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man, who has the dominion over the creatures, puts the creatures to. Thus the sun is a sort of servant to all manner of wickedness, as its light and other beneficial influences are abused by men, and made subservient to their lusts and sinful purposes. So of the rain, the fruits of the earth, the brute animals, and all other parts of the visible creation; they all serve men's corruption, and obey their sinful will. And God doth in a sort subject them to it; for he continues his influence and power to make them obedient, according to the same law of nature whereby they yield to men's command when used to good purposes.
It is by the immediate influence of God upon things according to those constant methods which we call the laws of nature, that they are ever obedient to man's will, or that we can use them at all. This influence God continues in order to make them obedient to man's will, though wicked. This is a sure sign that the present state of things is not lasting it is confusion; and God would not suffer it to be, but that he designs in a little time to put an end to it. Seeing it is to be but a little while, God chooses rather to subject the creature to man's wickedness, than to disturb and interrupt the course of nature according to its stated laws: but it is, as it were, a force upon the creature; for the creature is abused in it, perverted to far meaner purposes than those for which the author of its nature made and adapted it. The creature therefore is unwillingly subject, and but for a short time; and, as it were, hopes for an alteration. It is a bondage which the creature is subject to, from which it was partly delivered when Christ came, and when the gospel was promulgated in the world; and will be more fully delivered at the commencement of the glo rious day we are speaking of, and perfectly at the day of judgment. This agrees with the context; for the apostle was speaking of the present suffering state of the church. The reason why the church in this world is in a suffering state, is, that the world is subject to the sin and corruption of mankind. vanity and corruption in scripture, is very commonly meant sin, or wickedness; as might be shewn in very many places, would my intended brevity allow.
Though the creature is thus subject to vanity, yet does not it rest in this subjection, but is constantly acting and exerting itself, in order to that glorious liberty that God has appointed at the time we are speaking of, and, as it were, reaching forth towards it. All the changes brought to pass in the world from age to age, are ordered by infinite wisdom, in one respect or other to prepare the way for that glorious issue of things, when truth and righteousness shall finally prevail, and he whose right it is shall take the kingdom. All the creatures, in all their operations and motions, continually tend to this. As in
a clock, all the motions of the whole system of wheels and movements, tend to the striking of the hammer at the appointed time. All the revolutions and restless motions of the sun and other heavenly bodies, from day to day, from year to year and from age to age, are continually tending thither as all the many turnings of the wheels of a chariot in a journey tend to the appointed journey's end. The mighty struggles and conflicts of nations, those vast successive changes which are brought to pass in the kingdoms and empires of the world, from one age to another, are as it were travail-pangs of the creation, in order to bring forth this glorious event. And the scriptures represent the last struggles and changes that shall immediately precede this event, as being the greatest of all; as the last pangs of a woman in travail are the most violent.
The creature thus earnestly expecting this glorious manifestation and liberty of the children of God, and travailing in pain in order to it, the scriptures, by a like figure, very often show that when this shall be accomplished, the whole inanimate creation shall greatly rejoice: "That the heavens shall sing, the earth be glad, the mountains break forth into singing, the hills be joyful together, the trees clap their hands, the lower parts of the earth shout, the sea roar, and the fulness thereof, and the floods clap their hands."*
All the intelligent elect creation, all God's holy creatures in heaven and earth, are truly and properly waiting for, and earnestly expecting that event. It is abundantly represented in scripture as the spirit and character of all true saints, that they set their hearts upon love, long, wait and pray for the promised glory of that day; they are spoken of as those that "prefer Jerusalem to their chief joy," (Psal. cxxxvii. 6.) "That take pleasure in the stones of Zion, and favour the dust thereof," (Psal. cii. 13, 14.) "That wait for the consolation of Israel," (Luke ii. 25. and ver. 38.) It is the language of the church of God, and the breathing of every true saint, (Psal. xiv. 7.) "O that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! when the Lord bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad." And Cant. ii. 17. “Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my beloved, and be thou like a roe, or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether." And chap. viii. 14. " Make haste, my beloved, and be thou like to a roe, or to a young hart upon the mountains of spices." Agreeable to this was the spirit of old Jacob, which he expressed when he was dying, exercising faith in the great promise made to him, and Isaac, and Abraham, that "in their seed all the families of the earth should be blessed," Gen. xlix.
*See Isai. xliv. 23-xlix. 13. Psal. Ixix. 34, 35-xcvi. 11, 12. and xcviii. 7,8.
18, "I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord." The same is represented as the spirit of his true children, or the family of Ja cob, Isai. viii. 17. I will wait upon the Lord, that hideth himself from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him.-They that love Christ's appearing," is a name that the apostle gives to true christians, 2 Tim. iv. 8.
The glorious inhabitants of the heavenly world-the saints and angels there who rejoice when one sinner repents-are earnestly waiting, in an assured and joyful dependence on God's promises of that conversion of the world and marriage of the Lamb, which shall take place when that glorious day comes: and therefore they are represented as all with one accord rejoicing, and praising God with such mighty exultation and triumph, when it is accomplished, Rev. xix.
Precepts, Encouragements, and Examples.
The word of God is full of precepts, encouragements, and examples, tending to excite and induce the people of God to be much in prayer for this mercy. The spirit of God is the chief of blessings, for it is the sum of all spiritual blessings; which we need infinitely more than others, and wherein our true and eternal happiness consists. That which is the sum of the blessings Christ purchased, is the sum of the blessings christians have to pray for; but that, as was observed before, is the Holy Spirit. Therefore, when the disciples came to Christ desiring him to teach them to pray, (Luke xi.) and he accordingly gave them particular directions for the performance of this duty; he adds ver. 13. "If ye then being evil, know how to
ve good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?" From which words of Christ we may also observe, that there is no blessing we have so great encouragement to pray for, as the Spirit of God. The words imply that our heavenly Father is especially ready to bestow his Holy Spirit on them that ask him. The more excellent the nature of any benefit is which we stand in need of, the more ready God is to bestow it, in answer to prayer. The infinite goodness of God's nature is the more gratified, the grand design of our redemption is the better answered, Jesus Christ the Redeemer has the greater success in his undertaking and labours; and those desires which are expressed in prayer for the most excellent blessings, are the most excellent desires, and consequently such as God most approves of, and is most ready to gratify.
The scriptures do not only direct and encourage us in general to pray for the Holy Spirit above all things else; but it is the expressly revealed will of God, that his church should be very much in prayer for that glorious outpouring of the Spirit, which is to be in the latter days, and for what shall be accomplished by it. God, speaking of that blessed event, Ezek xxxvi. under the figure of "cleansing the house of Israel from all their iniquities, planting and building their waste and ruined places, and making them to become like the garden of Eden, and filling them with men like a flock, like the holy flock, the flock of Jerusalem in her solemn feasts," he says, ver. 37. "Thus saith the Lord, I will yet for this be enquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them." Which doubtless, implies it is the will of God, that extraordinary prayerfulness in his people for this mercy should precede the bestowment of it.
I know of no place in the bible, where so strange an expression is made use of to signify importunity in prayer, as is used in Isai. Ixii. 6, 7, where the people of God are called upon to be importunate for this mercy: "Ye that make mention of the Lord, keep not silence, and give him no rest, till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth," How strong is the phrase! And how loud is this call to the church of God, to be fervent and incessant in their cries to him for this great mercy! How wonderful the words used, concerning the manner in which such worms of the dust should address the high and lofty one that inhabits eternity! And what encouragement is here, to approach the mercy-seat with the greatest freedom, humble boldness, earnestness, constancy, and full assurance of faith, to seek of God this greatest favour that can be sought in christian prayer!
It is a just observation of a certain eminent minister of the church of Scotland, in a discourse lately published on social prayer, in which, speaking of pleading for the success of the gospel, as required by the Lord's prayer, he says, "That notwithstanding of its being so compendious, yet the one half of it, that is, three petitions in six, and these the first prescribed, do all relate to this great case :-so that to put any one of these petitions apart, or all of them together, is upon the matter to pray that the dispensation of the gospel may be blessed with divine power." That glorious day is the proper and appointed time, above all others, for bringing to pass the things requested in each of these petitions. The prophecies every where represent that as the time, which God has espe
* In this passage the prophet doubtless, has respect to the same glorious restoration and advancement of his church that is spoken of in the next chapter, and in all the following chapters to the end of the book.
cially appointed for glorifying his own great name in this world, causing his glory to be revealed, that all flesh may see it together, causing it openly to be manifested in the sight of the heathen, filling the whole world with the light of his glory to such a degree, that the moon shall be confounded and the sun ashamed before that brighter glory; the appointed time for glorifying and magnifying the name of Jesus Christ, causing every knee to bow, and every tongue to confess to him." This is the proper time "of God's kingdom coming," or of "Christ coming in his kingdom :" that is, the very time foretold in the 2d of Daniel, when the "Lord God of heaven shall set up a kingdom," in the latter times of the last monarchy, when it is divided into ten kingdoms.
And that is the very time foretold in the viith of Daniel, when there should be "given to one like the Son of man, dominion, glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations and languages should serve them; and the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom, under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the most high God," after the destruction of the little horn, that should continue for a time, times, and the dividing of time. And that is the time wherein "God's will shall be done on earth, as it is done in heaven;" when heaven shall, as it were, be bowed, and come down to the earth, as "God's people shall be all righteous, and holiness to the Lord shall be written on the bells of the horses," &c. So that the three first petitions of the Lord's prayer are, in effect, no other than requests for bringing on this glorious day. And as the Lord's prayer begins with asking for this in the three first petitions, so it concludes with it in these words, "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen." Which words imply a request, that God would take to himself his great power, and reign, and manifest his power and glory in the world. Thus Christ teaches us, that it becomes his disciples to seek this above all other things, and make it the first and the last in their prayers, and that every petition should be put up in subordination to the advancement of God's kingdom and glory in the world.
Besides what has been observed of the Lord's prayer, if we look through the whole bible, and observe all the examples of prayer that we find there recorded, we shall not find so many prayers for any other mercy, as for the deliverance, restoration and prosperity of the church, and the advancement of God's glory and kingdom of grace in the world. If we well consider the prayers recorded in the books of Psalms, I believe we shall see reason to think, that a very great, if not the greater part of them, are prayers uttered, either in the name of Christ, or in the name of the church, for such a mercy: and undoubtedly