ROM. viii. 20-22. “The creature was made subject
to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of Him who hath sub-
jected 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. For we know that the whole creation
groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.”
PAUL’S conception of the universe is expressed in one
of the boldest and sublimest movements of imaginative
thought to be found in any literature; but beneath the
imaginative grandeur of the clothing the conception may
be very easily recognised.
I. The creation, including the material universe, is subject
to vanity, and suffers from evils not of its own choice but
the Divine appointment. Five and twenty years ago it
was the general tendency of preachers to maintain that the
physical universe perfectly illustrates the Divine beneficence
as well as the Divine wisdom and power. But now it is
said there is nothing perfect; even the human eye has
most curious faults. Then look how the birds and beasts
die of famine and in conflict. Think also how flowers and
plants and herbs and trees suffer from innumerable calam-
ities. Still there is more happiness than pain, and in spite
of all, the things that God has made reveal His eternal
power and Godhead.
II. But this imperfection is not to continue for ever.
The pains are birth throes, and all things are to pass into
new and higher forms of existence, whatever these may be.
Imagination cannot conceive it because it has no materials
to work on.
Some think that through the operation of the law of
development there will arise at last an intellectual aristo-
cracy with absolute command of the resources of the world,
and that these will have absolute control over the life and
fortunes of the race. Others tell us that the great move-
ment will be at last arrested. The play of the mighty
forces which sustain it will cease. Then life in all its forms
will be no more.
III. Paul therefore admits scientific facts, but repudiates
theories based on them.
1. He agrees when the man of science says he discovers
signs of imperfection; waste of life; appalling suffering.
But he repudiates the inference that there is no intelligent
2. If the man of science maintains development, and
alleges that man on the side of his inferior life belongs
to the inferior universe, Paul listens with an open mind.
But he denies that this is a complete account of human
nature. He maintains that the will is free.
3. He denies that the groaning and travailing are to
end in despair and stagnation; and exults in the certainty
of the hope that the creature will be delivered.
4. He protests against the idea that the law of physical
development is a law of morals. The very inspiration of
Christian charity is to rescue the victims of this relentless
law. Christianity says: “Bear ye one another’s burdens,
and so fulfil the law of Christ.”
R. W. Dale, D.D.