Creation's Groans and the Saints' Sighs
Written by: Spurgeon, C.H. Posted on: 04/02/2003
Creation's Groans and the Saints' Sighs
by C. H. SPURGEON,
"We know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only
they, but ourselves also, which have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within
ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body."Romans 8:22-23.
MY venerable friend, who, on the first Sabbath of the year, always sends me a text to preach from,
has on this occasion selected one which it is very far from easy to handle. The more I have read it,
the more certainly have I come to the conclusion that this is one of the things in Paul's epistles to
which Peter referred when he said, "Wherein are some things hard to be understood." However,
dear friends, we have often found that the nuts which are hardest to crack have the sweetest
kernels, and when the bone seems as if it could never be broken, the richest marrow has been found within. So it
may by possibility be this morning; so it will be if the Spirit of God shall be our instructor, and fulfil his gracious
promise to "lead us into all truth."
The whole creation is fair and beautiful even in its present condition. I have no sort of sympathy with those
who cannot enjoy the beauties of nature. Climbing the lofty Alps, or wandering through the charming valley,
skimming the blue sea, or traversing the verdant forest, we have felt that this world, however desecrated by sin,
was evidently built to be a temple of God, and the grandeur and the glory of it plainly declare that "the earth is the
Lord's and the fulness thereof." Like the marvellous structures of Palmyra of Baalbek, in the far off east, the earth
in ruins reveals a magnificence which betokens a royal founder, and an extraordinary purpose. Creation glows with
a thousand beauties, even in its present fallen condition; yet clearly enough it is not as when it came from the
Maker's handthe slime of the serpent is on it allthis is not the world which God pronounced to be "very
good." We hear of tornadoes, of earthquakes, of tempests, of volcanoes, of avalanches, and of the sea which
devoureth its thousands: there is sorrow on the sea, and there is misery on the land; and into the highest palaces as
well as the poorest cottages, death, the insatiable, is shooting his arrows, while his quiver is still full to bursting
with future woes. It is a sad, sad world. The curse has fallen on it since the fall, and thorns and thistles it bringeth
forth, not from its soil alone, but from all that comes of it. Earth wears upon her brow, like Cain of old, the brand
of transgression. Sad would it be to our thoughts if it were always to be so. If there were no future to this world as
well as to ourselves, we might be glad to escape from it, counting it to be nothing better than a huge penal colony,
from which it would be a thousand mercies for both body and soul to be emancipated. At this present time, the
groaning and travailing which are general throughout creation, are deeply felt among the sons of men. The
dreariest thing you can read is the newspaper. I heard of one who sat up at the end of last year to groan last year
out; it was ill done, but in truth it was a year of groaning, and the present one opens amid turbulence and distress.
We heard of abundant harvests, but we soon discovered that they were all a dream, and that there would be scant
in the worker's cottage. And now, what with strifes between men and masters, which are banishing trade from
England, and what with political convulsions, which unhinge everything, the vessel of the state is drifting fast to
the shallows. May God in mercy put his hand to the helm of the ship, and steer her safely. There is a general wail
among nations and peoples. You can hear it in the streets of the city. The Lord reigneth, or we might lament right
The apostle tells us that not only is there a groan from creation, but this is shared in by God's people. We shall
notice in our text, first, whereunto the saints have already attained; secondly, wherein we are deficient; and
thirdly, what is the state of mind of the saints in regard to the whole of the matter.
I. WHEREUNTO THE SAINTS HAVE ATTAINED.
We were once an undistinguished part of the creation, subject to the same curse as the rest of the world,
"heirs of wrath, even as others." But distinguishing grace has made a difference where no difference naturally was;
we are now no longer treated as criminals condemned, but as children and heirs of God. We have received a
divine life, by which we are made partakers of the divine nature, having "escaped the corruption which is in the
world through lust." The Spirit of God has come unto us so that our "bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost."
God dwelleth in us, and we are one with Christ. We have at this present moment in us certain priceless things
which distinguish us as believers in Christ from all the rest of God's creatures. "We have," says the text, not "we
hope and trust sometimes we have," nor yet "possibly we may have," but "we have, we know we have, we are
sure we have." Believing in Jesus, we speak confidently, we have unspeakable blessings given to us by the Father
of spirits. Not we shall have, but we have. True, many things are yet in the future, but even at this present
moment, we have obtained an inheritance; we have already in our possession a heritage divine which is the
beginning of our eternal portion. This is called "the first-fruits of the Spirit," by which I understand the first works
of the Spirit in our souls. Brethren, we have repentance, that gem of the first water. We have faith, that priceless,
precious jewel. We have hope, which sparkles, a hope most sure and steadfast. We have love, which sweetens all
the rest. We have that work of the Spirit within our souls which always comes before admittance into glory. We
are already made "new creatures in Christ Jesus," by the effectual working of the mighty lower of God the Holy
Ghost. This is called the first-fruit because it comes first. As the wave-sheaf was the first of the harvest, so the
spiritual life which we have, and all the graces which adorn that life, are the first gifts, the first operations of the
Spirit of God in our souls. We have this.
It is called "first-fruits," again, because the first-fruits were always the pledge of the harvest. As soon as the
Israelite had plucked the first handful of ripe ears, they were to him so many proofs that the harvest was already
come. He looked forward with glad anticipation to the time when the wain should creak beneath the sheaves, and
when the harvest home should be shouted at the door of the barn. So, brethren, when God gives us "Faith, hope,
charitythese three," when he gives us "whatsoever things are pure, lovely, and of good report," as the work of
the Holy Spirit, these are to us the prognostics of the coming glory. If you have the Spirit of God in your soul, you
may rejoice over it as the pledge and token of the fulness of bliss and perfection "which God hath prepared for
them that love him."
It is called "first-fruits," again, because these were always holy to the Lord. The first ears of corn were offered
to the Most High, and surely our new nature, with all its powers, must be regarded by us as a consecrated thing.
The new life which God has given to us is not ours that we should ascribe its excellence to our own merit: the new
nature is Christ's peculiarly; as it is Christ's image and Christ's creation, so it is for Christ's glory alone. That secret
we must keep separate from all earthly things; that treasure which he has committed to us we must watch both
night and day against those profane intruders who would defile the consecrated ground. We would stand upon our
watch-tower and cry aloud to the Strong for strength, that the adversary may be repelled, that the sacred castle of
our heart may be for the habitation of Jesus, and Jesus alone. We have a sacred secret which belongs to Jesus, as
the first-fruits belong to Jehovah.
Brethren, the work of the Spirit is called "first-fruits," because the first-fruits were not the harvest. No Jew
was ever content with the first-fruits. He was content with them for what they were, but the first-fruits enlarged
his desires for the harvest. If he had taken the first-fruits home, and said, "I have all I want," and had rested
satisfied month after month, he would have given proof of madness, for the first-fruit does but whet the
appetitedoes but stir up the desire it never was meant to satisfy. So, when we get the first works of the Spirit of
God, we are not to say, "I have attained, I am already perfect, there is nothing further for me to do, or to desire."
Nay, my brethren, all that the most advanced of God's people know as yet, should but excite in them an insatiable
thirst after more. My brother with great experience, my sister with enlarged acquaintance with Christ, ye have not
yet known the harvest, you have only reaped the first handful of corn. Open your mouth wide, and God will fill it!
Enlarge thine expectationsseek great things from the God of heavenand he will give them to thee; but by no
means fold thine arms in sloth, and sit down upon the bed of carnal security. Forget the steps thou hast already
trodden, and reach forward towards that which is before, looking unto Jesus.
Even this first point of what the saint has attained will help us to understand why it is that he groans. Did I not
say that we have not received the whole of our portion, and that what we have received is to the whole no more
than one handful of wheat is to the whole harvest, a very gracious pledge, but nothing more? Therefore it is that
we groan. Having received something, we desire more. Having reaped handfuls, we long for sheaves. For this very
reason, that we are saved, we groan for something beyond. Did you hear that groan just now? It is a traveller lost
in the deep snow on the mountain pass. No one has come to rescue him, and indeed he has fallen into a place
from which escape is impossible. The snow is numbing his limbs, and his soul is breathed out with many a groan.
Keep that groan in your ear, for I want you to hear another. The traveller has reached the hospice. He has been
charitably received, he has been warmed at the fire, he has received abundant provision, he is warmly clothed.
There is no fear of tempest, that grand old hospice has outstood many a thundering storm. The man is perfectly
safe, and quite content, so far as that goes, and exceedingly grateful to think that he has been rescued; but yet I
hear him groan because he has a wife and children down in yonder plain, and the snow is lying too deep for
travelling, and the wind is howling, and the blinding snow flakes are falling so thickly that he cannot pursue his
journey. Ask him whether he is happy and content. He says, "Yes, I am happy and grateful. I have been saved
from the snow. I do not wish for anything more than I have here, I am perfectly satisfied, so far as this goes, but I
long to look upon my household, and to be once more in my own sweet home, and until I reach it, I shall not
cease to groan." Now, the first groan which you heard was deep and dreadful, as though it were fetched from the
abyss of hell; that is the groan of the ungodly man as he perishes, and leaves all his dear delights; but the second
groan is so softened and sweetened, that it is rather the note of desire than of distress. Such is the groan of the
believer, who, though rescued and brought into the hospice of divine mercy, is longing to see his Father's face
without a veil between, and to be united with the happy family on the other side the Jordan, where they rejoice for
evermore. When the soldiers of Godfrey of Bouillon came in sight of Jerusalem, it is said they shouted for joy at
the sight of the holy city. For that very reason they began to groan. Ask ye why? It was because they longed to
enter it. Having once looked upon the city of David, they longed to carry the holy city by storm, to overthrow the
crescent, and place the cross in its place. He who has never seen the New Jerusalem, has never clapped his hands
with holy ecstasy, he has never sighed with the unutterable longing which is expressed in words like these
"O my sweet home, Jerusalem,
Would God I were in thee!
Would God my woes were at an end,
Thy joys that I might see!"
Take another picture to illustrate that the obtaining of something makes us groan after more. An exile, far away
from his native country, has been long forgotten, but on a sudden a vessel brings him the pardon of his monarch,
and presents from his friends who have called him to remembrance. As he turns over each of these love-tokens,
and as he reads the words of his reconciled prince, he asks "When will the vessel sail to take me back to my native
shore?" If the vessel tarries, he groans over the delay; and if the voyage be tedious, and adverse winds blow back
the barque from the white cliffs of Albion, his thirst for his own sweet land compels him to groan. So it is with
your children when they look forward to their holidays; they are not unhappy or dissatisfied with the school, but
yet they long to be at home. Do not you recollect how, in your schoolboy days, you used to make a little almanack
with a square for every day, and how you always crossed off the day as soon as ever it began, as though you
would try and make the distance from your joy as short as possible? You groaned for it, not with the unhappy
groan that marks one who is to perish, but with the groan of one who, having tasted of the sweets of home, is not
content until again he shall be indulged with the fulness of them. So, you see, beloved, that because we have the
"first-fruits of the Spirit," for that very reason, if for no other, we cannot help but groan for that blissful period
which is called "the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body."
II. Our second point rises before usWHEREIN ARE BELIEVERS DEFICIENT? We are deficient in those
things for which we groan and wait. And these appear to be four at least.
The first is, that this body of ours is not delivered. Brethren, as soon as a man believes in Christ, he is no
longer under the curse of the law. As to his spirit, sin hath no more dominion over him, and the law hath no
further claims against him. His soul is translated from death unto life, but the body, this poor flesh and blood, doth
it not remain as before? Not in one sense, for the members of our body, which were instruments of
unrighteousness, become by sanctification, the instruments of righteousness unto the glory of God; and the body
which was once a workshop for Satan, becomes a temple for the Holy Ghost, wherein he dwells; but we are all
perfectly aware that the grace of God makes no change in the body in other respects. It is just as subject to
sickness as before, pain thrills quite as sharply through the heart of the saint as the sinner, and he who lives near to
God, is no more likely to enjoy bodily health than he who lives at a distance from him. The greatest piety cannot
preserve a man from growing old, and although in grace, he may be "like a young cedar, fresh and green," yet the
body will have its grey hairs, and the strong man will be brought to totter on the staff. The body is still subject to
the evils which Paul mentions, when he says of it that it is subject to corruption, to dishonour, to weakness, and is
still a natural body.
Nor is this little, for the body has a depressing effect upon the soul. A man may be full of faith and joy
spiritually, but I will defy him under some forms of disease to feel as he would. The soul is like an eagle, to which
the body acts as a chain, which prevents its mounting. Moreover, the appetites of the body have a natural affinity
to that which is sinful. The natural desires of the human frame are not in themselves sinful, but through the
degeneracy of our nature, they very readily lead us into sin, and through the corruption which is in us, even the
natural desires of the body become a very great source of temptation. The body is redeemed with the precious
blood of Christ, it is redeemed by price, but it has not as yet been redeemed by power. It still lingers in the realm
of bondage, and is not brought into the glorious liberty of the children of God. Now this is the cause of our
groaning and mourning, for the soul is so married to the body that when it is itself delivered from condemnation, it
sighs to think that its poor friend, the body, should still be under the yoke. If you were a free man, and had
married a wife, a slave, you could not feel perfectly content, but the more you enjoyed the sweets of freedom
yourself, the more would you pine that she should still he in slavery. So is it with the Spirit, it is free from
corruption and death; but the poor body is still under the bondage of corruption, and therefore the soul groans until
the body itself shall be set free. Will it ever be set free? O my beloved, do not ask the question. This is the
Christian's brightest hope. Many believers make a mistake when they long to die and long for heaven. Those
things may be desirable, but they are not the ultimatum of the saints. The saints in heaven are perfectly free from
sin, and, so far as they are capable of it, they are perfectly happy; but a disembodied spirit never can be perfect
until it is reunited to its body. God made man not pure spirit, but body and spirit, and the spirit alone will never be
content until it sees its corporeal frame raised to its own condition of holiness and glory. Think not that our
longings here below are not shared in by the saints in heaven. They do not groan, so far as any pain can be, but
they long with greater intensity than you and I long, for the "adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body." People
have said there is no faith in heaven, and no hope; they know not what they sayin heaven it is that faith and
hope have their fullest swing and their brightest sphere, for glorified saints believe in God's promise, and hope for
the resurrection of the body. The apostle tells us that "they without us cannot be made perfect;" that is, until our
bodies are raised, theirs cannot be raised, until we get our adoption day, neither can they get theirs. The Spirit saith
Come, and the bride saith Comenot the bride on earth only, but the bride in heaven saith the same, bidding the
happy day speed on when the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be
changed. For it is true, beloved, the bodies that have mouldered into dust will rise again, the fabric which has been
destroyed by the worm shall start into a nobler being, and you and I, though the worm devour this body, shall in
our flesh behold our God.
"These eyes shall see him in that day,
The God that died for me;
And all my rising bones shall say,
'Lord, who is like to thee?'"
Thus we are sighing that our entire manhood, in its trinity of spirit, soul, and body, may be set free from the
last vestige of the fall; we long to put off corruption, weakness, and dishonour, and to wrap ourselves in
incorruption, in immortality, in glory, in the spiritual body which the Lord Jesus Christ will bestow upon all his
people. You can understand in this sense why it is that we groan, for if this body really is still, though redeemed, a
captive, and if it is one day to be completely free, and to rise to amazing glory, well may those who believe in this
precious doctrine groan after it as they wait for it.
But, again, there is another point in which the saint is deficient as yet, namely, in the manifestation of our
adoption. You observe the text speaks of waiting for the adoption; and another text further back, explains what
that means, waiting for the manifestation of the children of God. In this world, saints are God's children, but you
cannot see that they are so, except by certain moral characteristics. That man is God's child, but though he is a
prince of the blood royal, his garments are those of toil, the smock frock or the fustian jacket. Yonder woman is
one of the daughters of the King, but see how pale she is, what furrows are upon her brow! Many of the
daughters of pleasure are far more fair than she! How is this? The adoption is not manifested yet, the children are
not yet openly declared. Among the Romans a man might adopt a child, and that child might be treated as his for a
long time; but there was a second adoption in public, when the child was brought before the constituted
authorities, and in the presence of spectators its ordinary garments which it had worn before were taken off, and
the father who took it to be his child put on garments suitable to the condition of life in which it was to live.
"Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be." We have not yet the royal
robes which become the princes of the blood; we are wearing in this flesh and blood just what we wore as the
sons of Adam; but we know that when he shall appear who is the "first born among many brethren," we shall be
like him; that is, God will dress us all as he dresses his eldest son"We shall be like him, for we shall see him as
he is." Cannot you imagine that a child taken from the lowest ranks of society, who is adopted by a Roman
senator, will be saying to himself, "I wish the day were come when I shall be publicly revealed as the child of my
new father. Then, I shall leave off these plebeian garments, and be robed as becomes my senatorial rank." Happy
in what he has received, for that very reason he groans to get the fulness of what is promised him. So it is with us
to-day. We are waiting till we shall put on our proper garments, and shall be manifested as the children of God. Ye
are young princes, and ye have not been crowned yet. Ye are young brides, and the marriage day is not come, and
by the love your spouse bears you, you are led to long and to sigh for the marriage day. Your very happiness
makes you groan; your joy, like a swollen spring, longs to leap up like some Iceland Geyser, climbing to the skies,
and it heaves and groans within the bowels of your spirit for want of space and room by which to manifest itself to
There is a third thing in which we are deficient, namely, liberty, the glorious liberty of the children of God.
The whole creation is said to be groaning for its share in that freedom. You and I are also groaning for it.
Brethren, we are free! "If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." But our liberty is
incomplete. When Napoleon was on the island o
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