betwixt man and the creature. It may seem a very strange matter that the creature which has done no hurt at all should be thus punished for the sin of man. We know how it is sometimes in the affairs and businesses of men; that some kind of malefactors they are punished not only in their persons, but in their relations, to put the greater terror upon their miscarriages, and to make them more odious. The proper use and improvement of this point to be made by ourselves comes to this: First, to inform and convince us of the great misery which is in sin. Secondly, we see here whom to blame and to find fault withal in the miscarriages of the creatures, and in our own disappointments from them. When they do not prove so serviceable to us in some cases and at some times as we expect and desire they should. And that is even our own selves, who are indeed the proper causes of it. Thirdly, here's matter of just abasement and mourning and humiliation when we shall consider the great mischief which we contract by our sins, not only to ourselves, but to others. Fourthly, we should from hence take heed that we do not willingly wrong the poor creatures or do injury to them. Lastly, as the creatures serve men in their sins, contrary to their natural inclination, even so should men serve God in welldoing against the bent of their natural corruption. The second is the additional qualification of this dispensation in these words, "in hope," where the apostle still speaks of the creature as of a rational person, as he did in the words before. When we speak of hope, it is considerable two manner of ways: either in the subject of it, or in the ground of it; either in the person, or in the condition. Then any are said to be in hope when they are in a hopeful way, or estate; or then any are said to be in hope when they do hopefully conceive of themselves in that estate. Now it is not so much the latter as the former which seems to be here intended. First, because this vanity, which is now upon it, is only accidental and occasional. It is not from any demerit in itself, but only from the sin of man, as we have formerly shown. Now that vanity, which was only accidental, is not likely to be perpetual. Secondly, the sins of men, for whose sake this vanity is inflicted, and from whom it is decreed, they shall some of them be delivered from that vanity which is upon them, therefore there is great cause to believe that the creatures shall also some of them partake of the like proportionable deliverance. And, therefore, thirdly, as another ground of it, we have the promise and Word of God Himself making for it. This may discover to us the different nature of that curse which is inflicted upon the creature, and that judgment which does belong to incorrigible and reprobate persons. We see here the different condition of fallen men and of fallen angels and devils. The one is a condition irrecoverable, while the other is a condition of hope. This should accordingly teach us to lay hold upon this hope which is set before us. Let us take heed of sinning wilfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth. If any time we miscarry, let it be unawares, and against our minds.

(Thomas Horton, D.D.)

Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God
Nature is prevented from putting forth its powers, from manifesting its real grandeur, and from attaining its original destiny. It is therefore bound. And its bondage is caused by the necessary decay of its products. All that nature brings forth is doomed to die. And nature is compelled to slay its own offspring. The lightning flash destroys the stately oak. The winter's cold kills the songsters of the summer. Animals devour other animals to maintain life. And this universal destruction limits the achievements of nature. Instead of constant growth, nature's beauty and strength fade away. The powers of the material creation are bound by fetters of decay.

(Prof. Beet.)

Nothing is more prized than liberty: indeed he deserves not the name of a man who can ever be reconciled to slavery. But while civil liberty is so desirable, the liberty in our text is of a still more important character. This liberty we may consider as gracious, and so enjoyed by believers even now; or as glorious, and so enjoyed in the life to come. It is of the latter the apostle speaks. Let us examine —

I. THE EXCELLENCY OF THIS LIBERTY YOU will not expect a full development of it. "Eye hath not seen," etc. "It doth not yet appear what we shall be." The believer's experience is "a glory to be revealed." It may well be called glorious if we consider —

1. Its price. Many things are estimated according to their price. The chief captain obtained his freedom with a great sum (Acts 22:28); but our freedom was obtained at a much greater cost (1 Peter 1:18; Acts 20:28).

2. Its immunities. Only think from what evils it will free us.

(1)From the powers of darkness.

(2)From a world lying in wickedness.

(3)From indwelling sin.

(4)From the blindness of our understanding; from perplexity, and doubt, and uncertainty.

(5)From anxiety, trouble, and exhausting toil.

(6)From the body of this death, this vile body, this prison.

3. Its accesses.

(1)To what a place will it give us access! — the palace of the King of kings.

(2)To what society! — our own beloved connections, patriarchs, apostles, just men made perfect, angels, and Jesus.

(3)To what entertainment! — to rivers of delight; to the marriage supper of the Lamb; to fulness of joy, and pleasures for evermore.

4. Its anticipations. What God does for His people here is but little to what He designs to do.

5. Its duration. Immortality will extend to the body as well as the soul.


1. By adoption, by which God admits us into His favour, and we are made the sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty.

2. By regeneration; for every Christian is a new creature, not only as to his state, but as to his nature. A new condition requires new and suitable qualities. So God makes us "meet for the inheritance of the saints in light."

3. By imitation. Christians are obedient children, not fashioning themselves according to their former lusts in their ignorance, but as He who has called them is holy, so are they holy.


1. Only: "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."

2. Universally. It belongs to all of them without exception. There is no difference here with regard to condition or circumstances.

3. Assuredly — as sure as the promise of God; the purchase of the Redeemer; the indwelling of the Holy Spirit can make it.

4. Freely and without desert.Conclusion:

1. Let us adore and praise the goodness of God in remembering us in our low estate, and in providing for us such a glorious liberty.

2. Seek after and ascertain your title to this glorious liberty.

3. Rejoice in the hope of this glorious liberty.

4. Walk worthy of vocation.

5. Be concerned for those who are strangers to all this.

(W. Jay.)

We begin with the future estate and condition of believers, which is supposed in these words, "The glorious liberty of the children of God." First, their bodies shall be free from those evils and infirmities which they are here subject unto. Here we see how many sicknesses (2 Corinthians 15:45). This may serve very much to satisfy them in all the present inconveniences and disparagements which may now fall upon them. Secondly, as there shall be a liberty of the body at that time, so of the soul likewise. First, from those natural defects which are now adherent to it, as ignorance, forgetfulness, indiscretion, weakness of imagination. And secondly, from spiritual distempers and inordinacy of passion, etc. And this is another sweet encouragement likewise to all the servants of God, especially such as groan under their present weaknesses and imperfections and the bondage of a distracted spirit, which cannot perform holy duties with that freedom and enlargement as they desire. Thirdly, for their whole persons; there shall be a liberty of them also. They shall be free in their names from those reproaches which are here cast upon them. The use which we are to make of it is, that seeing there is such a blessed estate as this is to be expected, that therefore we would for our parts labour to have a share in it. Those who do not partake of a gracious liberty in this world, they shall never be partakers of a glorious liberty in the world to come. The second, which is the principal, is the correspondency of the creature to this condition, as that which is declared, that the "creature itself shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption" into this glorious liberty of God's children. In what manner this is to be done, and how this deliverance of the creature here spoken of is to be accomplished. Now it may be reduced to two opinions. The first opinion is this — that this deliverance of the creature from the bondage of corruption shall be by abolition or annihilation. The second opinion is this — that this deliverance of the creature from corruption shall not be by way of annihilation, but only by way of alteration; that they shall not be destroyed, but changed and become new; not for substance, but only for quality. The former is repugnant, and will not hold good upon these following grounds. First, because this future estate of the creature, which is here mentioned in the text, it is expressed to be such as is earnestly desired by the creature; but now there is no creature whatsoever which doth naturally desire the extinction of itself, but rather the contrary. Nature, it does abhor nonentity, and chooses the preservation of itself oftentimes, even in the greatest extremity. Secondly, that which shall befal the creature at the day of judgment is here in the text expressly called the deliverance of it. Now a deliverance does necessarily suppose the being and existence of that subject which is delivered. Thirdly, it is said here also in the text, that the creatures shall be delivered into the liberty of the children of God; that is, that they shall be delivered in like manner as God's children are delivered. But God's children are not delivered by annihilation. And so again, "Who shall change our vile body, that it may be made like to His glorious body," etc. (Philippians 3:21). It is not annihilated, but changed. And so it shall be also with the other creatures. Fourthly, it is not probable neither that such a special monument of God's power as the heavens and earth indeed are should be absolutely and totally abolished, and turned into nothing; but rather that they should still remain as so many pillars of His greatness and goodness to all eternity, as they prove to be in their excellent variety. The second opinion is that which makes this deliverance of the creature to consist, not in abolition, but in alteration; not in destroying of the substance of it, but only in changing of the qualities. The Scripture itself does expressly call it a restoration (Acts 3:22). In fine, to sum up all, and to close up this present passage of the text before us: "Of the creatures being delivered into the glorious liberty of the children of God." This expression may be taken three manner of ways. Contemporancively, as denoting the time of this deliverance. Causally, as denoting the occasion of this deliverance, Terminatively, as denoting the thing itself. We see here the great benefit which we have by Jesus Christ, and our redemption through Him. In that He hath taken away all the evil and mischief which our sins have done unto us.

(Thomas Horton, D.D.)

The liberty of —

1. A child's access to God.

2. A child's idea of his father's government.

3. A purified conscience.

4. Well grounded and confident hope.Liberty is not lawlessness. The first condition of liberty is harmony with the infinite will. How is that will made known? By the life and work of the revealed God — Jesus Christ.

(J. Parker, D.D.)

We are quite certain that what we are cannot be the end of God's design. When I see a block of marble half chiselled, with just, perhaps, a hand peeping out from the rock, no man can make me believe that that is what the artist meant it should be. And I know I am not what God would have me to be, because I feel yearnings and longings within myself to be infinitely better, infinitely holier and purer, than I am now. And so it is with you: you are not what God means you to be; you have only just begun to be what He wants you to be. He will go on with His chisel of affliction, using wisdom and the graving tool together, till by and by it shall appear what you shall be; for you shall be like Him, and you shall see Him as He is. Oh, what comfort this is for our faith, that from the fact of our vitality, and the fact that God is at work with us, it is clear and true and certain that our latter end shall be increased. I do not think that any man yet has even got an idea of what man is to be. We are only the chalk crayon, rough drawings of men; yet when we come to be filled up in eternity we shall be marvellous pictures, and our latter end, indeed, shall be greatly increased.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

In truth, we are like the chrysalis, if we suppose it to be gifted with a conscious intelligence. Faint motions come to it within its sleeping frame; its limbs, its wings, strive dimly to extend themselves; dreams come to it, through its physical changes, of another life, dim suggestions of some wonderful new birth; yearnings after something which it calls freedom, and light, and beauty, and movement. They deepen, and at last one day the shelly case falls off, the insect queen appears, and in the opened wings, and the swift flight, and the flowery food, and the blue sunlight in which it moves with joy, all the problems which disturbed but enkindled it are lost in the splendour of their answer.

(Stopford A. Brooke.)

I. THERE ARE SOME MEN WHO ARE ACTUALLY AFFILIATED TO GOD. "They are the sons of God." What does this mean?

1. Not mere creatureship. All things, mountains and valleys, suns and stars, are the creatures of God; but we do not call them His children.

2. Not mere resemblance. Moral spirits everywhere are in some humble measure like God; yet we do not call devils His children. It means the possession of the true FILIAL SPIRIT. To give this is the great end of Christianity.


1. It is the purchase of an immense cost. The struggle of the slaves, the sacrifices of the patriot give value liberty. But this liberty has cost infinitely more. "Ye are not redeemed with corruptible things," etc.

2. It involves the entire freedom of man. Some men are free in some respects and slaves in others. The limbs may be free, the passions may be free, the intellect may be free, and yet the moral heart may be in chains. This is the freedom of the entire man in all his faculties and relations.

3. It is in harmony with the rights of the universe and the glory of God. There is a liberty which implies the slavery of others. But not this.

4. It will never find a termination. The powers, the sphere, and the facilities, of this liberty will be ever increasing with the ages.

(D. Thomas, D.D.)

1. To those who believe in free will, the difficulties attaching to the problem of human suffering are not formidable. If we take away all the wretchedness that springs from depraved hearts, it is a very small minimum indeed that is left behind. And then assuming immortality, there are surpassing compensations. But these principles are scarcely applicable to the lower creation. Much of the earth is desert, and the most fertile lands produce what is noxious more freely than what is good. And then animate nature is a pandemonium of internecine war and hunger and pain. And the explanations that help us somewhat in the enigma of human suffering scarcely serve us here.

2. But the Bible anticipates this difficulty, and foreshadows a conclusive answer in the text. Nature is linked with man. Its imperfections are explained by his. It falls and rises again with the fall and rise of man. Just as the law gives to the parent the custody of his own child, so God gives to man power over the world to modify it for good or evil at his will. Man stands in relation to the inferior creation as the Divine Mediator does to all mankind, and by the revelation of the glory of God's sons the whole creation will be lifted at last to higher beneficence and more perfect majesty. J. S. Mill said that "the facts of the universe suggested to his mind, not so much the idea of a beneficent and all-wise Creator, as that of a demiurge dealing with an intractable material, over which he had not acquired complete mastery." The true demiurge is man. God has given him an all but unlimited stewardship over nature, and we should not go to her anarchic realms to find out what God is, but rather to find out what man is. The kingdom suffers through the misconduct of an ill-regulated king. A slave may be virtuous and kindly in character, but if his master be evil, he will have to be the instrument of many an unholy behest. However benign the qualities latent in nature, it will necessarily exhibit at times the sinister character of the lord it is compelled to obey.

3. The savage believes that every part of the creation is animate; and the truth in fetichism is that the spirit of man reflects itself in nature. His identical soul does not pass into its but the shadow of what he is always rests upon it. It seems to echo the groans of his more conscious pain. It is feeling towards deliverance from the bondage into which he has brought it.

4. If we do not get our full share of nature's gifts, we are apt to charge upon it, and its Divine Author, things that in no proper sense belong to them. The street Arab wilt not think very gratefully of the kindliness of nature, even if he should be taken for a day into the country, and see the ripe cornfield, or fruit orchard, or vinery. Nature's hand may be lavish, and her heart large; but the famishing millions of Asia will not be very profoundly impressed by her kindliness, although they may hear that in Western America wheat is so abundant and so cheap that the farmers have had to burn it for fuel. To these poor wretches Nature will be tormentor rather than friend. Some time ago a political speaker gave utterance to an aphorism that would form an admirable comment upon the text, "The laws of nature," said he, "preside over the creation of wealth, but the heart of man over its distribution, in sympathy, justice, brotherhood." That defines the whole question. Nature, after all, is only truly beneficent to the subjects of her kingdom when she is helped by the intelligence, the justice, and the kindliness of man.

I. GOD DISTRIBUTES THE BREAD HE IS EVER MULTIPLYING BY NATURAL PROCESSES, AFTER THE PATTERN OF THE SYMBOLIC MIRACLE IN GALILEE. He commits it into the hands of servants, who are to be the channels of His bounty. Suppose for a moment that the sordid elements hidden in some of the disciples had come to the surface in connection with that miracle. Judas slips into his capacious bag the food he should have distributed to a hungry woman and her babes. Thomas, dreading the privations that may come, keeps back that which should have been given to decrepit old men. If we could listen to the speech of weary men and fainting women as they creep to their homes, we might possibly hear some reflections upon the character of the Wonder-worker which would be very wide of the mark. Whatever failure there is in nature arises not from any lack of generosity in the Power that multiplies the bread, but from the selfish, partial, short-sighted distribution of the disciples. Nature provides for the needs of all, but man robs her of her rightful reputation to beneficence. He projects upon her kind and radiant visage the shadow of his own tyranny and greed. Nature waits for the coming of a higher life. She can only find that life through the regeneration of man.

II. NATURE HAS FERTILE FIELDS READY FOR HER SONS THAT THE FOOT OF MAN RARELY TREADS. Every pauper in our unions might be a lord of wide acres without confiscating any one's property. Thousands of artisans prefer starvation wages to the life of the health-giving prairie. In the swarming lands of the East millions cling to the soil on which they were born, and risk death by famine every decade, rather than move to unoccupied lands that can be reached without crossing the sea. How is it that the beneficence of nature throughout these vast virgin territories is wasted? She shares man's bondage. She cries out: "Emigrate your destitute. I am ready to clothe, feed, and shelter them." Nature's challenge is not accepted, and why? We insist upon dealing with chronic pauperism by pittances and palliatives. And the selfish capitalist cries out too: "We can have no emigration schemes. The labour market will be depleted. When prosperity returns we shall not be able to get sufficient hands." And starving people themselves are reluctant to cut the tie that holds them to fatherland. The man pressed to emigrate thinks he might be taken in by the land-jobbers, or fail to find in his new neighbours the helpfulness he can always find in his own kith and kin. He will stand at bay in the presence of famine rather than run that risk. Nature has spread a table for the needs of every man. But in the craft, selfishness, and vices of man, a file of demon-terrors have been planted about the table, that effectually ward off the famished crowds. Nature cannot rise above the moral level of those to whom she is placed in subjection. In his fall and in his rise alike man carries with him the creation of which he is the head.

III. "The laws of nature preside over the creation of wealth," but "THE HEART OF MAN" ITSELF OFTEN PRESIDES OVER THE LAWS OF NATURE. Sceptics point to the fact that a great proportion of the earth is occupied by desert, and they suppose that they have disproved the idea of benevolent design. But may not the very desert be Nature's benign call to labour? Some of the most fruitful soils were once bog and rock and sand, and have become what they now are by human labour. The time wasted in a generation by the idle and dissolute would be sufficient to turn the Sahara into a fruitful field. There are very few deserts that could not be fertilised if the capital were forthcoming, and the difficulty nowadays is never to find capital, but to find men honest enough to direct and control it. The old prophecies about the blossoming deserts are meant to teach the lesson that the life of regenerate man will connect itself with the regeneration of nature.

IV. WHEN WE JUDGE GOD BY HIS WORK IN NATURE, WE MUST LOOK AT THE IDEAL CAPABILITY HIDDEN IN IT, RATHER THAN AT THE ATTAINMENT. "The heart of man," no less than "the laws of nature," presides over the creation of all kinds of wealth. God created the life beneath us, with "a seed in itself," "put man into the garden, to dress it and keep it." These inspired traditions contain the important truth which will solve not a few of our difficulties, that God never meant nature to be looked at apart from its relation to man. Do not look to the berry of the hedgerow, or the dwarf flower of the bleak hill-top, for the gauge of God's beneficent work. Look at what fruit and flower may become under the most skilful culture. Judge God's work in man by all that man may be trained to, and judge God's work in nature by the potential excellence that sleeps in its mysterious depths. If some exquisite porcelain painting had been spoiled in the after-firing, you would not judge the artist by the blunder of a drunken furnace-man. Do not judge God's work by the blurred lines you see in nature to-day. It has been put in subjection to man, and can only be all that for which God has fitted it with the redemption of man.

V. ALMOST ALL THE FORCES OF NATURE WAIT TO RECEIVE THE MORAL IMPRESS THEY ARE TO REAR FROM THE CHARACTER OF MAN. If he is of the temper of Cain, or driven by the evil of others to the defence of life or home, he takes the iron furnished to him by the hills, and puts on it the broad-arrow mark of murder, welding it into death-dealing scimitar or assegai, mortar or mitrailleuse. In the hands of renovated man the metal shall lend itself to peaceful industry and navigation and travel. Unrenewed man takes the chemical forces of nature and manipulates them into charges which shall create a chaos of carnage and flame. These forces in the hands of man renewed in the image of God's gentleness shall be used only to tunnel the separating mountains and make canals and highways to bring near to each other the different fragments of the human family. Nature sometimes seems malignant in not only producing thorns and thistles, but plants infinitely more dangerous. But the very poison plants borrow their terror either from our ignorance or from the character with which the secret murderer has clothed them; and with the renewal of the human race in knowledge and humanity they shall be known only as healing herbs. If Nature sometimes seems cruel, it is because man has made her so. Nature can only be "very good," as at first, with man's full redemption.

VI. Man's sovereignty over animate nature is not so obvious as his power over inanimate nature, And yet there is proof that THE DIFFERENT CIRCLES OF LIFE IN SEA AND FOREST AND AIR RISE AND FALL IN HIS RISE AND FALL. We may set aside the poetic but not Mosaic idea that just as soon as Adam sinned snakes suddenly developed poison bags, and wolves suddenly discovered a taste for blood, etc. And yet there is an inverted truth in the grotesque conception. It can be proved that the animal world has been inoculated with the virulence of man's worst passions. The temper of a dog or a horse is influenced by the temper of its master, and the dispositions of all domesticated animals may be modified by selective processes. Some of the most powerful denizens of the forest will never attack unless first attacked. Is not the domestication of animals a problem to which Paul had better clues than the modern naturalist? Is this the fragment of a lost empire, or the first conquest of a new empire that shall one day be completely won and harmonised by man's kindness and skill? "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all slay My holy mountain." John teaches that as well as Paul. The four living creatures placed round about the throne are the symbols of the powers of nature. Conclusion: You are perhaps ready to say, "It will be little compensation to the dumb creatures that have suffered, even if their far-off descendants should be brought at last into a kindlier world by the regeneration of man." Now I am not going to extenuate the cruelties practised upon dumb creatures. Our descendants will be almost as much ashamed of some of our cruelties as we are ashamed of the cannibalism of our ancestors. But are the sufferings of the brute creatures as great as we think? Imagination adds nine-tenths of the terror with which human suffering is invested. Unimaginative races suffer comparatively little under appalling mutilations. Brute creatures possess imagination in a very inferior degree, if they possess it at all. That may be accounted as an anodyne to soothe their pain. But is there to be no compensation? Some have held a resurrection of animals. There are perhaps only two objections to that view. Our interest in the animal world is so slight that it scarcely seems worth while. And in animal life we detect no forecast of immortality. Possibly in some of the lower spheres of life the doctrine of the transmigration of souls may be truer than we think. Some modern naturalists hold, and with a fair show of reason, that whilst human consciousness centres in the individual, animal consciousness tends to centre itself in the species. If that be the case, the suffering individual may be compensated in the improved and perfected life of the species. We may leave the "how" to the unseen Hand that will not fail to redress the disturbed balance in the minutest life. The whole creation falls in man, and is to rise again in his moral uplifting. That is the great lesson for us.

(T. G. Selby.)

For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now
First, to speak of the creature's passion. It groaneth and travaileth in pain. We have a very full expression of the creature's estate in the time of this present world, which is full of misery, and perplexity, and distraction. And this they may be conceived to do in sundry respects. As first, from that hard labour which they are put to for the use of man. The ox, and the ass, and the horse, and such as these, they groan under the pains and travails which they undergo for our accommodation. Secondly, when they are made instruments to man for his sinning, as sometimes they are; there are divers creatures in the world which people choose to the fulfilling of their lusts, their pride, and luxury, and malice. Now in this respect, amongst others, they cannot but be subject to a great deal of trouble and vexation. And then thirdly, as in their service of us, so likewise, which we may take in with it, their dying for our use likewise. Lastly, the great disorder and confusion of all things here below; it does speak this much unto us, "The whole creation travails and groans"; that is, the whole frame and composure of the world, being a world of trouble. And this groaning, it does not so rest in itself, but it is carried to a further end, namely, to make the creature desirous of a better and happier condition, when it shall be freed from its present bondage. Therefore there is added to it another word, which signifies travail. The main use which we are to make of this groaning which at present lies upon the creature, is still to make us sensible and apprehensive of the heavy burden and grievousness of sin. Again, it teaches us also to take notice of God's hand, when it is at any time upon ourselves, and accordingly to be affected with it. And so much may suffice of the first thing considerable of us here in this verse, which is the creature's passion. The second is its compassion. It groans and travails in pain together. Whereby is signified to us the sympathising affection of the creatures which they do sustain in this present condition. First, the creatures do groan and travail in pain together; that is, they do so with us, who have the lordship and dominion over them. First, the creature groans and travails together under our sin. Take notice of that, the very unreasonable creature itself, it does in a sort lament and bewail the sin of man. This is expressed unto us in Jeremiah 12:4. Again, as this sympathising of the creature with us in sin teaches us to lament and bewail sin in ourselves, so it teaches us also proportionably to bewail sin in others, and to have the same affections for them in their sins, as the creatures have for us in ours. The second is their sympathy with us in our misery, and not only with us, but with one another; we will here join them both together. The creatures, they are not only sensible of their own particular bondage, but also of the bondage of each other, and of us to ourselves. Of the bondage of one another (Hosea 2:21). The heavens hear the complaints of the earth, and the earth hears the complaints of the corn, and wine, and oil, etc., of the bondage and misery of us men. Thus the sun was darkened by way of sympathy at the passion of Christ (Joel 1:18). This, it serves to shame the Senselessness and hard-heartedness of many men and Christians in this particular, as wanting this fellow-feeling of the miseries of their brethren. The second is the extent of it, "until now"; that is, from the first fall of man to this present day. This shows us the long continuance of this vanity and misery upon the creature. This misery which the creature does thus groan and travail under hath been a long time upon it. This, it serves to satisfy and compose our minds in all the evils which here in this world we are exposed unto, as no new or strange matter. The third and last thing is the discovery of it, in these words, We know it. Know it? How? First, by the Word of God, even by Divine revelation. Secondly, by common sense, and daily and frequent observation. Thirdly, which is the worst knowledge of all, we know it by woful experience. "And not. only they, but," etc. (ver. 23). These are a further argument which the Apostle Paul here brings to the Romans to confirm the former conclusion; to wit, that there is a future glory to be revealed hereafter in the saints. This he had proved already from the earnest desire and expectation of the creature. But here now he does further confirm it, from that desire which is in believers themselves. And not only they but we, who have the first-fruits of the spirit, even we ourselves, etc. First, the persons mentioned. First, all true Christians whatsoever, they have more or less received the Spirit; not the Spirit in the miraculous gifts of it, but the Spirit in the sanctifying, which is that which is here intended. A Christian is described not so much from his gifts as from his graces, which are most essential to him. This the children of God come to be partakers of upon a twofold account. First, by virtue of God's covenant made with them in Christ. Secondly, by virtue of that union which they have to Christ. This may therefore serve as a trial of our state. We may see what we are, according to this character now before us, as it is imprinted upon us. All true Christians whatsoever, they have more or less received the Spirit. The second point is this, that the Spirit of God in believers is in them in the nature of first-fruits. The first-fruits of the Spirit as it is here expressed. This it is both in regard of the graces of it, and also in regard of the comforts; and according to each of them, in divers and sundry resemblances, as pertinent thereunto. First, in regard of the order, and beginning, and first appearance of them. The first-fruits of the earth are those fruits which the earth first of all produces (Deuteronomy 26:2). We have not the following accomplishments of glory till we have received the first fruits of grace. These must go before the other, and first of all show themselves in us. There must be holiness before there can be happiness. There must be grace before there can be glory. The first-fruits are here in this life. Secondly in regard of their quantity; that is, their smallness and imperfection; we know how the first-fruits under the law, they were but a handful in comparison of the whole, but a small and little portion. Even so it is here in these things, which we now speak of: grace, it is here but a little, and comfort here, it is but small. We have not these things in the fullest measure, but sparingly communicated to us. Therefore we should not be discouraged when we reflect upon ourselves or others, which are near unto us in this particular; God will not cast away the first-fruits which Himself hath wrought in us. Though grace be but small, yet it is grace for all that, and a fruit of His own blessed Spirit, which He will not refuse, but rather make much of. This is not so to be understood as if we should rest ourselves satisfied with these. We must not be always in our first elements and beginnings of goodness. No; but we must labour to come up to perfection, and to proceed from one measure and degree of grace to another. We must not be always in our entrances, but go forward, and make a further progress in the ways of religion. Beginnings are well for beginners, but not for such as are long standers in Christianity. Thirdly, in regard of their signification. The graces and comforts of the Spirit of God here in this life. They are pledges to us of that eternal glory which we shall one day more fully partake of in the kingdom of heaven. Fourthly, in regard of their quality. The first-fruits they are commonly and for the most part the best and choicest, so are the graces and comforts of the Spirit above anything else — above parts, above gifts, above riches, above all outward excellency (Proverbs 3:14, 15). Fifthly, in regard of their influence. The first-fruits, they sanctified the rest as in (Romans 11:16). If the first-fruits be holy, the lump is also holy. Even so does grace make everything else which at any time comes from us. It puts an excellency and loveliness upon it. Men's parts, and estates, and employments; all they are, and all they have, and all they do — it is all sanctified by grace, and made well-pleasing and acceptable to God. Lastly, in regard to their dedication. The first-fruits were consecrated to God, and given to Him; so should all the gifts and graces of God's Spirit which He bestows upon us, we should devote them, and consecrate them, and improve to His honour and glory.. And that is the second part here observable, that the Spirit of God in believers is in them, in the nature of first-fruits. The third and last is this, that those who have received the first-fruits of the Spirit they do long and wait for more, even the full accomplishment of that which is begun in them. First, these first-fruits of the Spirit, they do not stay their longing and satisfy them. That the children of God, they are not satisfied with their beginnings of heaven here, though it be a mercy. The reason of it is this, because they are but small and imperfect. Look as there is a great deal of difference between the first-fruits and the full vintage, between the gleanings and the full harvest. These first-fruits they do not stay their longing. The second is, that they do further increase, and make them more eager. The more that Christians do partake of the comforts of the Holy Ghost in this world, the more earnestly do they desire the accomplishments of glory in the world to come. And there is a double reason for it. First, because the things themselves have so much sweetness and delightfulness in them. If the first-fruits be thus comfortable, what then are the fuller enjoyments? Secondly, their appetite itself is from hence so much the more increased, and thereby more enabled to favour and relish these heavenly delights. Their mouths are hereby put in taste, as I may so express it. This, it serves to give us an account therefore of the temper of men's spirits in this particular. We see whence it is that many people are no more enlarged in themselves with such desires as these. It is because they have no more pre-apprehensions of these things in themselves; which if they had, they would be otherwise affected. Men's desires are conformable to their dispositions, and employments, and exercises, and such things as they are most occupied about. The second is, the actions attributed to those persons, "Groan within ourselves, waiting," etc.

(Thomas Horton, D.D.)


1. There are two causes of groaning in sensitive creatures —(1) Labour and motion. So we may say the creature is worn out with hard labour to serve the uses of man; because it is in continual motion (Ecclesiastes 1:5; Job 37:11). The earth is digged, rent, and deprived of its sabbaths. The rivers flow, and the sea hath its ebbs and tides; all things in the lower world are full of labour; and so the creature is wearied and worn out to serve man.(2) That which answereth to pain, is their passing away by corruption. The four elements being contrary one to another, are still wasting one another till all fail; heat against cold, and moisture against dryness. And besides, the creature is often blasted in its greatest glory and beauty. Look, as in a fruitful season the valleys are said to laugh with fatness (Psalm 65:12, 13); so on the other hand it doth, as it were, mourn (Jeremiah 12:4, 23. 10; Isaiah 24:4; Isaiah 33:9; Joel 1:10). Now this may come to pass, partly, by external drought (1 Kings 18:5); by storm and tempest (Proverbs 28:3); by vermin (Joel 1:4); by the irruption and invasion of an enemy (Isaiah 1:7); by pestilential diseases (Amos 4:10).

2. These things premised, we may see in what sense the creature is said to groan.(1) In a way of supposition. If they had reason, they would be thus affected. If God should open the mouth of the creature, as he did that of Balaam's ass, it would groan under its hard servitude (2 Peter 2:16).(2) By analogy. There is something in them which is a shadow and resemblance of reason. The grass groweth as if it knew how to grow; a stone in descending, falleth by a straight line as if it had reason to pick it out; so that they do in their kind groan under their present burden, till they be delivered from it.


1. They are upbraiding groans. We that have reason are more senseless than the creatures: the creature groaneth, and we are unaffected with our sin or misery (Jeremiah 12:14). "For swearing, and lying, and stealing, and adultery, the land mourneth " (Hosea 4:2, 3); but doth the swearer or the adulterer mourn?" The vines howl, and the fig tree languisheth" (Isaiah 24:7); but doth the drunkard mourn, because God is provoked by his excess? It is very observable that the prophets often turn from men and speak to creatures (Lamentations 2:18; Micah 6:1, 2; Jeremiah 22:29).

2. Awakening groans. The creatures speak by our thoughts, and groan by our affections; namely, as they excite us to sigh and long for a better estate.

3. Instructive groans. They teach us(1) the vanity of the creature, which is now often changed, and must at length be dissolved.(2) The evil of sin; it is the burden of the whole creation, of which it would fain be eased.(3) Patience. We live in a groaning world, and must expect to bear our share in the common concert.(4) Long-suffering. The continuance of the universe is much longer than the continuance of our lives; therefore let us not repine at so short a time, for the creature hath been in a groaning condition these six thousand years.(5) Hope in long sorrow. We should keep up hope and expectation; the creature groaneth till now; yea, but still it expecteth its final deliverance (John 16:21, 22). The throes of our sorrow may be sharp; but the birth will occasion joy enough to countervail the tediousness of it.

4. Complaining, accusing groans. Because of the slavery we put them into they groan for vengeance (Habakkuk 2:11).

III. HOW WE KNOW IT? For who ever heard the groaning of the whole creation?

1. By sensible experience we know the vanity of the creature (Psalm 119:96).

2. The word affirmeth —(1) That this came in by man's sin; and the common apprehension of mankind attesteth it, that wicked men are unprofitable burdens of the earth, and bring a judgment on the place where they live.(2) That God having repaired the world by Christ, there is a better estate appointed for man; and so by consequence for the creatures, which are an appendage to him (Isaiah 11:6-9).

3. The Spirit improveth it, both the vanity of the creature, and our mortality, and the hopes of restoration (Psalm 90:12; Deuteronomy 29:2-4; Ephesians 2:8). Conclusion. From the whole take these corollaries:

1. That sinful man is an enemy to all the creatures, as well as to himself. The creation was a well-tuned instrument, upon which man might make music to the praise and honour of God; but the strings of the harp are broken; and there is nothing but jarring instead of harmony, and groans for praise.

2. That every particular land fareth the worse for wicked men (Proverbs 11:10, 11).

3. That we must not ascribe the alterations and changes of the creature to chance or fortune, but to God's providence punishing man's sin.

4. Why a righteous man should be merciful to his beast (Proverbs 12:10). There is burden enough upon the creature under which he groans.

5. The wonderful dulness of man in the case of sin and misery; so that the creatures are fain to supply our room.

6. Our great need to draw our hearts from the inordinate love of the creature, and to lay up treasure in heaven. What can we expect from a groaning creature?

7. How unsuitable sensual rejoicing is unto the state which we are now in. It is a groaning world, and here we seek our pleasures and contentments.

(T. Manton, D.D.)

In the text we have —

I. THE PARTY WHOSE UNEASINESS IS TAKEN NOTICE OF. "The whole creation." Yet this phrase is not so universal but that it admits of some exceptions.

1. The angels, for as they were not made for man, so they are already perfectly happy.

2. The devils. The creature here is subjected in hope (ver. 20), but the case of devils is hopeless.

3. The reprobate. Their groans shall never have an end.

4. The elect. Some of them are in heaven, and groan no more, and those on earth must also be excepted (ver. 23). Now, these being excepted, it remains that by the whole creation we understand the creatures made for the use of man. They are all uneasy. The visible heavens were made the roof of his house, the earth his floor; the sun, moon, and stars were made to be his lights, the air to breathe in, the wind to refresh him; the various produce of the earth to afford him necessaries, conveniences, and delights. He was lord of sea and land. Fishes, fowls, and beasts of the earth, were all at his command. While he stood they were all of them most easy in his service. But now that matters are reversed with him their situation is also reversed.


1. They groan. This is a metaphor taken from a man with a heavy burden on his back, which so straitens him that he cannot freely draw his breath, and when he gets it it is a groan.

2. They "travail in pain." A metaphor taken from a woman bringing forth a child.

III. THE MOURNFUL CONCERT THEY MAKE. They groan and travail together. Before sin entered into the world they all looked blythe, and as it were sung together; but now they have changed their tune and groan together.

IV. HOW LONG THEY HAVE SUNG TO THE MELANCHOLY TUNE. "Until now." And how long it may be to their delivery we know not. But one thing we know, it will never be till the world end.

V. THE AUDITORY THAT LISTENS TO THE MOURNFUL CONCERT. "We," believers, hear the mournful ditty. Can the shepherd not observe when the whole flock is crying together? Were all the men of a city groaning, and all the women travailing, that person must be deaf that would not hear the sound, and he must have an heart of adamant that would not be affected. But the whole creation, above us and about us, are groaning and travailing together, and that for our sakes; yet a sinful generation has no ears to hear, no heart to be affected with it, and with sin which is the cause. But serious Christians, awake to it, cannot miss to hear, and their ears affect their hearts.

(T. Boston, D.D.)

I. IN WHAT RESPECTS THE CREATURES ARE SAID TO GROAN, for many of them are properly incapable of groaning.

1. The sensible part of creation really groans, each after its kind (Joel 1:18).

2. The whole creation appears in a mournful mood and groaning posture. The sun, the eye of the world, has often a veil drawn over it for many days, and he with the rest of the lights of heaven are covered with blackness, like mourners. The earth, trees, and plants upon it, lay aside their ornaments, and every head among them is bald.

3. The whole creation, if they could, would groan, for they have good reason (Luke 10:40). And it is well for man that the creatures cannot represent their misery as it deserves, otherwise they would deafen him with their complaints, and make him continually uneasy with their groans.

4. The Spirit of God is grieved, and groaneth (so to speak) in the creatures (Amos 2:13). God is everywhere present, quickening, influencing, preserving, and governing all the creatures, according to their several natures (Acts 17:25; Hebrews 1:3). Hence it is evident that the abuse done to the creatures riseth to God Himself.

5. Serious Christians groan in behalf of the creatures.

II. WHAT DISTRESSES THE CREATURES SO MUCH THAT THEY GROAN? Why, truly, they got a large share of the curse to bear for man's sake (Genesis 3:17).

1. The whole creation, by man's sin, has fallen far short of its beneficial and nutritive quality in comparison of what it originally was at its creation (Psalm 107:34).

2. The whole creation, by man's sin, has come far short of its ultimate end, the glory of God. The whole creation was made to be a book, wherein men might read the name of God; a stringed instrument, by which men were to praise Him; a looking-glass in which to behold His glory (Romans 1:20). The book is as it were sealed. They have lost the art of praising, hence the instrument is hung by, being to little purpose in the possession of such persons. They care not for beholding His glory, therefore the looking-glass is overlooked, and very little use is made of it. Under this vanity they groan also.

3. The nature of the whole creation is in some sort altered. When God looked on His creatures He saw that they were very good (Genesis 1:31). Where is the creature that has no evil about it now? The sun sometimes scorches man and the fruits of the ground; at other times his absence makes the earth as iron that he cannot stand before the cold. The air often sickens and kills him. The distempered winds often sink him in the sea. Out of the earth, where he is to get his meat, sometimes he meets with poisonous herbs.

4. The creature has fallen into the hands of God's enemies, and is forced to serve them. When man left God, all the creatures would have left him if God had not subjected them anew to him (ver. 20). We see how far some of them have gone in renouncing their service to him (Job 39:7, 8).

5. They are used by sinners to ends for which God never made them. Never did a beast speak but once (Numbers 22:28, 30), and that was a complaint on man for abusing it to an end for which God never made it. And, could the creature speak to us, we would hear many complaints that way. There are two things which make hard service —(1) Continual toil without profit. The creatures have no intermission in their service (Ecclesiastes 1:5, 8). But oh, where is the profit of it all? The sun never rests. But, alas! men see to sin more by it. The night waits on us in its turn, and the thief and adulterer get their lusts fulfilled with it. The air waits about us continually, and the swearer gets sworn by it, the liar lied by it. The earth and sea wait on us with their produce, and people get their sensuality and pride nourished by it. What wonder they groan to be brought to this pass?(2) Hard labour, and much loss by it (Habakkuk 2:13). The creatures not only toil for vanity, but as it were in the fire, where they smart for their pains. The covetous oppressor's money groans (James 5:4). The oppressor builds his house by blood and oppression, and the very stones and timber cry out (Habakkuk 2:11).

6. The creatures partake with man in his miseries. They that have life live groaning with him; they are liable to sickness, pains, and sores as well as he; and they die groaning with him. In the deluge, in Sodom, in Egypt they were destroyed with him. The inanimate creatures suffer with him also (Deuteronomy 28:23; Job 37:10; Hosea 2:21).


1. Because of their relation to sinful man, who has a subordinate interest in them, and that by the same justice that the whole which a malefactor has smarts with him (Joshua 7:24). The sun is a light to him, therefore it is overclouded; it nourishes his ground, therefore its influences are restrained. His flocks furnish him with conveniences, therefore they suffer.

2. Because of their usefulness to him, by the same right that, in war, one takes from his enemy whatever may be of use to him. Pharaoh will not let Israel go, and the cattle, and the very trees and water of Egypt, smart (see also Hosea 4:3; Haggai 1:4-11).

3. By the same right one takes a sword from a man wherewith he is running at him. The creatures are idols of jealousy often to provoke God, and therefore He strikes them down. Often, and most justly, does God punish sinners in that wherein they have sinned.

4. By the same right one takes back his loan when he gets no thanks for it, but, on the contrary, it is improved against himself (Hosea 2:8, 9).

5. By the same right a prince levies a fine on a man when he might take his life. It is a mercy God deals not with ourselves as with the creatures for our sake (Lamentations 3:22).

IV. THE IMPROVEMENT OF THIS DOCTRINE. The creatures groan out these lessons to us:

1. That God is angry with us (Habakkuk 3:8).

2. That sin is a heavy burden which none are able to bear up under.

3. That God is a jealous and just God, who will not suffer sin to go unpunished.

4. That creatures are ever weak pillars to lean to (Ecclesiastes 1:2).

5. That the service of the creatures to sinful man is an imposition on them (ver. 20).

6. That the creatures are wearied of the world lying in wickedness, and would fain have it brought to an end (ver. 19).

(T. Boston, D.D.)

Apply the text to —


1. The assertion will sound strangely to many ears, and there are certain outward appearances at variance with it.(1) There are, for instance, those who fix their hearts on coarse enjoyments. Are they not happy? Now, even if we granted that the drunkard or the impure had so effectually unstamped themselves of the image of God as to rejoice in the likeness of brutes, I should count them of all men the most miserable. I should be ready to weep for their dreadful delusion, as for a madman who fancies himself a king. But I need not grant so much as this. No such men are happy — their Maker has taken good care of that. There is conscience, a troublesome guest whom they cannot expel. I care not for their snatches of merriment, for that intoxication of the senses which every now and then makes the brain whirl and puts the blood on fire. I would tear the bosom open and look upon the heart, and at the bottom of that I see wretchedness. And, at all events, even if you would allow that all this was delightful, yet the end of it must come. What is there to uphold these pleasure-seekers in the valley of the shadow of death? "Then, indeed, all is turned into groaning and travailing!"(2) There is the same lack of peace and real joy in the world's vanities. I speak of squandering away noble capacities in baubles and playthings, which is just as absurd as giving pearls and diamonds for feathers or stones. That constant idle flutter of life, with no aims worthy of a rational being, not to say a never-dying soul, is not only the most contemptible, but the most miserable of existences! And it has its end; when the poor soul which has lived on shadows finds itself in the presence of realities more terrible than it has ever dreamed of, and God and eternity, and heaven and hell, supply for ever the place of the childish delights of vanity and the laughter of fools. Then to it comes the groaning and the travailing with pain.

2. When we have disposed of these two classes, we have removed the only exceptions to the sad statement in the text.(1) I need say little of those who wear out heart and soul in the pursuit of wealth, which the moth consumes and the rust corrupts, and which, some time or other, will turn into fire and burn into their very souls. If the earth were forced to render up all its treasures it could neither feed the soul nor satisfy one single noble desire or real want of the heart. And then, naked we came into the world, and naked we must go out of it. The pursuit of gain, like that of pleasure, is vanity and vexation of spirit.(2) So with those few nobler things on which men set their hearts, the pursuit of power and influence over our fellow creatures, and the cultivation of knowledge. God forbid that I should undervalue this, but it has no remedy for our real evils. We have affections, and it does not touch them — we have souls with boundless longings for an eternal resting-place, and it cannot supply it; we have sin, it cannot make us holy; we are subject to death, and it cannot strip it of its sting. And as for greatness, if you think that you would be better off because you might hide your heart-ache in a palace, why then thus much it can give, but no more (Ecclesiastes 1:1, 12, 16, etc.). Out of this mighty kingly heart, the most capacious of wisdom and satiated with all which the heart could give, power, wisdom, pleasure, comes the same sad cry which gives an articulate voice to the universal sorrow.(3) So with youth. With what a sad pleasure we look at the light and buoyant hopefulness, unchastised as yet by failure. All this is beautiful, and if a thing would last for ever because it was lovely, this would certainly. But then comes sorrow and disappointment, and hopes prove dreams that lie and disappear when one awakes, and the joy of youth departs, and nothing remains but the profound conviction that though all that was so pure and beautiful has a home somewhere, yet certainly it is not to be found upon earth, which is a place of sighing and earnest longings for deliverance.

II. THE SAINTS OF GOD. Are we to suppose that they too are groaning under the same load, and that joy and gladness are not to be found with her, all whose ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace? Yes, to a certain extent. "We ourselves groan within ourselves." True, they are reconciled to God. True it is that peace and joy in believing always accompany the reception of Christ. But —

1. They live by faith and not by sight — they have not received their reward, they have not entered into their inheritance. Surely they may be excused for longing and sighing after this.

2. They have indeed their earthly consolations, and take sweet counsel together with them who are heirs of the same hope; but what is this to that Divine company wherein is no sinner, nor so much as one soul which is not a-flame with the love of God. Surely they may be excused for sighing after this.

3. They, even now, see dimly, yet surely, reflected on the face of nature the image of the Creator. But what is this to the temple where there is neither day nor night, but the unveiled God is in the midst of it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.

4. Their hearts are fixed on the things which eye hath not seen nor ear heard, etc. Surely it is but natural that they should mourn over all which detains them from this unutterable glory.

5. Their happiness is dashed by all the common sorrows of humanity; but more than this, they have a sorrow of which the men of this world know nothing.(1) They mourn over sin in themselves, subdued as indeed it is.(2) They mourn over it in others. It makes their hearts die within them, and their eyes fountains of tears to look at a perishing world.

(J. Garbett, M.A.)

Highest and lowest are bound in one in Christ. God is One, and that oneness He impressed on His creation. Before the angels' fall all things in heaven were one. Before man's fall things on earth were one; one, by reflecting His image who is One, by fulfilling His will. And when disunion was brought in, God willed to knit all things again in one in His Son. Our text applies.


1. The very lowest have in some way suffered by man's fall, and they, too, shall in his restoration gain in glory. Mysterious power of sin, that it should so defile the very creation which itself partakes not of it! Mysterious efficacy of our Lord's atonement, that all things which shut not out God shall partake of the glory which He hath purchased!

2. "The creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly." "Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher, all is vanity." Nothing comes to any perfection; nothing continues at one stay; things subsist but by renewal and decay: all things by change foretell their own destruction (Ecclesiastes 1:5-8).

3. But more! It was all formed "very good," to its Maker's praise; and now, through which hath not He been dishonoured? If beautiful, man loves and admires it, without or more than God, or worships it instead of Him. If any brings outward evil, man, on occasion of it, murmurs against its Maker. "Jeshurun waxed fat and kicked." "She did not know that I gave her corn and wine and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold, which they prepared for Baal." What even now is not, even by Christians, offered to some Baal of pride, or luxury, or "covetousness, which is idolatry"? Of what sins are the daily supplies of our daily food, the occasion! "Whose god is their belly." In unthankfulness or luxury, or daintiness, or hardness of heart, if we have much; if little, through sin in procuring it. All "good things of this life" serve to pride when men have them, to covetousness if they have them not. And therefore, as God elsewhere saith that the whole earth is oppressed and loatheth and" vomiteth forth her inhabitants, through whom she is defiled," so now that regenerate man panteth after his heavenly home, "all creation groaneth and travaileth together" with him, that having, with him and for his sake, been "made subject to vanity" and corruption, it may, with him, be made partaker of incorruption and of glory.

4. Things animate and inanimate, as being the works of God, bear in themselves some likeness to their Maker and traces of His hands. Things seen speak of things unseen. And yet all around us and in us bear also sad tokens of the fall. As then to us death is to be the gate of immortality and glory, so in some way to them. Whence Holy Scripture says, "the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner." We are to die "in like manner" with the earth. As then we, so many as are in Christ, perish not utterly, but put off only corruption, to be, by a new and immortal birth, clothed with incorruption, so also they. Again, as Holy Scripture says of us, "the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed," so in their measure of them; "as a vesture shalt Thou change them, and they shall be changed." The fire which burns up heaven and earth shall but free them from the wrongs which they endure at our-hands, the bondage in which they have been held to corruption and vanity, and cleansing them from the stains of our sins, shall yield them pure, "a new heaven and a new earth," so that as our dwelling-place has as yet been marred by our sin, then Should the love of God for us overflow upon it, and the glory of His presence, which shall be our joy, shall array it too with a glad brightness, in harmonious sympathy with our joy (Psalm 96:12, 13; Isaiah 44:23).

II. THE HOLY ANGELS. Not as though they can be thought to have pain and grief! Yet, as God is said to "grieve and repent of the evil," when He doeth that which we should do out of our imperfect feelings, much more may the holy angels be said to groan and travail in birth-pain together with us, while they long for our immortal birth, which is yet delayed by our sins. "They," says a Father, "who rejoice over one sinner that repenteth, must in a manner mourn over the sorrows of so many sinners."

III. OUR NATURE. For in some sense all are "made subject to vanity, not willingly." Willingly man sinned, against his will he is punished. Willingly he binds himself with the cords of his sins; unwillingly often does he remain in them, galled by the bondage which he cannot break, or, with a maimed will, wishing that he could in earnest will. And so the heathen world yearns at times to be freed, and even, by its mute wretchedness, utters a speechless groan that it is an outcast from its God. And think you not that here, at your very doors, in the heart-sickening desolation of this wilderness of souls, there are those sick at heart at their estrangement from their God, and will ye be deaf to the common cry? Will ye by petty ineffectual efforts and cold prayers or heartless apathy, still, year by year, delay the time of their redemption?


1. More do God's faithful ones mourn than all things around, because that for which they mourn, their remaining imperfect state, the strife of flesh and spirit, is their own. They mourn more because they know in some degree the blessedness for which they pant, God, for whom they long. Angels know, in part at least, the bliss reserved for us; yet they know not the weariness of our strife. Some who know the misery of strife and defeat, know not the object of their longing, who "have the first-fruits of the Spirit."

2. Weary indeed were an eternity of such a life as this! Imagine the fulness of all outward things, "the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them," all delights, all knowledge, all power, all honour, all possessed for ever. What weariness were it all, with our imperfections; what a void, without the face of God! All things by turn fatigue, as if to teach us that none of all is our rest. The more we would find rest in any, the more they weary. What so wearisome as continual amusement, or lengthened rest, or too long refreshment. Less painful are watchings and lastings, though these, if too lengthened, would wear out the frame. Yet, in itself, what vanity is this very variety with which God has tempered our weariness. To fill the body, lest it fail; to make it hunger, unless it be oppressed with food; to rest it, lest it be exhausted by labour; to labour, lest it be weary through repose; to sleep, lest it be worn with watching; to wake, lest it be listless through rest: what were life so lengthened out but a long disease?

3. But much more weary, even if victorious, our strife, sweetened though it be by hope. What to have that within still rising though still subdued, at variance with the perfect law of God! This, then, is chiefly the groaning whereof St. Paul speaks. The taste of heavenly things kindles but the more burning thirst. If such be the first-fruits, what the whole? If such it be, to "have tasted the good word of life, and the powers of the world to come!" what must it be to be for ever blessed through the bliss of God! And then what "bondage of corruption " again to sink down to earth! What weariness to those who love, to be absent from Him they love; to dwell in banishment by the streams of Babylon, while they remember the heavenly Jerusalem. Conclusion. How is it then that we have so little of these heavenly longings? Why have we so little of the apostle's desire to be loosed from his bonds, to be dissolved and be with Christ? Weary we all must be, sooner or later, of this world's vanities. How can we exchange mere weariness of the world for hopes of future rest in God? First, unlearn the love of self and of the world; secondly, contemplate God, His loving-kindness and His promised rewards. The eye of the soul must be made clean, else it cannot "see God." We cannot long for things unseen while we are so taken up with things of time and sense. We cannot love God while we love the world.

(E. B. Pusey, D.D.).

I. WHEN THIS DELIVERY OF THE CREATURES IS COME TO PASS. God, that has appointed a set time for everything, has also appointed the time for this, viz., at the end of the world (vers. 19, 21; Revelation 20:11; 2 Peter 3:10, 13).

II. WHAT DELIVERY THE WORLD SHALL THEN GET. The creature conceived vanity and misery from. the time of Adam's sin, then they shall be delivered of that burden (vers. 20, 21).

1. They shall fully answer their end, viz, God's glory. and if He design any benefit to man by them they shall not be plagued by vanity therein. (ver. 20; 2 Peter 3:13).

2. They shall be freed from all that evil that cleaves to their nature now by reason of man's sin. For now they have undergone a sad alteration, but then they shall undergo another (Psalm 102:26; Revelation 21:1).

3. They shall no more be abused by sinners (vers. 21).

4. They shall serve God's enemies no longer. Their long captivity shall then be at an end (ver. 21). Then they shall bid an eternal farewell to the masters they served so long against their will.

5. All their misery, brought on them by man's sin, shall then be at an end. They have shared long with man in his plagues, but then they will get the burden off their back (ver. 21). As to the way this shall be brought to pass the Scriptures are clear —(1) That the world shall go all up in flames at the last day (2 Peter 3:7).(2) That upon the back of this conflagration there shall be new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness (2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1). The fire shall not annihilate, but only purge the metal from dross.


1. That the great day is the day of the restitution of all things (Acts 3:21).

2. That our Lord Jesus is the heir of all things (Hebrews 1:2). God gave Adam the great estate of the world. But, rebelling against God, his estate was forfeited, because it depended on his good behaviour. The Second Adam coming in his room, the forfeited estate is made over to him (Psalm 8:5-7; Hebrews 2:6-9). As Jesus Christ has a right to all the elect, though some of them are yet under the power of sin, but Christ at that day will recover them; so the creatures yet in the hand of His enemies, He will then restore, seeing they are all His by His Father's gift (Acts 3:21).

3. That all the effects of the curse are to be gathered together, and confined for ever with the wicked in the lake (Revelation 20:14, 15). The creatures' share of them, which makes them groan now, shall then be taken off, and they for ever made free.


1. In a use of information. This teaches us —(1) That every wicked man shall at length get all his own burden to bear himself alone. Many a one takes a light lift because there are so many to bear a share of it. But remember, O impenitent sinner, the day is coming when the creature shall escape, and leave thee in the lurch for all.(2) That people had need to take heed how they use the creatures while they have them. The day of their freedom is approaching. Let us not abuse them to the service of our lusts, lest they witness against us at last.(3) That this world, and what is therein, passeth away (1 John 2:17). What marvel is it that man dies, seeing he lives by deaths; but this bondage of the creatures will not continue, and God will support the life of man another way in eternity.(4) What glorious things will be the new heaven and the new earth! If they be so glorious, even while so far unmade by sin, how great must their glory be when they are again new made!(5) However large a share the wicked may have here, they will have neither part nor lot in them (2 Peter 3:13).

2. On use of terror to the wicked.(1) The misery that lies on any creature for thy sake, shall be taken off it, and laid on thee thyself.(2) As thou wilt be deserted of God, so thou wilt be deserted of the creatures in thy misery (Isaiah 8:21, 22).

3. On use of comfort to the serious and godly, who notice the groans of the creatures under sin, and join their own groanings with theirs.(1) The mournful spectacle of the creatures which you see to-day, if that day were come, ye shall see no more for ever. The day is coming when they will groan no more; nor shall you need to groan for them.(2) If that day were come ye shall also be delivered. You shall groan no more under your own burdens (John 16:20; 1 John 3:2).

(T. Boston, D.D.)

To all seers this truth has unveiled itself. They seemed to catch the voice of a groaning. The deep sadness of the Homeric poems is plain. Tragedies, or sadder comedies, are the masterpieces of the golden age of Athenian literature. The interest of Greek philosophy centres round a cell where an old man lies cheering his friends with the hope of the welcome which awaits him "in some happy state," while the poison steals up to his heart. The wisest seer in Rome, weary of the rout of Olympus as the groundwork of the order of the universe, thought that a wild concourse of atoms, by some dull chance, shaping themselves into an order, might be the key to the mystery of life; but he left life sadder than he found it. Next came Christianity to guide men through new depths of pain to the issue in which the travail of man and nature shall ultimately fruit. In the Sagas the bright God dies under the stroke of destiny, and twilight settles over all, To Goethe Nature seemed "like a dumb captive sighing to be delivered" and art was to be the minister of her redemption. And now the struggle for existence is the key to the order and progress of life.


1. It begins very low down in the scale of creation. The very molecules are in ceaseless conflict, defeat, and victory, and yet everywhere an order and progress slowly evolve themselves out of all.

2. But as we pass up, the struggle becomes more intense and dire. Each particle of rock has as hard a fight for its place as the molecules of air and water. See how the mountains have writhed in their agony. Enter the gates of the hills and pass up to their wilder altitudes; trees are there, lonely, scattered, fighting sternly with rock and avalanche. A flower is there lifting up its delicate bell, pallid with its struggle, through a gap in the ghastly snowdrift. Nature grows more stern and savage daily unless mastered by man. The seeds of lovely and goodly things in her perish by millions. How rare a perfect crystal, frond or flower. And yet a gleam of beauty lies upon it all, prophetic of the glory in which all the gloaming shall issue at last.

3. As we ascend to the higher region of animate creation the struggle becomes apparently more dire and destructive still. The race is to the swift and the spoil to the strong everywhere. For one living thing that survives and brings forth a progeny myriads perish. Each organism has its parasite that preys on it inwardly, and its natural foe that is born to pursue it. But this ceaseless struggle is the method by which the Creator wills that stronger, nobler forms shall constantly be brought forth. The terror and anguish are largely in our imagination. There plays everywhere the light of a glad and victorious life. Even the prey of the carnivora seems emancipated from the terror; the pain is of the moment, while life on the whole is good to them and glad.

4. But the groaning becomes articulate and is burdened with anguish when we rise to the human world. The stains that redden the track of civilisation, the masses of victims who lie crushed under the chariot wheels of progress, the anguish that writes its record on the faces of the myriads who, too weak for life's struggle, fall out of the ranks of the advancing army, struggle awhile painfully in the rear, and then drop in broken-hearted despair, are appalling. When we read of heroic achievements our eye flashes, our blood fires. We have no thoughts for breaking hearts and desolated homes. But it is well to survey the wreck. Caesar at the cost of a million men brought that country which has been one of the morning stars of progress within the field of civilisation and ultimately of the gospel. Read the history of the tremendous wars by which the Reformation finally upheld itself against Rome. And now in this nineteenth century the largest hosts which Caesar could have put upon the field would have been swept like straws before the armies whose "blood and iron" have cemented the edifice of German unity. This thing for which millions of earnest hearts were pining seems to have been possible only through agony and blood.

II. It is essential that we should understand that ALL THIS IS TRAVAIL. And this truth casts a glorious lustre over all. Out of all the struggle and wreck nobler and more beautiful things and beings are continually being born.

1. We have but to compare the huge saurian monsters with the finer, compacter creatures which have taken their place to measure the enormous advance.

2. Out of this tremendous struggle man somehow, somewhere appears; and with man a host of nobler forms, while the grosser fauna and flora rot into coal, or petrify into rock, to bear up the structure, and to minister to the life of the human world.

3. As man commences his career of development, we find him in a vision of a serene and holy order of life in which the dire confusion of the struggle shall be ended, and heart shall be knit to heart, and hand to hand in fellowship and love. He surveys the struggle, and the idea shapes itself within him that he is born to end it, and that in him the travailing creation is to see "the beginning of peace." Men have prayed for the realisation of this vision, fought, suffered, and died for it.

4. The dream is realised in Christ's "kingdom of heaven"; where the healing, helping, saving ministries are strong, where the weak have a stay, the poor a shield, the gentle honour and the good power, where all that is precious grows and flourishes.

5. We believe in development. We only ask our philosophers to help us to complete it. First the natural, then the spiritual, is the Divine order. The creature at its highest, by a last and crowning effort, brings forth the human form; man at his highest, by the supreme act of travail, in and through God, brings forth the new man. We yield ourselves to the force that draws us upward, and gain new and larger thoughts of the future developments of being as we rise. And then cometh the crowning triumph. "This corruptible shall put on incorruption."

(J. Baldwin Brown, B.A.)

The physiologist is forced to see in the human body the intended goal and masterpiece of animal organisation which appears as nothing else than a long effort to reach this consummation. As the breaking of the bud renders sterile the branch which bore it, so the fall of man involved that of the world. As Schelling said, "Nature, with its melancholy charm, resembles a bride who, at the very moment when she was fully attired for marriage, saw the bridegroom to whom she was to be united die on the very day fixed for the wedding. She still stands with her fresh crown and in her bridal dress, but her eyes are full of tears." The soul of the poet philosopher here meets that of the apostle. The ancient thinkers spoke much of a soul of the world. The idea was not a vain dream. The soul of the world is man. The whole Bible and this important passage rest on this profound idea.

(Prof. Godet.)

Just as the infectious disease in the dying sufferer contaminates the garments which he wore and the house which he inhabited, and throws its mysterious virus, and hence the seeds of death, into the atmosphere on all sides, so by the judgment of God the sin of the tenant has infected the whole of this creation, and cast in some sort and degree its seed of vanity and corruption everywhere. The disorder and rebellion in which the great usurper revels have obtained everywhere in the world which he won by his first temptation, and the peace and order of the rightful King have passed away before them.

(C. J. P. Eyre, M.A.)

The unfolding of the race, taken as a whole, is like the building of an organ. There is no single pipe in an organ that is not made in the shop. Every little flute-stop, each particular note, is made and perfected there, and is tried on a machine kept for the purpose, to see how it sounds. And when all the various mechanical parts have been constructed and tested, they are carried to their destination and set up. There are things in an organ of which you have no conception. To you, when you look at it, there is a case outside. That is about what men see when they look at an organ. But to one who knows how it was built, it is a multitudinous mass of stops. When this organ was set up, all these stops could not be put in at once. Stop by stop, department by department, was put in separately. There are three or four organs in this organ. They took one of them and began with one stop or department of pipes, and put each in its place, and tried to see how it sounded relative to itself. Then they put in another stop, and tried to see how it sounded relative to itself. Thus they put in the different stops, and each one had to be in accord with itself. Not only that, but each stop had to be in accord with every other stop that was added. And there was a great deal of tinkering, of opening and shutting, of fixing of the reeds. Little by little each stop was put in accord with itself, and with its neighbours; and at last the complex whole stood complete. But the amount of groaning, and whining, and screaming, the amount of tapping, and cutting, and driving up, and driving down, that was required before we got this noble organ in tune, no man could imagine who did not make the instrument, or who did not stand by and see the process by which it was brought into harmonisation. The whole creation groans and travails in pain until now. You are not the whole of it. You are single pipes in one stop — in a family. You are to be attuned, each in himself — voiced; and you are to be attuned with each other. You are to be brought into accord with your neighbours. They, again, are to be brought into accord with the whole state. The state is to be brought into accord with the neighbouring states. The globe is yet to be touched by the hand of God; and every pipe in the vast multitude is to stand out with beautiful voice, and in absolute harmony with every other voice. We are in that process of upbuilding.

(H. W. Beecher.)

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