This new strain in our Song, as it stands in the A.V., is, to say the least of it, perplexing, if not unintelligible. The authors of the R.V. have endorsed the much preferable translation of other scholars. The perplexity is caused by giving the Greek word (Ktisis) the double rendering of "creation" and "creature." If we adopt the former alone, and slightly alter the termination and punctuation of the 20th verse--putting the full stop after "same;" moreover, if we link the "in hope" with the verse following, all is at once made perspicuous. Any discordant sound is brought into harmony. It becomes then a unique creation-anthem, consisting of two parts. The first is dirge over Paradise Lost--the second, a paean over Paradise Regained. It resolves itself, moreover, again into an Antiphon. The wail of nature is answered by a hymn of deliverance; tears are turned into songs.

Let us now quote the passage in full, availing ourselves of the R.V.
"For the earnest expectation of the creation waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but by reason of him who subjected it. In hope that the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now"
(v. 19-22).

1st. It is the "PARADISE LOST" which here takes precedence in his description--creation "made subject to vanity;"--under "the bondage of corruption;"--"groaning and travailing in pain."

Strange statements at first sight are these--grim chorus this in the Apostle's Canticle--surely, we are apt to think, an exaggerated symbolism as applied to the beautiful world surrounding us; with its pastures clothed with flocks, and its valleys covered with corn! Here the verdure of spring, there the mellowed stores of autumn. Here are its groves resonant with melody; there the silvery ripple of its brooks. Here is its sapphire skies; there the deep calm of its lakes reduplicating the drapery of rock and fern and birchen tresses. Here are the mountains and their crowns of snow--flushed alternately with morning gold and evening crimson--there is the great temple of night burning ten thousand altar-fires! How can "lost," or "vanity," or "bondage," be inscribed on the portico of such a sanctuary as this? How can there be dirge or discord in this its own ever-varying Song of Songs?

He who wrote thus of material nature could himself speak as he conjured up image on image from life's retrospect. The loveliness of creation had been familiar to him, ever since, as a boy, he had roamed by the banks of the Cydnus, and gazed upon the vine-clad heights and tapering cypresses which encircled his native Tarsus. He had been for many years of youth spectator of the mountains round about Jerusalem. He had watched often the gleam of evening light on the Moab precipices, as on a long bastion of ruby and amethyst. He had traversed the valleys of Samaria and Naphtali, with their streams rushing through tangled thickets of olive and oleander. He was familiar with all that was most picturesque about "the roots of Hermon." He had crossed that great barrier mountain of northern Palestine, and gazed at a distance on the wealth of groves and gardens of Damascus--he had witnessed--never to be forgotten by any who have been privileged to contemplate them--the glorious sunsets on the Isles of the Archipelago. He had stood on Acro-corinthus--with its wide outlook east and west. He had wandered among its pine-groves, from which were gathered the corruptible crowns for the athletes in the plain below. He had stood on the Areopagus, under the charm of an Atticus sky, and there beheld nature and are in their most wonderful combination. In one sense, to him it must have seemed a travesty and misnomer to speak of all that diversified creation as "bondaged"--a slave with the doom of "vanity" branded on its fair brow!

And we too, who have been in any measure taught to admire its beauty and note its harmonies, may well at first refuse to see such widespread evidences of corruption, or listen to the wail of thraldom or travail pang. We behold in this great "building of God"--this Temple of His glory--the "gold and silver and precious stones." We look in vain for "the wood and hay and stubble."

No, not in vain. The superficial listening to this dirge of the Apostle, is soon recognized to be in sad keeping with the reality. The gilded frame encloses an only too truthful picture of "lamentation and mourning and woe.'' Like the shifting scenes in a panorama, the one, bathed in summer sunshine we have just been gazing upon, changes into the chill and darkness of winter night. We need look no farther than on its outer physical conditions. That azure sky is at times swept with tempest or turned into battlements of thundercloud. The pestilence walks in darkness--the destruction wastes at noonday. Ever and anon, its fairest climates are desolated with earthquake--the sirocco careers in wild havoc over its deserts, the tornado lays its cities in ruins and "discovers its forests." The volcanic fires slumbering beneath its crust demand safety-valves for their lava and flame, accompanied with widespread destruction. Look at her seas--the highway of the nations; yet how often roused to madness--their surface heaving with demon rage--strewed with wrecks, and deaf to the shrieks of perishing crews. Think of the myriads that lie sleeping unshrouded, uncoffined, unepitaphed in their depths--the hapless owners and tenants of "a wandering grave!" Look at her fields, abandoned to blight and curse; and which but for the unceasing toil of man would make perpetual surrender to the dominion of thorn and thistle, and noxious weed! Think how her productions have been prostituted to every foul and debasing purpose. The iron dug for weapons of war--the ploughshare defrauded of its benignant use, that its material may be fabricated into instruments of mutual destruction. Corn and wine, too, graciously and beneficently designed, if employed in moderation--one of these "the chalice of God"--His own selected sacramental symbol, alienated to ruin soul and body, dethroning reason and degrading to the brute-level--the cup of blessing turned into the cup of devils!

Then ponder, further, the universal reign of "change and decay." The very vegetation--a conspicuous source of creation's beauty--bursting into perfection only to wither. We see spring and summer breaking out into a leafy and floral resurrection. But these, before long, have to succumb to the iron grasp of winter, or are bound in its frosty chains. The lowlier tribes bow to the same inexorable law; while superadded in their case is the startling anomaly of mutual destruction--the stronger preying on the weaker; Nature in ceaseless rapine, "red with beak and claw;"--the suffering of the brute-tribes often aggravated by the neglect or cruelty of man. Then, conspicuous above all, is the mystery of human pain and sorrow--the cry of slavery--so well known by those to whom Paul now wrote, ever ascending from the outraged and despairing--the pangs of martyrs at the stake--the shrieks of those "butchered to make a Roman holiday" in circus and amphitheater. And apart from this--where there is no trace of human tyranny--there is the suffering of sick beds, the agony of bereavement, the sudden close of lives of promise--bright suns going down before they have reached the meridian--human ties formed only to be sundered, births succeeded by deaths, marriage chimes followed by the funeral-bell. The wailing lamentation has risen for six millenniums--"Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return there!" Yes, say as we will--earth--while a home of beauty--the vestibule of heaven, may be described, with equal truth, as a vast hospital of anguish--a cemetery and receptacle for the dead!

There is a special emphasis in the closing word of the Apostle in our present passage--"The whole creation groans and travails in pain together." TOGETHER. It is a united, universal pang--one long lamentation, in which the human wail is perhaps the loudest, and with no favored exceptions to the doom of mortality. That orator who held captive the ear of listening senates--his tongue is silenced! That monarch who gathered around him at his bidding vassal princes, has himself to own a sterner vassalage! That warrior who made the world to tremble--the terror of kings--has himself to bow to the King of Terrors! "Vanity"--is the one loud agonizing miserere--waking responsive echoes all around--"Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, all is vanity."

And what, in a word, is the true history and explanation of it all! Let those call it myth and legend who please; it is the only rational interpretation of the oracle, otherwise so baffling and ambiguous--"By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death has passed over all men, for that all have sinned" (Rom. 5;12).

II. We now turn from the dirge to the SONG--from the wail of bondage, "the still, sad music of humanity"--to the strain of anticipated emancipation. Let us merge the pessimistic in the optimistic.

"The earnest expectation of the creation waits for the manifestation of the sons of God…In hope that the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God" (v. 21).

Note, in passing, that this bondage of creation is here described as involuntary. It is expressly said that the degradation is borne "not willingly." It was "subjected to the same." The Apostle employs one of these bold but beautiful figures of frequent occurrence in Scripture, by which inanimate nature--God's outer materialism, is represented waking up from her silent thraldom. As if unable to remain mute under the insult she has been constrained to bear, she would utter a loud protest at being fettered. She sighs for deliverance, like the Israelites of old in their bondage, crying for freedom from the hand of the Egyptians.

In our opening verse the creation is spoken of as in "earnest expectation." The Greek word is there remarkable and significant. It implies bending forward with outstretched neck, like the runners in the Isthmian games--the head in advance, as they pressed on to the mark for the prize. Unwillingly chained and hampered, she is in eager expectation of her own deliverance; the crown and consummating glory of that deliverance being the "manifestation of the sons of God" and the coming of the Christ. Her cry, could her stifled voice put the invocation into words, would be--"Why tarry the wheels of His chariot?"--"Make haste, my Beloved, be as a young roe or a young deer on the mountains of Bether!"

Yes, let us take comfort in the thought that the present condition of our world was never designed to be final. There is a second Genesis--a golden age in store--"the restitution of all things," "the times of refreshing," when present evil will be exterminated from her tribes, every trace of dislocation and catastrophe removed; the old saying and promise fulfilled--"You shall be in league with the stones of the field; and the beasts of the field shall be at peace with you" (Job 5;23). Above all--when the last enemy shall be vanquished; when this long dismal tolling of funeral bells shall cease; when there shall be no longer the pathetic announcement, that God's own creature, fashioned after His own likeness, has passed away into the "great silences" of death--claiming strange brotherhood and sisterhood with corruption. Death shall be swallowed up in victory, and the Creator's own final, as was His primal aim completed, when He pronounced all that He had made "very good."

Into speculations regarding the future of the new creation, we shall not now enter--avoiding the ranks of too confident soothsayers. With some, indeed, it is a favorite picture--and not one assuredly to be rashly dismissed, that this very world in which we live--re-beautified and re-adorned--with sin and sorrow purged from its borders, may become the future heaven of the glorified. Dr. Chalmers has said all that can be said on such a subject, and said as no other could say it, in his great sermon. While there is no ground for positive affirmation, there is certainly, I repeat, nothing to negative this "physical theory of another life." If these two gloomy factors just mentioned, sin and sorrow (and we may add death), were eliminated, there is nothing to prevent associating our present material world with "the new heavens and the new earth" whose characteristic is "righteousness." Untie from our globe these three swaddling-bands, and there is nothing to hinder her going forth from the couch of her degradation--"the bondage of corruption"--walking and leaping and praising God!

But meanwhile, we prefer leaving in its own undefined golden haze the Apostle's declaration. It is enough for us to know that there is a "new world" in store for our terrestrial abode, the nature and extent of which we can only feebly surmise. Earth is being furnished and prepared as a reception-hall for God's children. It is meanwhile "waiting for their manifestation"--"the liberty of their glory."

Spirit of God! who brooded at first over creation, in its chaos--come and make all things new! Hasten the blessed era when "the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold!" Come! and let another bright picture by the same prophet have its full and perfect realization; when "the present evil world," with all her wrongs rectified and redressed, will enter on her promised jubilee--"You shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace; the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree, and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off" (Isa. 55;12, 13). Then, no one SONG of a solitary inspired singer--but song upon song will spread their harmonies through a renovated creation, yes, through a rejoicing universe. The key-note may possibly be struck in this our planet where Redemption was won. Deepest in the center, it will circulate to the circumference of being. The morning stars will, once more, sing together, and all the sons of God shout for joy!

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