Newton County, GA., Nov.11,1857.
DEAR BROTHER BEEBE: - I recall to my mind the request of sister Betsey Jennings of Tioga County, PA., for my views, some months since, through the SIGNS, on the following scripture:
“For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope.” Rom. 8:20.
In an unlimited sense everything which was created – everything besides the Creator, or everything not self-existent, is a creature. When restricted to any being or thing in particular its character is known by the description given, or by knowledge which we personally may have of it. So in relation to the creature in the text. Its character is described, but some difficulty may arise in an understanding of what creature it is. Upon this point there is more than one opinion. If I did not believe there was in Christ Jesus a spiritual family denominated children of God, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with our Lord Jesus Christ, I might conclude the creature spoken of had reference to something natural, fleshly, or earthy. But when I consider Paul was writing to a people born of God, and in whom Christ was revealed the hope of glory, I conclude he was speaking of the new creature. Paul says, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away, behold all things are become new.” II Cor. 5:17. Again, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.” Gal.6:15. In these scriptures he has reference no doubt to the experimental development of the new creature, when a man is born again. Paul to the Colossians, says of Christ, “Who is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of every creature.” In Psa. 89th, the Eternal Father says of his Son, “Also I will make him, my first-born, higher than the kings of the earth.” He is called the first-born from the dead, also the first-born among many brethren. If Christ, in his sonship, sustains the relation of first-born, all such as are born again of Adam’s progeny, are recognized in the class of every creature. The creature in the text is included in the class of every creature, as I understand it, and is the production, or offspring of a spiritual progenitor, brought forth in the natural or earthly man in the new, or heavenly birth. The man who was dead in trespasses and sins, is now spiritually alive, whereas he was once alienated, and an enemy in his mind by wicked works, he is now reconciled to God by Jesus Christ. It is the man who is reconciled, not the carnal mind. A spiritual man now dwells in the earthly man, and the same individual who was pursuing a wicked course, is now a follower of Christ.
Was made subject to vanity. A creature is dependent upon the Creator, or some superior power, and therefore subject to that power in some form or manner. The creature is subjected by the Father to vanity, not willingly, or in other words, not voluntarily. Vanity is expressive of emptiness, a lack of substance to satisfy desire. Vanity of vanity, all is vanity, all that cometh is vanity. This world, with all its concomitants, is vanity and vexation of spirit. It is not the choice of the creature, or new man, to be subjected to such a state of things, but is made subject by the Father. I will analyze this part of my text experimentally. Does not every christian know and feel within himself at times, a distress, a burden, a captivity, so that when he would do good evil is present with him? Yes. Does he not feel himself subjected to a state of things which is irksome to him, and which he does not love or desire? Most certainly he does. What is the occasion of all this trouble? I answer that there is a little something, to use my own mode of expression, dwelling in the man, which is heavenly in its origin, nature, and desire, which cannot be satisfied with anything in this transitory state of existence. And why? Because there is nothing in this world to feed or support the heavenly mind. There is a want of substance to satisfy desire. Just so long as the believer remains in the earthly house of this tabernacle, he will certainly find a subjection to a state of vanity which the new creature has no interest in, no desire for, and to which he is not a voluntary subject.
But by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope. The Father hath subjected the creature in hope. “Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” Bondage of corruption is very expressive of the state from which the creature is delivered. It accords with what Paul says in relation to his own experience when he exclaimed, “O, wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death, or bondage of corruption. There is a patient waiting of the creature for the time of deliverance, notwithstanding its subjection to vanity. Paul says, “For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.” Its earnest expectation is onward and upward. Job could say, “All the days of my appointed time will I wait until my change come.” Paul desired to depart and be with Christ which was far better; nevertheless it was needful for him to remain a season longer. I do not understand that there is an unwillingness of the creature to be subject to the will of the Father, and to remain its appointed time, but there is no willing or voluntary subjection to a state of things which affords no satisfaction to its longing desire. A willing or voluntary subjection would indicate a disposition to always remain there. I might be subjected to the necessity of staying in a certain place a number of years which are allotted me by the God of providence. I might be willing to stay the time allotted me, for the providence of God placed me there, and I believed it right and just to stay, yet it was not voluntary on my part, it was not my choice, neither do I like the place, the people, nor anything there. I am compelled to stay, yet I have no desire to associate with the people, nor to conform to their manners and customs. I am subjected in hope of deliverance. Upon this principle God’s people are strangers and pilgrims in this vale of sorrow, and wilderness of sin, and are traveling to that better country where the inhabitants will never part, where sickness, sorrow and death are never known.
The hope of the righteous is an everlasting foundation. Subjected in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before the world began. It is Christ in the believer, the hope of glory. Hence with propriety it can be said in the present tense, “for we are saved by hope.”
The manifestation of the sons of God, and the glorious liberty of the children of God, I conclude have reference not only to their deliverance from the bondage of corruption, but also to that period when that great event will transpire which all the saints are waiting for; namely, the adoption, which is called the redemption of our body in the resurrection. The state of ultimate glory which will break forth at that period upon the saints, cannot now be realized or anticipated. Even the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in the saints.
I submit what I have written to the consideration of sister Jennings, and all others who may be disposed to read my communication. I am anxious some brother would give a correct view of the foregoing scripture, as I have long desired to have a scriptural understanding of it. I believe the sentiments I have expressed are scripturally correct, whether they are really the meaning of the text or not.
Joseph L. Purington.