"The Earnest Expectation of the Renewed Creature"

    "For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God." Romans 8:19-21

    "The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God." Romans 8:19-21

    "For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, everything on earth was subjected to God's curse. All creation anticipates the day when it will join God's children in glorious freedom from death and decay." Romans 8:19-21

We have now arrived at what has been regarded as, perhaps, the most remarkable and difficult passages in this chapter. It would answer no purpose, but to perplex the reader's mind, were we to quote the various, conflicting, and often extremely fanciful interpretations which they have received from critics of equal learning and piety. Rejecting at once the interpretations of the term "creature" which restrict it to the Gentile nations in opposition to the Jews- to unconverted men in distinction from the sons of God- to mankind in general- and lastly, to the irrational creation, we at once propose for the acceptance of the reader, as being to our own mind the most fair and correct meaning of the term, that interpretation which predicates it of the renewed creature- the Christian in his regenerate state. A slight examination of the connection in which the passages stand will, we think, justify and sustain this view. What appears to be the scope and design of the Apostle in the verses immediately preceding those under consideration? He had been addressing himself to suffering believers in Christ. His aim was to fortify their minds under trial by arraying before them the strong consolations of the Gospel, and by unveiling to their view the animating prospect of a certain and glorious deliverance- the "manifestation of the sons of God." To whom could all this correctly and appropriately apply, but to the renewed creature? Let it be considered, too, what the nature of this prospect is, for which the "creature" is represented as "waiting" in the posture of "earnest expectation." Is it not most spiritual, holy, and glorious? Does it not seem a lowering of the dignity, and a shading of the luster of that prospect, to represent either the animal creation, or the unregenerate mass of mankind, as waiting with outstretched neck, and panting desire, and earnest expectation, the period of its arrival? Of whom can all this be reasonably predicated but of the renewed creature? And thus is the believer frequently called. "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature." "In Christ Jesus neither circumcision avails anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature." It is, then, of the new man, "created in Christ Jesus," that we, without hesitation, interpret the term "creature," as employed in these remarkable verses. Read the passages once more with this rendering; and we think that both their meaning and their beauty will be instantly apparent. Having thus explained the sense in which we propose to use the term, let us now proceed to open the text.

The present state of the renewed creature is described as one of humiliation. "The creature was made subject to vanity." The vanity here referred to is opposed to the state of glory in anticipation, and therefore expresses the condition of corruption and trial in the midst of which the renewed creature dwells, and to the assaults of which it is incessantly exposed. The world through which the Christian is passing to his rest may be emphatically called a state of vanity. How perpetually and forcibly are we reminded of the King of Israel's exclamation, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity and vexation of spirit." "Surely every man walks in a vain show." His origin, the earth; his birth, degenerate; his rank, a bauble; his wealth, but glittering dust; his pomp, an empty pageant; his beauty, a fading flower; his pursuits, an infant's play; his honors, vexations of spirit; his joys, fleeting as a cloud; his life, transient as a vapor; his final home, a grave. "Surely man in his best estate is altogether vanity." And what is his religion but vanity? His native holiness, a vain conceit; his natural light, Egyptian darkness; his human wisdom, egregious folly; his religions forms, and rites, and duties, "a vain show in the flesh;" his
most gorgeous righteousness, "filthy rags." In the impressive language of Scripture, of him it may be
said, "That man's religion is vain." Lord! what is man that you are mindful of him, or the son of man that you regard him? Truly, "vanity" is inscribed in legible characters on each created good. How, then, can the renewed creature escape its influence? He is "subject to vanity." Dazzled by its glare, captivated by its fascinations, ensnared by its promises, he is often the victim of its power. But it is not a voluntary subjection on the part of the renewed creature. "For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly." It is not with him a condition of choice. He loves it not, he prefers it not, he glories not in it. From it he would sincerely be freed
beyond it he would gladly soar. "For we who are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life." His prayer is, "Turn away my eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken you me in your way." He pants for a holier and a happier state- a state more congenial with his renewed nature. Like the Israelites under the Egyptian bondage, he is a most unwilling servant, groaning beneath his galling yoke, and "sighing for the glorious liberty of the children of God." Ah, yes! God has given you another will, O renewed creature! and your present subjection to this poor, vain world, is an involuntary subjection of the divine nature within you. Why God should have subjected the renewed creature to vanity does not appear; we well know that he could have transferred us to heaven the moment that he renewed us on earth. But may we not infer that in sending his people into the world, after he had called them by his grace, and, in a sense, taken them out of it, that in subjecting them for so many years to this state of vanity, he has best consulted his own glory and their good? The school of their heavenly teaching, the scene of their earthly toil, and the theater of their spiritual conflict, they are kept in this world for a season; "made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who has subjected the same in hope." Hearken to the words of their great Intercessor, when breathing forth his prayer for them on earth- "These are in the world, and I come to you. I pray not that you should take them out of the world, but that you should keep them from the evil. As you have sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world." Not into the solitude of the desert- not into the calm, but selfish repose of the domestic circle- not into the hallowed but restricted fellowship of the church- but into the world- encircling them, for a season, by its vanity, and subjecting them to its trials. And what is their mission? That they should love the world? harmonize with the world? fraternize with the world? Oh, no! Not for this were they sent into it. An object more worthy of His wisdom who sends, and more in harmony with their high calling who are sent, is before them. They are sent into the world that their lives should be a constant, uncompromising, and solemn protest against its vanities and its sins. Mark again the words of Christ- "As you has sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world." Christ was commissioned to testify of the world that the works thereof were evil. He came to labor for the world- to bless the world- to honor his Father in the world. And, oh, it was the glory of this world that the Son of God was sent into it- that he made it for a while the place of his temporary abode, and the scene of his stupendous redemption. It was the glory of the earth that he trod upon its turf. It was the glory of the ocean that he sailed upon its bosom. It was the glory of the sun that it beamed upon his head. It was the glory of the air that it fanned his brow. It was the glory of the waters that they quenched his thirst. It was the glory of the flowers that they perfumed his path. It was the glory of the sky that it spread above him its blue canopy. What planet has been so honored as this? What world so visited, so distinguished, so blest? Such is the Christian's pattern. Why has Christ placed you in the position you now occupy? Why are you begirt with so much folly, and trial, and danger? You are converted in the midst of the world- your family is in the world- your associates are in the world- your calling is in the world. Why is it so? Even that like your Lord and Master you might by your unworldly, unearthly, heavenly life testify of the world that the works thereof are evil, and only evil, and evil continually.

One more phrase completes this picture of our present humiliation: "The bondage of corruption." There is nothing in these words that disproves a declaration of the same Apostle in another place, "Sin shall not have dominion over you." And yet it must be admitted of the believer that he is under the "bondage of corruption." Who of the family of God is exempt? Imprisoned and fettered by the inherent corruption of his fallen nature, the renewed creature exclaims with the Apostle, "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do--this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" Romans 7:15-24. It is the bondage of corruption, and yet the bondage of those whom Christ has made free, and to whom there is "now no condemnation."

But painful and humiliating as is the present condition of the renewed creature, it is yet one of earnest expectation and of hope: "Who has subjected the same in hope." From this state of vanity, and bondage of corruption, the believer is expecting and hoping to be delivered. His gesture is most expressive- it is that of earnest expectation. And are
we not in truth earnest expectants? Would we live always here? Could we be content that this state of vanity should be our condition forever? Ah, no! we expect a better and a holier state than this. With outstretched neck we are looking for the sunny coast towards which we are voyaging. With earnest expectation we are watching for the signs of his approach, who will restore all things: "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God, and our Savior Jesus Christ." Hope, too, rises like the day-spring from on high in our souls. If we are in the bondage of corruption, we yet are "prisoners of hope." Not always shall we be thus fettered. Not forever shall we look out from the bars of our prison, and exclaim, "Why are his chariot wheels so long in coming?" Oh, no! hope, building upon the atoning work of Christ- hope, springing from his open grave- hope, beaming down from the throne in heaven, within whose veil as an anchor it is cast- "hope that makes not ashamed" sheds its luster upon all the future, clothing its landscape with verdure, and silvering it with beauty. Prisoner of hope! lift up your head and rejoice, for your redemption draws near. "Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ."

The great consummation toward which this expectation and hope tends is the "manifestation of the sons of God." The sons of God are at present incognito. Unknown to the world, often veiled, in a great degree, to the brotherhood, and sometimes ignorant of their own divine relation, the Church of God is anything but a visible body. But it will not be always so. There is fast hastening a day of perfect manifestation. The sons of God shall be known. Their relationship will be manifest- their principles will be manifest- their glory will be manifest before the universe. Emerging from the obscurity of the wilderness into which she had been driven, throwing off the sackcloth in which she had so long prophesied, the Church of God, the adoption of the Father, will stand forth before an astonished and admiring world clothed in all the glories of the manifested sons of God. More than this- they will be manifested to themselves. Self-disguise will no longer prompt the trembling inquiry, "Am I a child of God?" That question will now be answered by a testimony to the fact, clear and convincing as the noontide light, before whose brightness every gloomy doubt and slavish fear will vanish as the morning grey, with all the objects looming in its mist, vanish before the uprising sun. For this the renewed creature is in the posture of earnest expectation. "We through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith."
Connected with this blessed condition there is yet another not less so: "Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God." They are already in possession of a liberty most costly and precious. Is it no true liberty to stand before God accepted in the Beloved? Is it no liberty to draw near to him with all the confidence of a child reposing in the boundless affection of a loving father? Is it no liberty to travel day by day to Jesus, always finding him an open door of sympathy the most exquisite, of love the most tender, and of grace the most overflowing? Is it, in a word, no real liberty to be able to lay faith's hand upon the everlasting covenant, and exclaim, "There is now no condemnation?" Oh yes! This is the liberty with which Christ has made us free. But the glorious liberty of the children of God is yet to come. Glorious it will be because more manifest and complete. Including all the elements of our present freedom, it will embrace others not yet enjoyed. We shall be emancipated from the body of sin and of death. Every fetter of corruption will be broken, and every tie of sense will be dissolved. All sadness will be chased from our spirit, all sorrow from our heart, and all cloud from our mind. Delivered from all sin, and freed from all suffering, we shall wander through the many mansions of our Father's house, and tread the star-paved streets of the celestial city, and repose beneath the sylvan bowers of the upper Paradise, and drink of the waters, clear as crystal, that flow from beneath the throne- our pure, and blissful, and eternal home- exulting in the "glorious liberty of the children of God."
In conclusion- how striking and solemn is the contrast between the present and the future state of the believer and the unbeliever! Yours, too, unregenerate reader, is a state of vanity. But, alas! it is a most willing subjection, and the bondage of corruption which holds you is uncheered by one ray of hope of final deliverance. What a terrible and humiliating bondage, a willing slave to sin and Satan! All is vanity which you so eagerly pursue. "The Lord knows the thoughts of men that they are vanity." Were it possible for you to realize all the schemes of wealth, and distinction, and pleasure, and happiness which now float in gorgeous visions before your fevered imagination, still would your heart utter its mournful and bitter complaint, "All is vanity and vexation of spirit." Oh, turn from these vain shadows to Jesus, the substance of all true wealth, and happiness, and honor. That fluttering heart will never find repose until it rests in him. That craving soul will never be satisfied until it be satisfied with Christ. At his feet, then, cast yourself down, and with the tears of penitence, and the reliance of faith, and the expectation of hope, ask to be numbered among the adopted, who shall before long be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.