For the earnest expectation of the creature
Some by the creature understand the universe, all created beings animate and inanimate, which having suffered much by the sin of man, are introduced by a rhetorical figure, as waiting for deliverance and a restoration to their paradisiacal estate; but some part of the world is manifestly distinguished from them, ( Romans 8:23 ) , others think that angels are here meant, who being obliged to minister to sinful men, are represented as groaning and longing for the time when all the children of God shall be brought in, that they may be dismissed from their service; but what is said of subjection to vanity, of the bondage of corruption, and of their groaning and travailing in pain, can never agree with such happy spirits: others suppose that men in general are designed, being by sin brought into a state of bondage and corruption, subjected to vanity, attended with troubles, and liable to death, and so groan under their present miseries for deliverance; but to desire anything of a spiritual nature cannot be ascribed to men in general; and besides, as before observed, some persons are distinguished from them, ( Romans 8:23 ) , others have been of opinion, that the new creature, or renewed persons, are here intended, who being burdened with indwelling sin, groan under it, long for deliverance from it, and are waiting for the heavenly glory; but these cannot be said to be in a state of bondage to corruption, for they are freed from the dominion of sin, and are become the servants of righteousness. It is best of all by "the creature" to understand the Gentile world. "The creature" here, and "the whole creation", ( Romans 8:22 ) , must be the same; now the phrase (pasa ktisiv) , "the whole creation", or "every creature", as it may be rendered, signifies the nations of the world, in distinction to the Jews; see ( Mark 16:15 ) ( Colossians 1:23 ) ; compared with ( Matthew 28:19 ) and answers to (twyrb) , "the creatures"; by which name the Jews often in their writings call the Gentiles, to distinguish them from the Israelites. Take two or three instances, as follow,
``let your commerce (say they F7) be in a peaceable manner, (twyrbh Me) , "with the creatures"; what do "the creatures" say concerning him? such an one, blessed be his father who taught him the law, blessed be his master who taught him the law; woe (twyrbl Mhl) , "to the creatures", because they learn not the law; such an one who hath learned the law, they observe how beautiful are his ways, and how well ordered his works; of him it is written, saying, "and said unto me, thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified", ( Isaiah 49:3 ) ;''where the creatures and the Israelites are evidently distinguished from one another: again F8,
``woe (twyrbl Mhl) , "to the creatures", who know not, nor have they any regard for the service of their Creator; for it is a tradition, (says R. Isaac,) that "Bath Kol", or a voice, goes out every day from Mount Horeb, and says, woe (twyrbl Mhl) , "to the creatures", because of the service of their Creator.''And a little after,
``if (twyrbh) , "the creatures", knew the love with which the holy blessed God loves Israel, they would roar like young lions to follow after him.''Once more F9,
``all the prayer (twyrbh lv) , "of the creatures", is only for the earth; Lord let the earth be fruitful, Lord let the earth prosper; all the prayer (larvy lv) , "of the Israelites", is only for the house of the Lord, Lord let the house of the sanctuary be built.''
Now what "the creature", the Gentile world, is represented as earnestly waiting, and wistly looking out for, is
the manifestation of the sons of God;
which is made first at their conversion, and afterwards openly and more fully at the appearance of Christ in the resurrection morn. There is a manifestation of the sons of God, at conversion. They that are the sons of God, are his sons before by divine predestination, and through the covenant of grace; as such they were given to Christ; and under this character, and as standing in this relation, he assumed their nature, and died for them, in order to gather them together; and indeed, this previous relation is the ground and foundation of the Spirit of Christ being sent down into their hearts, to manifest their adoption to them; for before conversion, it is not manifested, neither to themselves nor others, but then it is in some measure made known. This may in a particular manner be applied to the Gentiles, and God's elect among them. They were the sons of God before they were manifested as such; they are spoken of in prophecy as in that relation; see ( Isaiah 45:11 ) ; and seemed to be designed chiefly, if not altogether, by "the children of God scattered abroad", in ( John 11:51 John 11:52 ) . These were not known, nor looked upon by the Jews, to be the children of God; but when the Gospel came in among them, as the power of God, it manifested them to be such: so that where it was formerly said, "ye are not my people", there it is said, "ye are the sons of the living God", ( Hosea 1:10 ) . But the full manifestation of the sons of God will be in their glorification at Christ's second coming; when they shall be openly taken into God's family, and shall be owned by Christ in this relation, before angels and men; they will appear in themselves otherwise than now they do; they will be put into the possession of the inheritance they are adopted to, and will have that honour and dignity which belong to their character actually conferred on them; so that they shall appear, not only to themselves, but to all the world, to be what they are: now this, in the whole compass of it, the Gentiles might be said to be in earnest expectation of, and waiting for. They may be said, in some sense, to expect and wait for the manifestation of the Son of God himself, the Messiah, who is called "the desire of all nations", ( Haggai 2:7 ) : for it was promised, that "to him should the gathering", ( Genesis 49:10 ) , or, as some read it, "the expectation of the people", or "nations be": they also waited for his law, his doctrine, the everlasting Gospel, ( Isaiah 42:4 ) , and when that was come among them, and became the power of God to the salvation of many of them, this raised in them an earnest expectation of many, of multitudes of the sons of God being manifested among them, according to several prophecies of the Old Testament, which largely speak of this matter; and they continue to wait for the bringing in of the fulness of them in the latter day, and for the ultimate glory, which all the sons of God, whether Jews or Gentiles, shall enjoy together.
F7 F. Bab. Yoma, fol. 86. 1.
F8 Zohar in Exod. fol. 2. 3.
F9 Bareshit Rabba Parash. 13. fol. 11. 3.