The Present State of Creation
James Smith, 1862
"For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly—but by reason of him who has subjected the same in hope" Romans 8:20
There is something so terrible in the nature of sin, that it affects everything it comes into contact with. It disturbs God's order, mars his work, and dishonors his name. The change it has produced in creation must be astonishing; and to get rid of it requires the power of God. All evil must be traced to sin—and it is the greatest blessing to be delivered from it! All mischief and misery must be traced to sin—and all solid happiness and true joy are the result of being freed from it! Let us now briefly look at the representation of the apostle: "For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly—but by reason of him who has subjected the same in hope" (Romans 8:20). The passage places before us—
The Present State Of Creation."It is subject to vanity."
God created the heavens and the earth, being wisely and judiciously arranged, displaying the most consummate skill. Each part and portion occupied the place assigned to it, and answered the end intended by it—and all was in perfect order.
Like some great machine, each part fit perfectly into its fellow part, and all worked harmoniously together; consequently there was perfect peace.
All were so connected, and each part was so exquisitely finished, that there was no jar, no confusion—but perfect harmony.
All was perfect purity; therefore all was perfectly healthy.
There was nothing to affect the health of the vegetable, animal, or intellectual part of creation—there was no corruption, nothing to contaminate or defile; therefore there was perfect happiness.
Each portion was fitted for its place, and all combined to produce peace and joy. In this state, we are informed that "God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good." Not only good—but "very good,"—perfectly good, incapable of improvement; for there was no defect, nothing wasteful or superficial.
But sin entered into the world, and God's curse
followed sin; and now,
instead of perfect order—there was disorganization;
instead of perfect peace—there was almost universal conflict;
instead of perfect health—everything became diseased; and
instead of perfect happiness—there was misery, wretchedness, and woe!
The creation was "subjected to vanity," or as it is designated in the next verse, "corruption." Frailty, misery, and death—followed upon sin. And now the wisest of men pronounces his verdict, after seeing and enjoying as much of creation as most, "Vanity of vanities—all is vanity!" Creation is diverted from its proper end, which was to reveal God and glorify him. Like some polished mirror, creation beautifully reflected God's character; but that mirror is broken, and every portion of it is become dim.
The creatures revolted, and refused to obey man—their fallen sovereign, or to serve the enemies of their Creator. They have been partially brought into subjection; but they are now used for, and applied to, vain and sinful purposes. They are now used to foster ambition, gratify avarice, and feed carnal lusts. They are applied to the purposes of idolatry, cruelty, and crime! Who can think of dog-fighting, boxing, or even hunting—and not see that creation is made subject to vanity, and diverted from its proper and legitimate end!
Who can look at oppression, or the slave trade, or at war with its horrors and terrors—and not see that earth is under the bondage of corruption!
Everything is changeable, fading, and transitory; so that
though there are many traces of divine beauty, glory, and benevolence
left on creation, notwithstanding the curse—yet we must admit that it is
subjected to vanity.
How Did Creation Come into this State?Not willingly, or by its natural inclination or propensity; for there was nothing in it or about it, originally, to bring it into such a condition. Neither was it by its own fault; it was altogether by the act of another. It was by reason of man's sin—which has polluted all things. The heavens and the earth, all are defiled, deformed, and degraded by man's transgression. The very heavens are not clean in God's sight, however pure and glorious they were once; and therefore they are to be changed. Man, the sovereign, sinned—and all his subjects were involved in his guilt. Adam fell—and all creation suffers!
"To Adam God said: Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat of it,' Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return." Genesis 3:17-19
So also Lamech rejoiced in the birth of his son Noah: he said, "This same shall comfort us concerning our work and the toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord has cursed." So again, when God was about to bring the flood on the earth: "So God said to Noah, I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth!" Genesis 6:13
So also in the latter days will it be, as says the prophet: "The earth will be completely laid waste and totally plundered. The Lord has spoken this word. The earth dries up and withers, the world languishes and withers, the exalted of the earth languish. The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt. Therefore earth's inhabitants are burned up, and very few are left!" Isaiah 24:3-6
Again, at the end: "The earth has broken up. It has utterly collapsed; it is violently shaken. The earth staggers like a drunk. It trembles like a tent in a storm. It falls and will not rise again, for the guilt of its rebellion is very heavy!" Isaiah 24:19-20
Man's sin corrupted creation, brought upon it God's curse, and subjected it to vanity!
As man's sin was the procuring cause, God as the just Judge pronounced the sentence. In man it was crime—in God it was justice. He subjected creation to vanity, having a glorious end to answer thereby. Out of this dreadful evil—God will educe the greatest good. It was in the prospect of this that the covenant of grace was entered into, the plan of salvation was drawn, and Jesus was appointed to be the second Adam, the bearer of the curse, the repairer of the breach, and the glorifier of God on earth.
But for the fall and its consequences—we could have known nothing of redemption and its results! Nor would God's full and complete character have been revealed, as it now is! God had a profound, a wise, and a holy purpose to answer, by all that he permitted and all that he did.
Of this the apostle speaks when he says, speaking of his own office and work, "Although I am less than the least of all God's people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord!" Ephesians 3:8-11
He will bring all to a satisfactory and happy outcome;
for not only shall his glory cover the heavens—but the earth
shall be full of his praise. Where the curse once rolled—the blessing shall
flow; and the oath once sworn shall be ratified and fulfilled, "As I live,
says the Lord, the whole earth shall be filled with my glory!"
Creation is not what it originally was.Nor can we tell what creation was, when God, having inspected every part of it pronounced it "very good." It is now a fit residence for a sinner, not for man as created in God's own image, after his own likeness. There is still enough of the divine impression left upon it, to set forth the eternal power and godhead of its Maker, so as to leave the heathen and all unbelievers without excuse; but its original grandeur and glory are gone.
Creation is not what it will be.It will not always be subject to vanity, nor be held in the bondage of corruption; but it will emerge from its fiery baptism, cleansed from pollution, robed in glory, and fit to be the residence of the Son of God and his beloved Bride! As we know not what we shall be, who are now the sons of God; neither do we know what the world will be—when there shall be no more curse, neither sorrow nor crying, the former things having passed away.
Adam's fall shook heaven and earth, and produced a most alarming change. It was a dreadful catastrophe! The fall of angels, no doubt, produced a strange sensation in heaven—but it affected heaven alone; the fall of man produced a still greater effect—it affected both heaven and earth. In the howling winds, in the roaring storms, in the rattling thunder, in the flashing lightnings, in avalanches and earthquakes, in destructive fires and overwhelming floods—we may trace the effects of the fall, and imagine we hear creation groaning for what man has done!
The subjection of creation to vanity, accounts for many things which we cannot reconcile with the government of a good and gracious God. If earth had always been what it now is, or if the change had been effected by God's sovereignty alone, we might wonder at much that takes place! But seeing that creation is changed in consequence of man's sin, and is now the dwelling-place of those who are rebels against its Creator—is it any matter of surprise if we cannot harmonize what we see and hear—with God's benevolence and love?
Now, as believers, we must walk by faith, and leave all that puzzles us to be explained when the almighty creator comes with his new creation. Nor should we be surprised that all on earth is uncertain and unsatisfactory. How can it be otherwise, if the creation is subject to vanity? If there had been no sin—all would have been certain and satisfactory; but it cannot be so now.
As man's sin subjected the creatures to vanity, we should sympathize with them, and treat them well. The brute creation should be treated kindly by all Christians. They are God's creatures—and suffer on man's account! We do not wonder at the converted drunkard saying, "Why, my cat knew when I was converted!" Before, when he came home drunk and abusive—it fled from him; but now perched on his knee, it sat and purred, as if in order to commend and please him.
We should also bear our trials with patience, our privations in hope, and our sufferings with faith, while, according to His promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein righteousness dwells.
Our trials will not be long, our privations will soon be over, and our sufferings will be lost in the blaze of glory which will burst upon us at the appearing of the great God, our Savior Jesus Christ.
We may go down into the grave, as Israel into the Babylonish captivity—but it will only be to rest a while with our brethren, until the mystery of God shall be finished; and then, as the ransomed of the Lord, we shall return, and come back to earth with singing, and everlasting joy upon our head, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away!