DEAR BROTHER BEEBE: – About a year ago I requested your views on Romans 8:20, which request you have not complied with; I would be glad to hear from yon on that text.
REPLY: – Without reserve we desire to devote every energy, with which we are endued to the cause of God and the truth; to spend and be spent in whatever way shall best subserve the interests and welfare of the children of God; we are deeply conscious that our abilities are limited. Brethren and friends who request our views on various parts of the scriptures, should not feel themselves neglected or slighted when we fail to comply with their wishes. But let them rather bear in mind, that if we were blessed with a perfect knowledge and thorough understanding of all that is embraced in the scriptures of truth, still we should lack time and space to meet the numerous requests we are constantly receiving for our views. But we profess no such ability, and can only write to the edification of the saints as far as the Lord is graciously pleased to open any portion of his word to our own understanding. We are not infrequently called on for our understanding of passages on which we have no satisfactory light, and on which, if we should write, we might darken counsel by words without knowledge. Sometimes our views are called for on some subject on which we have already expressed them.
We would wish to encourage a spirit of enquiry, for we believe it is profitable to search for the truth as for hidden treasure. The gifts which God has bestowed upon his church are for mutual edification, and the most enlightened of the saints may learn something profitable from the feeblest of their fellow members. Let us then pursue those things which make for peace, and things whereby one may edify another.
But while we commend the spirit of diligent enquiry, we should cautiously avoid vain speculations. The revealed things of the Spirit are too sacred to be trifled with. None should strive for mastery, or for the gratification of carnal ambition.
In treating on any controverted subject, if we find that to carry our point tends to make us feel proud, or that to be opposed in our peculiar views excites our anger, we may suspect that we lack that singleness of heart which should be cherished by all the followers of him who was meek and lowly. Now, in the commencement of this new year, and this new volume, may all who write for our columns, editor or correspondents, ask of God for that wisdom which cometh from above, which is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy; for he will give it liberally and will not upbraid.
The foregoing remarks have been suggested as we were attempting to apologize to brother Wright for our failure to respond to his request. The text proposed by him for consideration is one on which we were distrustful of our ability to give him any light; and even now the precise meaning of the apostle is not so clear to our own mind as we could wish. The words are, “For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope.”
We have heard a variety of views expressed upon this subject, but still we have been very dull in comprehending its true meaning. Not so much perhaps from any fault of theirs as from our own incapacity to understand them. What we regard as the difficult points in the text are; first, the creature; secondly, his subjection, unwillingly to vanity; thirdly, how its subjection to vanity is by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope; and finally, how it is subjected in hope. The word creature is equally applicable to any created thing, whether used in reference to the natural or spiritual creation, it is sometimes applied by the apostle to the Adamic, and sometimes to the spiritual man. It has been regarded by some brethren somewhat difficult to understand in which application it is used in our text. If the natural man, embracing Adam and his posterity, is intended, how shall we understand that the natural creature is made subject to vanity unwillingly, and how is it subjected in hope? And in what sense is it by reason of him who has so subjected it? To us it appears that the apostle is speaking of the child of God, born of the Spirit, and still in the flesh, and the vanity of which he writes is defined in the connection or context as embracing all the sufferings of the present time, which are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed hereafter in them. Now, while in the christian’s warfare, the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the law in his members is warring against the law of his mind, and bringing him into captivity to the law of sin which is in his members, he is unwillingly subject to vanity and vexation of spirit. All the worldly influences which are brought to bear against the children of God, are by the wise man pronounced vanity. The world, the flesh and Satan are all opposed to the law of the spirit of life which is in Christ Jesus, and developed in the saints. Christians are sorely annoyed by vain thoughts, unhallowed passions, and worldly desires, all of which are constantly arising in them from their earthly nature, and bringing them into captivity to the law of sin which still remains in their flesh. This is not a matter of choice with them; for the earnest desire and expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. That is they wait for, desire and expect, that when he who has redeemed them shall appear, that then shall they appear with him in glory; then shall he change their vile body that it may be fashioned like his glorious body. When that which shall be sown in corruption shall be raised in incorruption; when this mortal shall put on immortality, and the saying that is written shall be brought to pass, that “Death is swallowed up of victory;” then shall be fully manifested their relationship as the sons of God and heirs of glory; and then shall they all be perfectly conformed to the image of our Savior Jesus Christ. The very anticipation, fervent looking for and earnest expectation of the creature, shows very conclusively what creature is spoken of in our text. The old carnal creature is not an unwilling subject to vanity, nor is its subjection to the vanity of its earthly condition subjected in hope. The apostle says, “If any man be in Christ Jesus, he is a new creature.” This new creature is called the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. It is also called the inner man, &c. It is this new and inner man of whom it is said, “Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil.” He who hath supplied this hope is God. For the same apostle testifieth, “Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.” II Thes.2:16,17. “By reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope.” The italicized words are supplied. The plain sense appears to be, that our God who hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, has seen cause to choose his people in the furnace of affliction, for their good and his glory, and has ordained that in the world we shall have tribulation, and that our afflictions shall work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, has caused us to glory in our tribulations, and to rejoice in hope of the glory of God. He has subjected them, or us, in hope. Thanks be unto God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
This view of the text seems to us to be strengthened by the words immediately subjoined, “Because the creature itself shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the sons of God.” The present bondage of corruption, is the present unwilling subjection to vanity. Captivity to the law of sin which is in our members which are on earth, under which bondage all who have received the first fruits of the Spirit, do groan within themselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body; for we are saved by hope; that is, we are delivered by hope, sustained by hope, or our captivity is subjected to this bright hope of a glorious resurrection and happy immortality.
“A hope so much divine,
May trials well endure.”
We groan within ourselves because of our present subjection to vanity, but hope looms up, even that lively or vital hope to which we are begotten by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead; and having this sure and steadfast hope, we wait with patience for the adoption, the spirit of which we already have, to wit, the redemption of our body, when free from sin and vanity, mortality and earth, we shall be raised spiritual and heavenly.
In conclusion, our present impression is that the creature intended in our text is the new creature, born of God, while yet in the flesh, and in conflict with the law of sin and death. The vanity to which the creature is made subject, embraces all the sufferings, trials and afflictions of this present state. We encounter and are subject to them, not by choice, but from necessity; not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected in hope. As in verse 17, “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” Also in verse 29, “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” As by the wise and gracious decree of God it is predestinated that all his saints shall know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, and be conformed to his death. - Phil. 3:10.
By reason of their unity to and identity with Christ, it is given to them in his behalf, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake. Phil. 1:29. It cannot be doubted that the hope which sustains the children of God, causing them to triumph over the vanities and vexations, trials and perplexities of the way, is of God, and comes to us through the mediatorial sufferings, death, resurrection and intercession of our great Redeemer. He has subjected the same in hope. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God,” and all the saints may safely reckon with Paul, that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed is us. “For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.”
Now are we passing through “Vanity Fair.” The manifestation of our sonship is not so clear as it shall hereafter be, when in the resurrection of the saints, clothed with our house which is from heaven, and fully delivered from the bondage of corruption, we shall awake in the likeness of our risen and exalted Savior. This lively hope which we now have by and through the resurrection of Christ from the dead, not only has a tendency to reconcile us to the trials of the way, but it enters into that within the veil, whither the forerunner is for us entered, causing us to earnestly expect, and patiently wait for the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ, “Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.” Phil. 3:21.
January 15, 1870.
Elder Gilbert Beebe