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his sovereign, but that they were forced to go along; and therefore they groan.
5. They are used by sinners to ends for which God never made them. They suffer violence, they are abused, and therefore they groan. God made them for his honour, men abuse them to his dishonour. Never did a beast speak but once, Balaam's
Num. xxii, 28, 30, and that was a complaint on man for abusing it to an end for wbich God never made it. The dumb ass rebuked the madness of the prophet, that would have it to carry him in a way God forbade him to go, and where the angel stood to oppose him. And, could the creature speak to us, we would hear many complaints that way. God gave the creatures to be servants to man, but man has sold them for slaves to his lusts; and who would not groan to be so maltreated ? There are two things which make hard service :
(1.) Labour in vain, continual toil, and yet no profit by it. The creatures have no intermission in their service: Eccl. i. 5, 8, “ All things are full of labour.” But 0, where is the profit of it all ? The sun riseth, and runs his race every day, and never resteth. But what is the issue? If it were to let men see to read God's word, to behold and admire his works, to perform acts of piety, to accomplish substantial good, all the toil would never be grudged by the creatures. But, alas ! here is the case, for the most part men see to sin more by it, the worldling, the drunkard, &c. to pursue their lusts by it. The night waits on in its turn, and the thief, the adulterer, and the like, get their lasts fulfilled with it. The air waits about us continually, and the swearer gets sworn by it, the liar lied by it, and the like. The earth and sea wait on us with their produce; and people get their sensuality, their vanity, pride, and the like, nourished by it. What wonder they groan, to be brought to this pass ? Sun, moon, air, earth, and sea, are groaning for this as they can. If our very meat and drink could groan, they would groan in the dish, cup, throat, and belly of the drunkard, glutton, sensualist, yea, of every one with whom they are not employed to nourish the body for the Lord and his service, but for the world, &c.—There is,
(2.) Hard labour, and much loss by it. We have both these : Hab. ii. 13, “ Behold, is it not of the Lord of hosts, that the people shall labour in the very fire, and the people shall weary themselves for very vanity ?" The creatures not only toil for vanity, but as it were in the fire, where they smart for their pains. The covetous oppressor's money kept from the labourer, groans in the corner of your chest, and cries, “ Behold the hire of the labourers which have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth, and the cries of them that have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth," James v. 4. “Why do ye lock me up here, where a heavy curse lies ' upon me? why wilt thou not let me away to the labourer ?" The oppressor builds his house by blood and oppression, and the very stones and timber cry out, “ Why have ye laid me here, where the curse of God will not let me rest ?" Hab. ii. 11. If a master should force his servant into the king's throne, and force the crown on his head, and the sceptre into his hand, how would he groan to think that he is abused, and that his life must go for it too. Ah! is it any wonder that the beasts, the pastures of the wilderness, groan this day, who have so often been set in God's throne, the heart; have had room with bim, yea, more room than him, nay, many times the only room there ? 0! would they not cry, if they could speak, “ Why get we the first thoughts in the morning, and the last at night? Why set you that love, joy, delight, and trust in us, that you ought to place in God? O let us out of this dangerous place, let us out of your hearts, that is a dangerous place to us," Ezek. xxiv. 25, 26.--I only add as a
6. And last reason of their groaning, that the creatures partake with man in his miseries.—Though they do not sin with him, yet they suffer with him. They that have life, live groaning with him. They are liable to sickness, pains, and sores, as well as he ; for not a few of the troops of diseases billeted on man, were quartered also on them. Sinful man's neighbourhood infected them; they die groaning with him. In the deluge they perished with him, except a few preserved in the ark, as living in the same element with him. The beasts in Sodom were destroyed with fire and brimstone, with the men.
In the plagues of Egypt, the cattle smarted together with the owners, also their fields, vines, sycamores, &c. The inanimate creatures suffer with him also. Ho sins, and the very earth is laid in bonds for him; but groan as it will in that case, he cannot loose them: Job xxxviii. 31, “ Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion ?" Their iron bands he cannot break: Deut. xxviii. 23, “ And the heaven that is over thy head shall be brass, and the earth that is under thee shall be iron.” The very waters are straitly bound up on his account: Job xxxvii. 10, “By the breath of God frost is given ; and the breadth of the waters is straitened.” Nay, they are muffled up with a weight above them, like a stone under ground; for as swift as they rise to go, and as nimble as they run, they are catched and held fast, like a wild beast, in God's trap. This is the true sense of Job, in the Hebrew, chap. xxxviii. 30, “ The waters are hid as with a stone, and the face of the deep is frozen.” Nay, the very heavens are in bonds too, Deut. xxviii. 23. And they cry out in their bands, Hos. ii. 21, “ I will hear, saith the Lord, I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth.”
THE SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED.*
SERMON X XVII.
Rom. viii. 22, For we know that the whole creation groaneth, and travaileth in pain
together until now.
HAVING considered in what respects the creation, or creatures, are said to groan, and what distresses the creatures so much that they groan, we now proceed to inquire,
III. How, and by what right, can the harmless creatures be made to groan for our sakes? They have not sinned. True, these poor sheep, what bave they done ?-Here I observe,
1. That there is sovereignty in this groaning. The creatures are all his own, and it is lawful for him to do with his own what he will, Matth. xx. 15. Solomon tells us, Eccl. viii. 4,“ Where the word of a king is, there is power, (Heb. dominion), and who may say unto him, What doest thou ?” God is the great store-master, to whom all the flocks and herds in the world belong : “ The cattle npon a thousand hills are his,” Psalm 1. 10. He has given you the use of them, but has reserved the absolute property to himself. You have them in kain, and that is ill paid ; therefore no wonder he take them out of your ha and dispose of them in another way whereby he may get the use of them, that is, glory to himself.—I observe,
2. That the creatures are liable to this groaning, because of their relation to sinful man, who has a subordinate, limited, providential interest in them; and that by the same justice that the whole which a malefactor has, smarts with him; as it was in the case of Achan, and all that he had, Josh. vii. 24. The sun is a light to him, therefore it is overclouded ; it nourishes his ground, therefore its in
* This sermon was delivered on a fast-day, appointed by the presbytery of which the author was a member, on occasion of a severe threatening storm which then prevailed... In this discourse, and through the whole of this subject, the author has evidently a reference to the unnatural rebellion which was then raging, and appears deeply affected with the state of the church and nation at that period.
fluences are restrained. The ground feeds his flocks and berds, therefore it is inhabited. They furnish him with necessaries, conveniencies, and profits, therefore they suffer. They stand in a nearer relation to him than other creatures ; they were made the same day, and of the same earth, and live in the same element with him, and therefore they smart sorest, because they are nearest to him. They are nearer, and therefore it is harder with them than with fishes and fowls, which were of the water, and live, the one in the water, the other in the air.--I observe,
3. That the creatures groan because of their usefulness to him, by the same right that, in war, one takes from his enemy whatever may be of use to that enemy in the war. None scruple to take every thing from an enemy, that so he may be disabled, and yield. Now, God is angry, and carrying on a war with us, which we began; and to oblige us to yield, he falls on the creatures that are useful to
Pharaoh will not let Israel go, and the cattle, and the very trees and water of Egypt, smart. They kill, swear, lie, steal, commit adultery: Hos. iv. 3, “ Therefore shall the land mourn, and every one that dwelleth therein shall languish, with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven; yea, the fishes of the sea also shall be taken away.” Men are very indifferent about the interest of God, and if they get their own interest seen to, are little concerned as to any thing else ; and therefore God blasts their prospects; as you may see, by consulting Haggai i. 4-11.-I observe,
4. That the creatures groan, by the same right one takes a sword from a man wherewith he is running at him. The creatures are idols of jealousy often to provoke God, and therefore he strikes them down. Often, and most justly, does God punish sinners in that wherein they have sinned, so as they may read their sin in their punishment, as in Eli's case, and in Isaac's, Gen. xxv. 28, and xxvi. 35. The farm, and the care about it, often keeps people from the marriage-sapper of the King's Son, Matth. xxii. 5. The Gadarenes, for their liking of swine better than a Saviour, bad their wretched idols drowned in the sea.—I observe,
5. That the creatures groan by the same right one takes back his loan, when he gets no thanks for it, but, on the contrary, it is improved against himself: Hos. ii. 8, 9, “ For she did not know that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold, which they prepared for Baal. Therefore will I return, and take away my corn in the time thereof, and my wine in the season thereof, and will recover my wool and my flax given to cover her nakedDess.” Alas! though we are always in God's common, for every thing we have, we are not thankful, we do not remember our holding, but sacrifice to our own net. And God's favours with respect to the creatures, though they make people more wealthy, they make them not more holy.
Lastly, I observe, that the creatures groan by the same right a prince levies a fine on a man, when he might take his life. It is a mercy God deals not with ourselves, as with the creatures for our sake: Lam. iii. 22, “ It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not." True, men feel the stroke; and good reason, for God makes the creatures groan for that very end, that we may feel it. But we feel only at the second hand, though it is we only that are guilty. The bands lying on the earth might have lain on us, and we pinched as sore for our food as the beasts of the field for theirs; that as our flocks are forced to go to another part of the country, leaving our own hills desolate, so our houses might have been desolate, families scattered, and sent through the country begging bread. They have had more than any of us, who yet have been brought to such trying circumstances.--It only remains,
IV. That we make some improvement of this doctrine.
1. In an use of information. Let us notice this scripture fulfilled in our days, in this day, and that in a remarkable manner. There is a mournful concert which the creatures have been making in our ears now for many weeks together, for which we are this day called to fast and humble ourselves.—Hear the groans of the creatures :
(1.) The earth is groaning under us, Deut. xxviii. 23, “ And thy heaven that is over thy head shall be brass, and the earth that is under thee shall be iron.” God has laid a weight on it, and bound it so strait, that it can get no breathing, there is no perspiration; it can get up nothing. It is run together as lead does after it is melted; Job xxxviii. 38, “ When the dust groweth into hardness, and the clods cleave fast together.” Hebrew, “God has pitched it up, or pitched it all over with frost, as one would do a vessel to keep in the liquor, when they have in view to prevent others drawing from it.”
(2.) The waters groan, for there is a weight on them: Job xxxviii. 30, “ The waters are hid as with a stone, and the face of the deep is frozen.” Men's sins have taken hold of them, and turned them into dry land : Psalm cvii. 33, “He turneth rivers into a wilderness, and the water-springs into dry ground.” Ver. 34,“ A fruitful field into barrenness, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein." We have bridges of God's making, but these are no more signs of God's favour, than the turning of sea into dry land was to Pharaoh, for it proved his destruction.