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BY SAMUEL COX
" Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creation, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." — Romans viii. 39. Twenty years ago or more, when I first ventured to alter a few words in reading the lessons of the day, and had substituted the word " creation " for the word "creature" in the 19th, 20th, and 21st verses of this Chapter, a good old man rose at a meeting of the Church and, with a brow of grave rebuke, demanded what Bible it was that I had introduced into the pulpit, and by what authority I had introduced it. When I replied that, purely on my own authority, I had deviated here and there from our Authorized Version in order to represent the original Greek a little more faithfully, it soon became apparent that on this point he was impervious to argument, and must be quietly brushed on one side. " What did he care for the Greek .'' He wanted the mind of the Spirit ; " and the mind of the Spirit was to be found only in our noble but faulty translation. But, to-day, no one would think of taking
NOR ANY OTHER CREATION.
the objection which it was very natural for him to take then. Or if any old man, clinging to the prejudices of bygone years, were to take it, his very grandchildren would rise up against him, and point out that this alteration had been made in our Revised Version, and was approved by the best authorities.
Yet, while our Revisers had the courage of their scholarship in dealing with Verses 19-21, that courage seems to have failed them in dealing with this 39th Verse, where the same Greek word is used, and where therefore it should, by their own rule, be rendered by the same English word. Instead of putting " nor any other creation " into the text, they have banished the word " creation " into the margin, and retained the word " creature " in the text, although every one must admit that between a single creature and a whole creation there is a considerable, and even an enormous, difference. They took this course, I apprehend, however, not so much through lack of courage as from the fear of becoming unintelligible, or perhaps because they had no clear, or no unanimous, conception of what the Apostle meant when he declared that no other or diiTerent creation to this would be able to separate us from the love of God as revealed in and by Christ Jesus our Lord. And indeed if they had put the right word (" creation ") into the text, what do you suppose the ordinary reader of the New Testament would have made of it ? What would ^^« have made of it ? Even if you had consulted the commentators you would have found that most of them assume St. Paul's phrase to be nothing more
NOR ANY OTHER CREA TION. 93 than a rhetorical and sublime et cetera ; that when, after enumerating certain great forces which, despite their greatness, would be unable to separate us from the love of God, the Apostle added, " nor will any other creation ; " he was not rising to the climax of his impassioned affirmation, but was simply asserting that " nothing else," no other and similar force, would ever succeed in detaching us from that love. Now even if we take it thus, even if we find in his
words no more than a simple denial that any conceivable force or being will ever divide us from God and God's love, they have a very noble meaning for us, and, if we can believe them, will yield us a sovereign consolation and support under all the changes of time and all the fluctuating emotions which those changes breed in our hearts. But is there any reason why we should not find in them a much more clear and definite conception than this, and therefore a much more sustaining and consolatory assurance ? I think not. I think there are two senses in which St. Paul may have used the word " creation " here ; that we may take it in both these senses ; and that, instead of regarding this pregnant phrase as a mere et cetera, however sublime, we may find in it a very true and noble climax to his impassioned asseveration. I, First of all, he may use the word " creation " here, as he uses it elsewhere, in an imaginative but most true sense ; as when, for example, he speaks of the kingdom of Christ as " a new creation," and declares that to the believ'er in Christ " all things become new." When we
94 NOR ANY OTHER CREATION. read such phrases as these, or when in the Hebrew poets and prophets we read of the heaven and the earth passing away before the advent of the Lord, or being folded up like a scroll which has no further meaning or use, we are apt to regard them as mere poetry, or, at best, as poetic exaggerations of facts capable of being stated in a much more cool and reasonable form. And yet this language is not peculiar to the Bible ; it is as common outside the covers of the Bible as within them ; and the validity of it is confirmed by the whole history of human thought no less than by our private experience. Philosophy has always affirmed that what we call the real universe has no existence
save in the mind of man, which alone gives it its unity ; that even Time and Space are but necessary forms and conditions of all our thinking. Science affirms that the heavens and the earth are what we make them to be, and that, with every great revolution of human thought, they are made anew. And, to ns at least, they must be what we conceive them to be, must take their form and colour from the eyes with which we view them. Have we not been living under a new heaven — a heaven new to man — since Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton, discovered the true theory of the relations and motions of the heavenly bodies } Has not the earth become a new earth to us since the geologists ran back its history through countless myriads of centuries, and since Darwin has taught us to sec the law of evolution at work through the whole long ascending scale of life ? Do not the heavens and the earth present themselves to
NOR ANY OTHER CREATION. 95 us in new forms of beauty and power, not only when knowledge enables us to look on them with other larger eyes, but also whenever any great and inwardly-transforming passion is kindled in our hearts ? Why, then, should not Paul employ the language which all men — from the lover to the philosopher — employ when he set himself to describe the profoundest revolution which ever swept through the heart and mind of man ? When, for him, the Judge of the Jews was transformed into the Father and Saviour of all mankind, and the stern rigid code under which he had lived, or under which rather he had sought shelter from death, a code obedience to which, even if possible, made no man righteous and good — when this hard code of threatening precepts was displaced by the law of liberty and love, to obey which is righteousness and health and peace, did he not tread a new earth and gaze up into a
new heaven ? And when the faith he taught conquered the wicked ancient world, did not all men confess that all things were then made new ? Do not we ourselves mark the Christian era as the boundary line between the old world and the new, and begin to count the world's age afresh from the day on which Christ was born ? Yet many a pious Jew must have thought that the end, rather than the beginning, of the world had come when the Jewish polity passed away, and that true religion had abandoned a race which had adjudged itself unworthy of eternal life ? " No," says St. Paul, " the world has not come to an end ; men are 7iot separated from God. It is a new world, a new creation, that has come,
96 NOR ANY OTHER CREATION. a world in which men are brought nigh to God, so nigh that no future change, no revolution in human thought, shall ever separate them from Him. The Cross, once erected on the earth, will not pass away, or be made of none effect, even though the earth on which it stood should pass away and be no more seen. Has not his assurance been verified, and that again and again ? It was not long before the simplicity of the victorious Church was corrupted, and Christ was crucified afresh, in the house of his friends. All the elements of the old Hebrew, and even of the old pagan and barbaric, faiths gradually crept into its dogmas and ceremonies, its feasts and fasts, and, above all, into the daily conduct of life ; until, in the dark ages as we call them, the leading races of Europe were in bondage to a system as vile, as cruel and degrading, as fatal to righteousness and love, as any that obtained in the elder world, and the arch-priest of Christendom, its spiritual father and guide, was simply a more accomplished and licentious Pagan than had ever been seen outside the pale. Then came the Reformation — a partial, and
only a partial, return to the faith and charity of the primitive times ; and yet a change so great that to those who submitted to it all things in very deed became new ; while many a pious soul, withdrawn from the world and uncorrupted by the corruptions of the Church, mourned over it as a proof that faith had left the earth, and deemed that religion itself was sickening for death when it was really clothing itself with new power. Nay, has there not been a similar radical change
NOR ANY OTHER CREATION 97 even in our own time, a change as welcome to all lovers of a free, reasonable, and spiritual faith, and as alarming to all who cling to old use and wont, and to the established order of things, however corrupt and effete that order may be? Just as in medicine the old vigorous and drastic practice which bled and blistered and cauterized or dosed men with horrible drugs, which killed or cured, and killed oftener than it cured, while its very cures often entailed life-long forms of infirmity and disease ; just as that old system of medicine has yielded to the new practice which aims at aiding nature rather than compelling her, and seeks above all to alleviate the sufferings of its patients, instead of adding to them ; so, even in the last twenty or thirty years, the old drastic and caustic method of theology has given place to a new method, to a more generous and gentle practice.* In general we may say that the old method of theology was arbitrary, harsh, violent. Revelation was opposed to reason. Assent to creeds was substituted for the faith that works by love. Morality, apart from religion, was capable of producing nothing but "splendid sins." Good works were " filthy rags." Men were bound to believe, though they could not believe unto life, unless they were " elected unto grace," and renewed by a spirit which " bloweth where it listeth." To save one's own soul — i.e.,
to live for one's self — was the supreme duty, and men ' Dr. John Service works out the parallel between the old and new systems of Medicine and Theology admirably in his Discourse on " Methods of Spiritual Treatment," to which I owe much of this paragraph. 8
98 NOR ANY OTHER CREATION. were most likely to win heaven by renouncing the earth. Instead of being urged to love our neighbours as ourselves, we were warned that if we loved our nearest neighbour half as much as we loved ourselves we might provoke the Lord to jealousy and move Him to take away the wife, the husband, the child who had grown too dear to us. The horrors of hell and damnation were freely denounced wherever two or three met together in the name of the merciful Son of Man. Ecclesiastical duties usurped the place of ethical, and we were exhorted, above all things, to attend punctually on ordinances of worship, to observe sacraments, and to contribute liberally to the funds of the Church. A sad countenance was a sign of grace, especially on Sundays ; and a merry heart was a portent of reprobation. From thirty to forty years ago this was the tone of the teaching which I heard every Lord's day : and no doubt many of you can remember hearing it too. But who hears such teaching to-day .-* There is hardly an intelligent congregation in England, I suppose, that would endure it. Even those who have not embraced the new theology have so largely modified the old, and insist so little on dogmas which were once for ever in their mouths, that it is no longer the same : it is new in tone and spirit even when it is not new in form — to the grave distress of a few faithful but ignorant souls who think
every change must be change for the worse, and cannot be brought to believe that the new theological heaven is broader and brighter than the old, and the new theological earth at once more fruitful and more fair.
NOR ANY OTHER CREATION. 99 Well, there is comfort even for them in the assurance of St. Paul that no other creation, however novel and unwelcome, can possibly separate them from the love of God in Christ Jesus ; and surely if they are not separated from his love, they need not mourn because those whom they distrust and condemn are learning to trust in that love too, and to hope that it spreads wider and lasts longer than they have been wont to imagine. But if there is comfort for us in St. Paul's assurance, there is also rebuke. He was fully persuaded that neither death, nor even life, neither things present nor things to come, neither the angels nor principalities of the Hebrew heaven, nor the height and depth of Greek philosophy, could ever injure the vital substance of the Christian Faith ; no, nor any other " creation " which might flash on an astonished world, any future change and revolution whether in the estate or in the thoughts of men. And yet, how little makes 7is afraid — afraid lest what we believe should not prove to be true ; afraid that, great as truth is, it will not prevail over error ; afraid that, though we know and believe the love which God hath toward us, something may still happen to remove us from his love ; afraid that the fatherly and redeeming love for all men which God has revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord may somehow fail of its end after all, and leave myriads on myriads of our fellows in the outer darkness of a sinful and alienated life ! So ingenious are we in tormenting ourselves that at times we fear what may come of the very movement of thought which has brought both us and many more a new
loo NOR ANY OTHER CREATION. heaven and a new earth. For it must be confessed that we owe the last revolution which has raised and broadened our religious habits of thought and feeling not so much to theologians as to men of science, and to the new spirit and method of looking at all things which they have introduced among us. And now — weak and faithless that we are ! — we begin to be a little uneasy, and to ask whereunto this thing may grow : while some of us even forbode at times that it may separate others, if not ourselves, from the faith and service of Christ. Has God, then, brought the world so far on its way,, only to let it fall back at last into the darkness of irreligion and unbelief.? Is it his luay to turn a blessing into a curse .-• Is it not, rather, his way to overcome evil with good .-* Let us trust Him whom we and our fathers have so often proved, and cherish the persuasion of St. Paul that, neither this new creation nor any other that may come, that no force on earth or in heaven, in time or eternity, is able to cope with that supreme force — the love of God for man. II. Secondly and finally : There is another sense in which St. Paul uses this word elsewhere, and may use it here. Beyond all secular changes he looked for a final change — the last that he could see ; a change in which the present physical framework of the universe would either pass away, or pass into forms so new and strange, that it would no longer be, in any reasonable sense, the same. Our modern science, as I need hardly remind you, also anticipates the very change for which he looked, though Science thinks the change may be an
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end, while the Apostle was sure that it would be a beginning as well as an end. Beyond the old heaven and earth, he saw a new heaven and a new earth, free from all defect and bondage and stain, free from all that renders it hostile or unpliable to the spirit of man. In short, he looked, as he tells us in this Chapter, for a renovated universe which should be the fitting home of a renewed, enfranchised, and glorified humanity ; or, to use his own words, he looked for the manifestation of the sons of God in a creation no longer subject to vanity and corruption. With this grand and illuminating hope full in mind, he surely must have meant to assure us, in my text, that even in that new world as in all which precede it, even in that estate as in all previous estates in which men shall have been found, it will be impossible to separate us from the love of God ; or even to separate us from the forms and manifestations of that love luJiicJi zve connect with the name of Christ fesiis our Lord. Now in Christ Jesus the Divine Love reveals itself as a seeking and redeeming love ; it manifests itself in all forms of grace and compassion. It is, then, from this form, from this seeking and redeeming operation of the Divine Love, that we cannot be separated ; no, not even when we reach what we call our last end, or our last estate. Not only must God our Father still love us even there, but God our Saviour must still seek us — seek us by those judgments which are the severer forms and disciplines of his mercy, if that still be necessary, but ever in some form seek us, until He find us, and make
I02 NOR ANY OTHER CREATION. us worthy to abide with Him, capable of reflecting the glory of his goodness and of responding to every touch
and impact of his love. And we have only to reflect that what the eternal God is at any moment, that He is and must be always, to be sure that even this is true, that even the light of this great hope is light from heaven. The Cross itself is only a revelation of the Love that is always seeking men, always suffering in their sins and the miseries bred by sin, always at work for their salvation unto righteousness, always moving and imploring them to return to Him that He may bless them and do them good in turning them away from their sins. So that even if, as some suppose. Heaven be built on Hell, God must still remain what He is, a just God and yet a Saviour. He cannot change, whatever changes. He cannot deny Himself because we deny or resist Him. And since He is love, and nothing can separate us from his love, even in Hell there must be stairs that slope through darkness into light ; and the very miseries which avenge sin must be the ministers of a love that does not die even when we die, and which will never suffer us to die, though, for our redemption, it may permit us to endure sufferings worse than death. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, things present nor things to come, nor any other change of state or condition, is able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. 1. 68 FREE BOOKS http://www.scribd.com/doc/21800308/Free-Christian-Books 2. ALL WRITINGS http://www.scribd.com/glennpease/documents?page=1000
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