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es would have fought against him ; air, earth, fire, water, birds, beasts, and even the stones, would have conspired to rid creation of the being, who, by rebelling against the Creator, had filled it with disorder and misery. And though the creatures are not possessed of intelligence, yet from a kind of instinctive tendency to vindicate the cause of God and righteousness, they are naturally at war with rebellious man. Were it not so, there would be no need of a covenant to be made on our behalf with the beasts of the field, the fowls of heaven, the creeping things of the ground, and even with the stones.
God, in his infinite wisdom, saw fit to subject the creatures to this vanity for a season, contrary as it was to their nature; but it is only for a season, and therefore is said to be in hope; in the end, they that have abused them will, except they repent, be punished, and they themselves be liberated from their hateful yoke. Thus, for a season, he subjected the seed of Abraham, his own servants, to serve the Egyptians ; but that nation, says he, whom they shall serve, will I judge; and afterward shall they come out with great substance.
The time fixed for the deliverance of the creatures from the bondage of corruption, is that of the manifestation of the sons of God. Hence, they are in a manner identified with them : The earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God; looking for it as for their own deliverance. The redemption of our bodies from the grave will be the destruction of the last enemy, or, in respect of believers, the termination of the effects of sin : and, as the thraldom of the creatures commenced with the commencement of sin, it is fit that it should terminate with its termination. Thus our resurrection will be the signal of emancipation to the ereatures, and their emancipation will magnify the glory that shall be revealed in us. Heaven, earth, and seas; and all that in them is, will no longer be worshipped in the place of God, nor compelled to minister to his enemies; but, in that renovated state wherein dwelleth righteousness, shall exist but to praise and glorify their Creator.
The terms used to express the tendency of the creatures towards this great crisis are very strong. Nature is personified, and represented as upon the utmost stretch of expectation; as groaning and travailing in pain to be delivered. Assuredly, that must be a most important object, the accomplishment of which thus interests the whole creation. This object is the glory that shall be revealed in us--the manifestation of the sons of God-the glorious liberty of the children of God; and thus it is that the Apostle establishes his position-That such is the magoitude of the inheritance of believers, that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with it.
But we must not dismiss this part of the subject, without noticing more particularly these descriptions of the heavenly inheritance-the glory to be revealed in us-the manifestation of the sons of God and the glorious liberty of the children of God. They all refer to the perfecting of salvation through the death of Christ, which is the greatest display of the glory of God that ever has or will be made. This is the last of that series of events which have been carrying on from the beginning of the world, and to the accomplishment of which they have all been subordinate.
The glory that shall be revealed in us. There will, doubtless, be a flood of light and joy that will then open to our admiring minds ; but the words seem rather to denote the manifestation of the divine glory in our salvation than barely its being revealed to us. Thus the Lord Jesus will come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe. The great Physician will appear, with his recovered millions, and, in the presence of an assembled universe, will present them to the Father. Thus the glory of God will be revealed to the universe in our salvation. All his glorious perfections will be manifested in such a light as they never were by any other of his works, nor by this till it was completed. And that which is revealed to the universe in us will pot be less, but more of an enjoyment to us, than if it had been revealed to us only. The joy of the returned captives was not diminished, but increased, by the surrounding nations saying, The Lord hath done great things for them!
The manifestation of the sons of God.—The foregoing description of the heavenly inheritance had respect to God's manifesting his glory ; this to his manifesting ours. We have been familiar with the terms, sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty; but who has been able to comprehend the magnitude of the blessing! Even an inspired Apostle was overwhelmed in thinking of it, and confessed his ignorance : Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God! therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God; and it doth not yet appear what we shall be : but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him ; for we shall see him as he is! Then the importance of being heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ, will be apparent.
The sons of God have here been but little known. Not being distinguished by any thing pertaining to circumstances, or outward condition, and that which has distinguished them being of a still and unostentatious nature, they have generally passed through the world without attracting much of its notice, unless it were to despise and persecute them. If they have been acknowledged as pious men, and have escaped the persecutions and reproaches of the wicked, yet, being mostly poor, and undistinguished by brilliancy of talent, they have ordinarily been considered as beneath attention. But, at that day, the Judge of heaven and earth will distinguish them as the sheep that he will place at his right hand, and as the blessed of bis Father, whom he will welcome to the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world ; while those who have despised and persecuted them, shall be sentenced to everlasting punishment.
The glorious liberty of the children of God. The children of God have possessed a glorious liberty from their first believing in Christ. The son then made them free, and they were free indeed! And when the earthly house of their tabernacle is dissolved, and they are received among the spirits of just men made perfect, this is a liberty more glorious. But, while their bodies are imprisoned in the grave, the deliverance is not complete. They are, as yet, under thraldom. The promise of Christ to raise us up at the last day is yet unfulfilled. They have been delivered
from the dominion of sin, and from the existence of it in their minds ; but pot from its effects. It is reserved for the second coming of Christ, when he will come without sin unto SALVATION, to accomplish this. This is the destruction of the last enemy; this, therefore, puts an end to the war. In the account of Christ's second coming, there appears to be an allusion to the blowing of the trumpet of jubilee, and the liberation of the captives: The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the TRUMP of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first : then, we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air : and so shall we ever be with the Lord. The resurrection, then, will be to believers a jubilee, a day of deliverance. The account of it, by the same Apostle in the 15th chapter of his First Epistle to the Corinthians, gives us the triumphant song which believers shall sing, standing over the graves in which they have been so long imprisoned : O death where is thy sting? Ograve where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! This is the glorious liberty of the children of God, in which the whole creation shall participate.
III. SUCH IS THE MAGNITUDE OF THE GLORY TO BE REVEALED IN US AT THE RESURRECTION, THAT Those Christians WHO HAVE POSSESSED THE HIGHEST ENJOYMENTS IN THIS WORLD WERE NOT SATISFIED WITH THEM ; BUT GROANED WITHIN THEMSELVES, WAIT
And not only they, (the creatures,) but ourselves also,—even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
By we ourselves, I understand the Apostle to mean, not believers in general, but those believers in his own times, who, with bimself, possessed so large a measure of grace and peace as habitually to rejoice in the Lord. If we read the first chapters of the Acts of the Apostles, we shall perceive a mighty tide of joy in the minds of these Christians : And they continuing daily with one accord in the temple, und breaking bread" from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and havVol. VII.
ING FOR THE
POSSESSION OF IT.
ing favour with all the people. They did not merely rejoice notwithstanding the persecutions which they met with, but in them : They departed from the presence of the council, (where they had been beaten,) rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. These good men seem to have found beaven upon earth. They bad the first-fruits of the Spirit, or those rich communications of the Holy Spirit, which, as the first-fruits under the law were the best of the kind, showed what might be expected under the gospel-dispensation. The Holy Spirit was imparted to them, not only in a greater degree than usual, but under the peculiar character of the Spirit of adoption, by which they were admitted to near communion with God, as children with a father. Nor was this confined to the days of Pentecost, and the times immediately succeeding : forty years after this, Peter could say, of the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, Whom having not seen, ye love ; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory : and this too, at a time wben the fiery trial of persecution was coming or come upon them.
But, notwithstanding the spiritual enjoyment possessed by these Christians, they looked forward with earnest desire for the coming of the day of God; not only as those who hasted towards it, but by their hopes and prayers would seem to basten its approach. Such are the accounts given of them in the New Testament : Ye turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God; and to WAIT FOR HIS SON FROM HEAVEN, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come. He which testifieth these things, saith, Surely I come quickly; Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
The enjoyments of the first Christians, instead of abating their desire for the coming of their Lord. appear to have heightened it. The more they possessed of the first-fruits, the more they desired the lump. The fruits of Canaan, brought into the wilderness, were not designed to satisfy Israel, but rather to excite them to go up and possess
the land. It is this ardent desire that is expressed by the terms groaning within ourselves. The groaning of the creation was in a figure, but