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THE GREAT DELIVERANCE.
ROMANS viii. 19_22:
« The earnest expectation of the Creature waileth for the
manifestation of the sons of God. 66 For the Creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly,
but by reason of him that subjected it. " Yet in hope that the Creature itself also shall be delivered
from the bondage of corruption, into the glorious liberty
of the sons of God. “ For we know that the whole Creation groaneth, and tra
daileth in pain together until now.”
1. NOTHING is more sure, than that as “the Lord is loving to every man," so “his mercy is over all his works;" all that have sense, all that are capable of pleasure or pain, of happiness or misery. In consequence of this, “ he openeth his hand and filleth all things living with plenteousness: he prepareth food for cattle,” as well as “ herbs for the children of men." He provideth for the fowls of the air, “ feeding the young ravens when they cry unto him." “ He sendeth the springs into the rivers, that run among the hills,” to give drink to every beast of the field," and that even the wild asses may quench their thirst.” And suitably to this, he directs us to be tender of even meaner creatures, to shew mercy to these also. "Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn,” (a custom which is observed in the eastern countries even to this day.) And this is by no means contradicted by St. Paul's question, “ Doth God take care for oxen?". Without doubt he does. We cannot deny it, without flatly contradicting his word. The plain meaning of the Apostle is, Is this all that is implied in the text ? Hath it not a farther meaning ?
Does it not teach us, We are to feed the bodies of those whom we desire to feed our souls? Mean time, it is certain, God “giveth grass for the cattle,” as well as “ herbs for the use of men.”
2. But how are these scriptures reconcileable to the present state of things? How are they consistent with what we daily see round about us, in every part of the creation ? If the Creator and Father of every living thing, is rich in mercy towards all: if he does not overlook or despise any of the works of his own hands : if he wills even the meanest of them to be happy, according to their degree: how comes it to pass, that such a complication of evils oppresses, yea, overwhelms them? How is it, that misery of all kinds overspreads the face of the earth ?
This is a question which has puzzled the wisest philosophers in all ages. And it cannot be answered without having recourse to the Oracles of God. But taking these for our guide, we may enquire,
I. What was the original state of the Brute Creation ? II. In what state is it at present ? And, III. In what state will it be, at the manifestation of the children of God?
I. 1. We may enquire, in the first place, What was the Original State of the Brute Creation ? And may we not learn this, even from the place which was assigned them, namely, the Garden of God? All the beasts of the field, and all the fowls of the air, were with Adam in Paradise. And there is no question but their state was suited to their place: it was paradisiacal, perfectly happy. Undoubtedly it bore a near resemblance to the state of man himself. By taking, therefore, a short view of the one, we may conceive the other. Now “ man was made in the Image of God.” " But 6 God is a Spirit.” So, therefore, was man. Only this spirit being designed to dwell on earth, was lodged in an earthly tabernacle. As such, he had an innate principle of self-motion. And so, it seems, has every spirit in the universe; this being the proper distinguishing difference between spirit and matter, which is totally, essentially passive and inactive, as appears from a thousand experiments. He was, after the likeness of his Creator, endued with Understanding, a capacity of apprehending whatever objects were brought before it, and of judging concerning them. He was endued with a Will, exerting itself in various affections and passions : and, lastly, with Liberty, or freedom of choice, without which endownment all the rest would have been in vain, and he would have been no more capable of serving his Creator, than a piece of earth or marble. He would have been as incapable of vice or virtue, as any part of the inanimate creation. In these, in the power of self-motion, understanding, will, and liberty, the natural image of God consisted.
2. How far his power of self-motion then extended, it is impossible for us to determine. It is probable, that he had a far higher degree, both of switness and strength, than any of the lower creatures. It is certain, he had such strength of understanding as no man ever since had. His understanding was perfect in its kind : capable of apprehending all things clearly, and judging concerning them according to truth, without any mixture of error. His will had no wrong bias of any sort, but all his passions and affections were regular, being steadily and uniformly guided by the dictates of his unerring understanding; embracing nothing but good, and every good in proportion to its degree of intrinsic goodness. His liberty, likewise, was wholly guided by his understanding; he chose or refused, according to its direction. Above all, (which was his highest excellence, far more valuable than all the rest put together,) he was a creature capable of God, capable of knowing, loving, and obeying his Creator. And, in fact, he did know God, did unfeignedly love, and uniformly obey him. This was the supreme perfection of man, (as it is of all intelligent beings,) the continually seeing, and loving, and obeying the Father of the spirits of all flesh. From this right state, and right use of all his faculties, his happiness naturally flowed. In this the essence of his happiness consisted; but it was increased by all the things that were round about him. He saw with unspeakable pleasure, the order, the beauty, the harmony, of all the creatures; of all animated, all inanimate nature: the serenity of the skies, the sun walking in brightness, the sweetly variegated clothing of the earth; the trees, the fruits, the flowers;
“And liquid lapse of murmuring streams.” Nor was this pleasure interrupted by evil of any kind. It had no alloy of sorrow or pain, whether of body or mind. For while he was innocent he was impassive, incapable of suffering. Nothing could stain his purity of joy. And to crown all, he was immortal.
3. To this creature, endued with all these excellent faculties, thus qualified for his high charge, God said, “ Have thou dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth," Gen. i. 28. And so the Psalmist, “ Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands : thou hast put all things under his feet. All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field : the fowl of the air, and the fishes of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the sea.” Psal. vii. 6, &c. So that man was God's vicegerent upon earth, the prince and governor of this lower world : and all the blessings of God flowed through him to the inferior creatures. Man was the channel of conveyance between his Creator and the whole brute creation.
4. But what blessings were those that were then conveyed, through man, to the lower creatures? What was the original state of the brute creatures, when they were first created? This deserves a more attentive consideration than has been usually given it. It is certain these, as well as man, had an innate principle of self-motion: and that, at least, in as high a degree as they enjoy it at this day. Again: They were endued with a degree of understanding, not less than that they are now possessed of. They had also a will, including various passions, which, likewise, they still enjoy: And they had liberty, a power of choice, á degree of which is still found in every living creature. Nor can we doubt, but their understanding too was, in the beginning, perfect in its kind. Their passions and affections were regular, and their choice always guided by their understanding. 1,5. What then is the barrier between men and brutes ? The line which they cannot pass ? It was not reason. :: Set aside that ambiguous term: exchange it for the plain word, understanding: and who can deny that brutes have this? We may as well deny that they have sight or hearing. But it is this : man is capable of God; the inferior creatures are not. We have no ground to believe, that they are, in any degree, capable of knowing, loving, or obeying God. This is the specific difference between man and brute : the great gulf which they cannot pass over. And, as a loving obedience to God was the perfection of men, so a loving obedience to man was the perfection of brutes. And as long as they continued in this, they were happy after their kind : happy in the right state and the right use of all their respective faculties. Yea, and so long they had some shadowy resemblance of even moral goodness. For they had gratitude to man for benefits received, and a reverence for him. They had likewise a kind of benevolence to each other, unmixed with any contrary temper. How beautiful many of them were, we may conjecture from that which still remains: and that, not only in the noblest creatures, but in those of the lowest order. And they were all surrounded, VOL. IX.