For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth
for the manifestation of the sons of God.
Romans viii. 19.
LET us try, through these words, to get at the idea in St Paul's mind
for which they stand, and have so long stood. It can be no worthless idea
they represent-no mere platitude, which a man, failing to understand it
at once, may without loss leave behind him. The words mean something which
Paul believes vitally associated with the life and death of his Master.
He had seen Jesus with his bodily eyes, I think, but he had not seen him
with those alone; he had seen and saw him with the real eyes, the eyes
that do not see except they understand; and the sight of him had uplifted
his whole nature-first his pure will for righteousness, and then his hoping
imagination; and out of these, in the knowledge of Jesus, he spoke.
The letters he has left behind him, written in the power of this uplifting,
have waked but poor ideas in poor minds; for words, if they seem to mean
anything, must always seem to mean something within the scope of the mind
hearing them. Words cannot convey the thought of a thinker to a no-thinker;
of a largely aspiring and self-discontented soul, to a creature satisfied
with his poverty, and counting his meagre faculty the human standard. Neither
will they readily reveal the mind of one old in thought, to one who has
but lately begun to think. The higher the reader's notion of what St Paul
intends-the higher the idea, that is, which his words wake in him, the
more likely is it to be the same which moved the man who had seen Jesus,
and was his own no more. If a man err in his interpretation, it will hardly
be by attributing to his words an intent too high.
First then, what does Paul, the slave of Christ, intend by 'the creature'
or 'the creation'? If he means the visible world, he did not surely, and
without saying so, mean to exclude the noblest part of it-the sentient!
If he did, it is doubly strange that he should immediately attribute not
merely sense, but conscious sense, to that part, the insentient, namely,
which remained. If you say he does so but by a figure of speech, I answer
that a figure that meant less than it said-and how much less would not
this?-would be one altogether unworthy of the Lord's messenger.
First, I repeat, to exclude the sentient from the term common to both
in the word creation or creature-and then to attribute the capabilities
of the sentient to the insentient, as a mere figure to express the hopes
of men with regard to the perfecting of the insentient for the comfort
of men, were a violence as unfit in rhetoric as in its own nature. Take
another part of the same utterance: 'For we know that the whole creation
groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now:' is it not manifest
that to interpret such words as referring to the mere imperfections of
the insensate material world, would be to make of the phrase a worthless
hyperbole? I am inclined to believe the apostle regarded the whole visible
creation as, in far differing degrees of consciousness, a live outcome
from the heart of the living one, who is all and in all: such view, at
the same time, I do not care to insist upon; I only care to argue that
the word creature or creation must include everything in creation that
has sentient life. That I should in the class include a greater number
of phenomena than a reader may be prepared to admit, will nowise affect
the force of what I have to say, seeing my point is simply this: that in
the term creation, Paul comprises all creatures capable of suffering; the
condition of which sentient, therefore superior portion, gives him occasion
to speak of the whole creation as suffering in the process of its divine
evolution or development, groaning and travailing as in the pangs of giving
birth to a better self, a nobler world. It is not necessary to the idea
that the creation should know what it is groaning after, or wherein the
higher condition constituting its deliverance must consist. The human race
groans for deliverance: how much does the race know that its redemption
lies in becoming one with the Father, and partaking of his glory? Here
and there one of the race knows it-which is indeed a pledge for the race-but
the race cannot be said to know its own lack, or to have even a far-off
notion of what alone can stay its groaning. In like manner the whole creation
is groaning after an unforeseen yet essential birth-groans with the necessity
of being freed from a state that is but a transitional and not a true one,
from a condition that nowise answers to the intent in which existence began.
In both the lower creation and the higher, this same groaning of the fettered
idea after a freer life, seems the first enforced decree of a holy fate,
and itself the first movement of the hampered thing toward the liberty
of another birth.
To believe that God made many of the lower creatures merely for prey,
or to be the slaves of a slave, and writhe under the tyrannies of a cruel
master who will not serve his own master; that he created and is creating
an endless succession of them to reap little or no good of life but its
cessation-a doctrine held by some, and practically accepted by multitudes-is
to believe in a God who, so far as one portion at least of his creation
is concerned, is a demon. But a creative demon is an absurdity; and were
such a creator possible, he would not be God, but must one day be found
and destroyed by the real God. Not the less the fact remains, that miserable
suffering abounds among them, and that, even supposing God did not foresee
how creation would turn out for them, the thing lies at his door. He has
besides made them so far dumb that they cannot move the hearts of the oppressors
into whose hands he has given them, telling how hard they find the world,
how sore their life in it. The apostle takes up their case, and gives us
material for an answer to such as blame God for their sad condition.
There are many, I suspect, who from the eighth chapter of St Paul's
epistle to the Romans, gather this much and no more:-that the lower animals
alive at the coming of the Lord, whensoever that may be, will thenceforward,
with such as thereafter may come into existence, lead a happy life for
the time allotted them! Strong champions of God, these profound believers!
What lovers of life, what disciples of St Paul, nay, what disciples of
Jesus, to whom such a gloss is consolation for the moans of a universe!
Truly, the furnace of addiction they would extinguish thus, casts out the
more an evil odour! For all the creatures who through ages of misery have
groaned and travailed and died, to these mild Christians it is enough that
they are dead, therefore, as they would argue, out of it now! 'It is well
with them,' I seem to hear such say; 'they are mercifully dealt with; their
sufferings are over; they had not to live on for ever in oppression. The
God of their life has taken from them their past, and troubles them with
no future!' It is true this were no small consolation concerning such as
are gone away! Surely rest is better than ceaseless toil and pain! But
what shall we say of such a heedless God as those Christians are content
to worship! Is he a merciful God? Is he a loving God? How shall he die
to escape the remorse of the authorship of so much misery? Our pity turns
from the dead creature to the live creator who could live and know himself
the maker of so many extinguished hearts, whose friend was-not he, but
Death. Blessed be the name of the Father of Jesus, there is no such creator!
Be we have not to do with the dead only; there are those which live
and suffer: is there no comfort concerning them, but that they too shall
at length die and leave their misery? And what shall we say of those coming,
and yet to come and pass-evermore issuing from the fountain of life, daily
born into evil things? Will the consolation that they will soon die, suffice
for the heart of the child who laments over his dead bird or rabbit, and
would fain love that father in heaven who keeps on making the creatures?
Alas, they are crowding in; they cannot help themselves; their misery is
awaiting them! Would those Christians have me believe in a God who differentiates
creatures from himself, only that they may be the prey of other creatures,
or spend a few hours or years, helpless and lonely, speechless and without
appeal, in merciless hands, then pass away into nothingness? I will not;
in the name of Jesus, I will not. Had he not known something better, would
he have said what he did about the father of men and the sparrows?
What many men call their beliefs, are but the prejudices they happen
to have picked up: why should such believers waste a thought as to how
their paltry fellow-inhabitants of the planet fare? Many indeed have all
their lives been too busy making their human fellows groan and sweat for
their own fancied well-being, to spare a thought for the fate of the yet
more helpless. But there are not a few, who would be indignant at having
their belief in God questioned, who yet seem greatly to fear imagining
him better than he is: whether is it he or themselves they dread injuring
by expecting too much of him? 'You see the plain facts of the case!' they
say. 'There is no questioning them! What can be done for the poor things-except
indeed you take the absurd notion into your head, that they too have a
life beyond the grave?'
Why should such a notion seem to you absurd? I answer. The teachers
of the nation have unwittingly, it seems to me through unbelief, wronged
the animals deeply by their silence anent the thoughtless popular presumption
that they have no hereafter; thus leaving them deprived of a great advantage
to their position among men. But I suppose they too have taken it for granted
that the Preserver of man and beast never had a thought of keeping one
beast alive beyond a certain time; in which case heartless men might well
argue he did not care how they wronged them, for he meant them no redress.
Their immortality is no new faith with me, but as old as my childhood.
Do you believe in immortality for yourself? I would ask any reader who
is not in sympathy with my hope for the animals. If not, I have no argument
with you. But if you do, why not believe in it for them? Verily, were immortality
no greater a thing for the animals than it seems for men to some who yet
profess to expect it, I should scarce care to insist upon their share in
it. But if the thought be anywise precious to you, is it essential to your
enjoyment in it, that nothing less than yourself should share its realization?
Are you the lowest kind of creature that could be permitted to live? Had
God been of like heart with you, would he have given life and immortality
to creatures so much less than himself as we? Are these not worth making
immortal? How, then, were they worth calling out of the depth of no-being?
It is a greater deed, to make be that which was not, than to seal it with
an infinite immortality: did God do that which was not worth doing? What
he thought worth making, you think not worth continuing made! You would
have him go on for ever creating new things with one hand, and annihilating
those he had made with the other-for I presume you would not prefer the
earth to be without animals! If it were harder for God to make the former
go on living, than to send forth new, then his creatures were no better
than the toys which a child makes, and destroys as he makes them. For what
good, for what divine purpose is the maker of the sparrow present at its
death, if he does not care what becomes of it? What is he there for, I
repeat, if he have no care that it go well with his bird in its dying,
that it be neither comfortless nor lost in the abyss? If his presence be
no good to the sparrow, are you very sure what good it will be to you when
your hour comes? Believe it is not by a little only that the heart of the
universe is tenderer, more loving, more just and fair, than yours or mine.
If you did not believe you were yourself to out-live death, I could
not blame you for thinking all was over with the sparrow; but to believe
in immortality for yourself, and not care to believe in it for the sparrow,
would be simply hard-hearted and selfish. If it would make you happy to
think there was life beyond death for the sparrow as well as for yourself,
I would gladly help you at least to hope that there may be.
I know of no reason why I should not look for the animals to rise again,
in the same sense in which I hope myself to rise again-which is, to reappear,
clothed with another and better form of life than before. If the Father
will raise his children, why should he not also raise those whom he has
taught his little ones to love? Love is the one bond of the universe, the
heart of God, the life of his children: if animals can be loved, they are
loveable; if they can love, they are yet more plainly loveable: love is
eternal; how then should its object perish? Must the very immortality of
love divide the bond of love? Must the love live on for ever without its
object? or worse still, must the love die with its object, and be eternal
no more than it? What a mis-invented correlation in which the one side
was eternal, the other, where not yet annihilated, constantly perishing!
Is not our love to the animals a precious variety of love? And if God gave
the creatures to us, that a new phase of love might be born in us toward
another kind of life from the same fountain, why should the new life be
more perishing than the new love? Can you imagine that, if, here-after,
one of God's little ones were to ask him to give again one of the earth's
old loves-kitten, or pony, or squirrel, or dog, which he had taken from
him, the Father would say no? If the thing was so good that God made it
for and gave it to the child at first who never asked for it, why should
he not give it again to the child who prays for it because the Father had
made him love it? What a child may ask for, the Father will keep ready.
That there are difficulties in the way of believing thus, I grant; that
there are impossibilities, I deny. Perhaps the first difficulty that occurs
is, the many forms of life which we cannot desire again to see. But while
we would gladly keep the perfected forms of the higher animals, we may
hope that those of many other kinds are as transitory as their bodies,
belonging but to a stage of development. All animal forms tend to higher:
why should not the individual, as well as the race, pass through stages
of ascent. If I have myself gone through each of the typical forms of lower
life on my way to the human-a supposition by antenatal history rendered
probable-and therefore may have passed through any number of individual
forms of life, I do not see why each of the lower animals should not as
well pass upward through a succession of bettering embodiments. I grant
that the theory requires another to complement it; namely, that those men
and women, who do not even approximately fulfil the conditions of their
elevated rank, who will not endeavour after the great human-divine idea,
striving to ascend, are sent away back down to that stage of development,
say of fish or insect or reptile, beyond which their moral nature has refused
to advance. Who has not seen or known men who appeared not to have passed,
or indeed in some things to have approached the development of the more
human of the lower animals! Let those take care who look contemptuously
upon the animals, lest, in misusing one of them, they misuse some ancestor
of their own, sent back, as the one mercy for him, to reassume far past
forms and conditions-far past in physical, that is, but not in moral development-and
so have another opportunity of passing the self-constituted barrier. The
suggestion may appear very ridiculous, and no doubt lends itself to humorous
comment; but what if it should be true! what if the amused reader should
himself be getting ready to follow the remanded ancestor! Upon it, however,
I do not care to spend thought or time, least of all argument; what I care
to press is the question-If we believe in the progress of creation as hitherto
manifested, also in the marvellous changes of form that take place in every
individual of certain classes, why should there be any difficulty in hoping
that old lives may reappear in new forms? The typal soul reappears in higher
formal type; why may not also the individual soul reappear in higher form?
Multitudes evidently count it safest to hold by a dull scheme of things:
can it be because, like David in Browning's poem Saul, they dread lest
they should worst the Giver by inventing better gifts than his? That we
do not know, is the best reason for hoping to the full extent God has made
possible to us. If then we go wrong, it will be in the direction of the
right, and with such aberration as will be easier to correct than what
must come of refusing to imagine, and leaving the dullest traditional prepossessions
to rule our hearts and minds, with no claim but the poverty of their expectation
from the paternal riches. Those that hope little cannot grow much. To them
the very glory of God must be a small thing, for their hope of it is so
small as not to be worth rejoicing in. That he is a faithful creator means
nothing to them for far the larger portion of the creatures he has made!
Truly their notion of faithfulness is poor enough; how then can their faith
be strong! In the very nature of divine things, the common-place must be
false. The stupid, self-satisfied soul, which cannot know its own stupidity,
and will not trouble itself either to understand or to imagine, is the
farthest behind of all the backward children in God's nursery.
As I say, then, I know no cause of reasonable difficulty in regard to
the continued existence of the lower animals, except the present nature
of some of them. But what Christian will dare to say that God does not
care about them?-and he knows them as we cannot know them. Great or small,
they are his. Great are all his results; small are all his beginnings.
That we have to send many of his creatures out of this phase of their life
because of their hurtfulness in this phase of ours, is to me no stumbling-block.
The very fact that this has always had to be done, the long protracted
combat of the race with such, and the constantly repeated though not invariable
victory of the man, has had an essential and incalculable share in the
development of humanity, which is the rendering of man capable of knowing
God; and when their part to that end is no longer necessary, changed conditions
may speedily so operate that the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the
leopard lie down with the kid. The difficulty may go for nothing in view
of the forces of that future with which this loving speculation concerns
I would now lead my companion a little closer to what the apostle says
in the nineteenth verse; to come closer, if we may, to the idea that burned
in his heart when he wrote what we call the eighth chapter of his epistle
to the Romans. Oh, how far ahead he seems, in his hope for the creation,
of the footsore and halting brigade of Christians at present crossing the
world! He knew Christ, and could therefore look into the will of the Father.
'For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation
of the sons of God.'
At the head of one of his poems, Henry Vaughan has this Latin translation
of the verse: I do not know whether he found or made it, but it is closer
to its sense than ours:-
'Etenim res creatae exerto capite observantes expectant revelationem
filiorum Dei.'-'For the things created, watching with head thrust out,
await the revelation of the sons of God.'
Because God has subjected the creation to vanity, in the hope that the
creation itself shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into
the glorious liberty of the children of God. For this double deliverance-from
corruption and the consequent subjection to vanity, the creation is eagerly
The bondage of corruption God encounters and counteracts by subjection
to vanity. Corruption is the breaking up of the essential idea; the falling
away from the original indwelling and life-causing thought. It is met by
the suffering which itself causes. That suffering is for redemption, for
deliverance. It is the life in the corrupting thing that makes the suffering
possible; it is the live part, not the corrupted part that suffers; it
is the redeemable, not the doomed thing, that is subjected to vanity. The
race in which evil-that is, corruption, is at work, needs, as the one means
for its rescue, subjection to vanity; it is the one hope against the supremacy
of corruption; and the whole encircling, harboring, and helping creation
must, for the sake of man, its head, and for its own further sake too,
share in this subjection to vanity with its hope of deliverance.
Corruption brings in vanity, causes empty aching gaps in vitality. This
aching is what most people regard as evil: it is the unpleasant cure of
evil. It takes all shapes of suffering-of the body, of the mind, of the
heart, of the spirit. It is altogether beneficent: without this ever invading
vanity, what hope would there be for the rich and powerful, accustomed
to, and set upon their own way? what hope for the self-indulgent, the conceited,
the greedy, the miserly? The more things men seek, the more varied the
things they imagine they need, the more are they subject to vanity-all
the forms of which may be summed in the word disappointment. He who would
not house with disappointment, must seek the incorruptible, the true. He
must break the bondage of havings and shows; of rumours, and praises, and
pretences, and selfish pleasures. He must come out of the false into the
real; out of the darkness into the light; out of the bondage of corruption
into the glorious liberty of the children of God. To bring men to break
with corruption, the gulf of the inane yawns before them. Aghast in soul,
they cry, 'Vanity of vanities! all is vanity!' and beyond the abyss begin
to espy the eternal world of truth.
Note now 'the hope that the creation itself also,' as something besides
and other than God's men and women, 'shall be delivered from the bondage
of corruption, into the liberty of the glory of the children of God.' The
creation then is to share in the deliverance and liberty and glory of the
children of God. Deliverance from corruption, liberty from bondage, must
include escape from the very home and goal of corruption, namely death,-and
that in all its kinds and degrees. When you say then that for the children
of God there is no more death, remember that the deliverance of the creature
is from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children
of God. Dead, in bondage to corruption, how can they share in the liberty
of the children of Life? Where is their deliverance?
If such then be the words of the apostle, does he, or does he not, I
ask, hold the idea of the immortality of the animals? If you say all he
means is, that the creatures alive at the coming of the Lord will be set
free from the tyranny of corrupt man, I refer you to what I have already
said of the poverty of such an interpretation, accepting the failure of
justice and love toward those that have passed away, are passing, and must
yet, ere that coming, be born to pass away for ever. For the man whose
heart aches to adore a faithful creator, what comfort lies in such good
news! He must perish for lack of a true God! Oh lame conclusion to the
grand prophecy! Is God a mocker, who will not be mocked? Is there a past
to God with which he has done? Is Time too much for him? Is he God enough
to care for those that happen to live at one present time, but not God
enough to care for those that happened to live at another present time?
Or did he care for them, but could not help them? Shall we not rather believe
that the vessels of less honour, the misused, the maltreated, shall be
filled full with creative wine at last? Shall not the children have little
dogs under the Father's table, to which to let fall plenty of crumbs? If
there was such provision for the sparrows of our Lord's time of sojourn,
and he will bring yet better with him when he comes again, how should the
dead sparrows and their sorrows be passed over of him with whom is no variableness,
neither shadow of turning? Or would the deliverance of the creatures into
the groaned-for liberty have been much worth mentioning, if within a few
years their share in the glory of the sons of God was to die away in death?
But the gifts of God are without repentance.
How St Paul longs for and loves liberty! Only true lover of liberty
is he, who will die to give it to his neighbour! St Paul loved liberty
more than his own liberty. But then see how different his notion of the
liberty on its way to the children of God, from the dull modern fancies
of heaven still set forth in the popular hymn-books! The new heaven and
the new earth will at least be a heaven and an earth! What would the newest
earth be to the old children without its animals? Barer than the heavens
emptied of the constellations that are called by their names. Then, if
the earth must have its animals, why not the old ones, already dear? The
sons of God are not a new race of sons of God, but the old race glorified:-why
a new race of animals, and not the old ones glorified?
The apostle says they are to share in the liberty of the sons of God:
will it not then be a liberty like ours, a liberty always ready to be offered
on the altar of love? What sweet service will not that of the animals be,
thus offered! How sweet also to minister to them in their turns of need!
For to us doubtless will they then flee for help in any difficulty, as
now they flee from us in dread of our tyranny. What lovelier feature in
the newness of the new earth, than the old animals glorified with us, in
their home with us-our common home, the house of our father-each kind an
unfailing pleasure to the other! Ah, what horses! Ah, what dogs! Ah, what
wild beasts, and what birds in the air! The whole redeemed creation goes
to make up St Paul's heaven. He had learned of him who would leave no one
out; who made the excuse for his murderers that they did not know what
they were doing.
Is not the prophecy on the groaning creation to have its fulfilment
in the new heavens and the new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness? Does
not this involve its existence beyond what we call this world? Why should
it not then involve immortality? Would it not be more like the king eternal,
immortal, invisible, to know no life but the immortal? to create nothing
that could die; to slay nothing but evil? 'For he is not a God of the dead,
but of the living; for all live unto him.'
But what is this liberty of the children of God, for which the whole
creation is waiting? The children themselves are waiting for it: when they
have it, then will their house and retinue, the creation, whose fate hangs
on that of the children, share it with them: what is this liberty?
All liberty must of course consist in the realization of the ideal harmony
between the creative will and the created life; in the correspondence of
the creature's active being to the creator's idea, which is his substantial
soul. In other words the creature's liberty is what his obedience to the
law of his existence, the will of his maker, effects for him. The instant
a soul moves counter to the will of its prime cause, the universe is its
prison; it dashes against the walls of it, and the sweetest of its uplifting
and sustaining forces at once become its manacles and fetters. But St Paul
is not at the moment thinking either of the metaphysical notion of liberty,
or of its religious realization; he has in his thought the birth of the
soul's consciousness of freedom.
'And not only so'-that the creation groaneth and travaileth-'but ourselves
also, which have the first fruits of the spirit, even we ourselves groan
within ourselves, waiting for. . . . the redemption of our body.'-We are
not free, he implies, until our body is redeemed; then all the creation
will be free with us. He regards the creation as part of our embodiment.
The whole creation is waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God-that
is, the redemption of their body, the idea of which extends to their whole
material envelopment, with all the life that belongs to it. For this as
for them, the bonds of corruption must fall away; it must enter into the
same liberty with them, and be that for which it was created-a vital temple,
perfected by the unbroken indwelling of its divinity.
The liberty here intended, it may be unnecessary to say, is not that
essential liberty-freedom from sin, but the completing of the redemption
of the spirit by the redemption of the body, the perfecting of the greater
by its necessary complement of the less. Evil has been constantly at work,
turning our house of the body into a prison; rendering it more opaque and
heavy and insensible; casting about it bands and cerements, and filling
it with aches and pains. The freest soul, the purest of lovers, the man
most incapable of anything mean, would not, for all his mighty liberty,
yet feel absolutely at large while chained to a dying body-nor the less
hampered, but the more, that that dying body was his own. The redemption
of the body, therefore, the making of it for the man a genuine, perfected,
responsive house-alive, is essential to the apostle's notion of a man's
deliverance. The new man must have a new body with a new heaven and earth.
St Paul never thinks of himself as released from body; he desires a perfect
one, and of a nobler sort; he would inhabit a heaven-made house, and give
up the earth-made one, suitable only to this lower stage of life, infected
and unsafe from the first, and now much dilapidated in the service of the
Master who could so easily give him a better. He wants a spiritual body-a
body that will not thwart but second the needs and aspirations of the spirit.
He had in his mind, I presume, such a body as the Lord died with, changed
by the interpenetrating of the creative indwelling will, to a heavenly
body, the body with which he rose. A body like the Lord's is, I imagine,
necessary to bring us into true and perfect contact with the creation,
of which there must be multitudinous phases whereof we cannot now be even
The way in which both good and indifferent people alike lay the blame
on their bodies, and look to death rather than God-aided struggle to set
them at liberty, appears to me low and cowardly: it is the master fleeing
from the slave, despising at once and fearing him. We must hold the supremacy
over our bodies, but we must not despise body; it is a divine thing. Body
and soul are in the image of God; and the lord of life was last seen in
the glorified body of his death. I believe that he still wears that body.
But we shall do better without these bodies that suffer and grow old-which
may indeed, as some think, be but the outer cases, the husks of our real
bodies. Endlessly helpful as they have been to us, and that, in a measure
incalculable, through their very subjection to vanity, we are yet surely
not in altogether and only helpful company, so long as the houses wherein
we live have so many spots and stains in them which friendly death, it
may be, can alone wash out-so many weather-eaten and self-engendered sores
which the builder's hand, pulling down and rebuilding of fresh and nobler
material, alone can banish.
When the sons, then, are free, when their bodies are redeemed, they
will lift up with them the lower creation into their liberty. St Paul seems
to believe that perfection in their kind awaits also the humbler inhabitants
of our world, its advent to follow immediately on the manifestation of
the sons of God: for our sakes and their own they have been made subject
to vanity; for our sakes and their own they shall be restored and glorified,
that is, raised higher with us.
Has the question no interest for you? It would have much, had you now
what you must one day have-a heart big enough to love any life God has
thought fit to create. Had the Lord cared no more for what of his father's
was lower than himself, than you do for what of your father's is lower
than you, you would not now be looking for any sort of redemption.
I have omitted in my quotations the word adoption used in both English
versions: it is no translation of the Greek word for which it stands. It
is used by St Paul as meaning the same thing with the phrase, 'the redemption
of the body'-a fact to bring the interpretation given it at once into question.
Falser translation, if we look at the importance of the thing signified,
and its utter loss in the word used to represent it, not to mention the
substitution for that of the apostle, of an idea not only untrue but actively
mischievous, was never made. The thing St Paul means in the word he uses,
has simply nothing to do with adoption-nothing whatever. In the beginning
of the fourth chapter of his epistle to the Galatians, he makes perfectly
clear what he intends by it. His unusual word means the father's recognition,
when he comes of age, of the child's relation to him, by giving him his
fitting place of dignity in the house; and here the deliverance of the
body is the act of this recognition by the great Father, completing and
crowning and declaring the freedom of the man, the perfecting of the last
lingering remnant of his deliverance. St Paul's word, I repeat, has nothing
to do with adoption; it means the manifestation of the grown-up sons of
God; the showing of those as sons, who have always been his children; the
bringing of them out before the universe in such suitable attire and with
such fit attendance, that to look at them is to see what they are, the
sons of the house-such to whom their elder brother applied the words: 'I
said ye are Gods.'
If then the sons groan within themselves, looking to be lifted up, and
the other inhabitants of the same world groan with them and cry, shall
they not also be lifted up? Have they not also a faithful creator? He must
be a selfish man indeed who does not desire that it should be so.
It appears then, that, in the expectation of the apostle, the new heavens
and the new earth in which dwell the sons of God, are to be inhabited by
blessed animals also-inferior, but risen-and I think, yet to rise in continuous
Here let me revert a moment, and say a little more clearly and strongly
a thing I have already said:-
When the apostle speaks of the whole creation, is it possible he should
have dismissed the animals from his thoughts, to regard the trees and flowers
bearing their part in the groaning and travailing of the sore burdened
world? Or could he, animals and trees and flowers forgotten, have intended
by the creation that groaned and travailed, only the bulk of the earth,
its mountains and valleys, plains and seas and rivers, its agglomeration
of hard and soft, of hot and cold, of moist and dry? If he could, then
the portion that least can be supposed to feel or know, is regarded by
the apostle of love as immeasurably more important than the portion that
loves and moans and cries. Nor is this all; for thereupon he attributes
the suffering-faculty of the excluded, far more sentient portion at least,
to the altogether inferior and less sentient, and upon the ground of that
faculty builds the vision of its redemption! If it could be so, then how
should the seeming apostle's affected rhapsody of hope be to us other than
a mere puff-ball of falsest rhetoric, a special-pleading for nothing, as
degrading to art as objectless in nature?
Much would I like to know clearly what animals the apostle saw on his
travels, or around his home when he had one-their conditions, and their
relations to their superiors. Anyhow they were often suffering creatures;
and Paul was a man growing hourly in likeness to his maker and theirs,
therefore overflowing with sympathy. Perhaps as he wrote, there passed
through his mind a throb of pity for the beasts he had to kill at Ephesus.
If the Lord said very little about animals, could he have done more
for them than tell men that his father cared for them? He has thereby wakened
and is wakening in the hearts of men a seed his father planted. It grows
but slowly, yet has already borne a little precious fruit. His loving friend
St Francis has helped him, and many others have tried, and are now trying
to help him: whoever sows the seed of that seed the Father planted is helping
the Son. Our behaviour to the animals, our words concerning them, are seed,
either good or bad, in the hearts of our children. No one can tell to what
the animals might not grow, even here on the old earth under the old heaven,
if they were but dealt with according to their true position in regard
to us. They are, in sense very real and divine, our kindred. If I call
them our poor relations, it is to suggest that poor relations are often
ill used. Relatives, poor or rich, may be such ill behaved, self-assertive,
disagreeable persons, that we cannot treat them as we gladly would; but
our endeavour should be to develop every true relation. He who is prejudiced
against a relative because he is poor, is himself an ill-bred relative,
and to be ill-bred is an excluding fault with the court of the high countries.
There, poverty is welcome, vulgarity inadmissible.
Those who love certain animals selfishly, pampering them, as so many
mothers do their children with worse results, that they may be loved of
them in return, betray them to their enemies. They are not lovers of animals,
but only of favourites, and do their part to make the rest of the world
dislike animals. Theirs are the dogs that inhospitably growl and bark and
snap, moving the indifferent to dislike, and confirming the unfriendly
in their antagonism. Any dog-parliament, met in the interests of their
kind, would condemn such dogs to be discreetly bitten, and their mistresses
to be avoided. And certainly, if animals are intended to live and grow,
she is the enemy of any individual animal, who stunts his moral and intellectual
development by unwise indulgence. Of whatever nature be the heaven of the
animals, that animal is not in the fair way to enter it. The education
of the lower lies at the door of the higher, and in true education is truest
But what shall I say of such as for any kind of end subject animals
to torture? I dare hardly trust myself to the expression of my judgment
of their conduct in this regard.
'We are investigators; we are not doing it for our own sakes, but for
the sake of others, our fellow-men.'
The higher your motive for it, the greater is the blame of your unrighteousness.
Must we congratulate you on such a love for your fellows as inspires you
to wrong the weaker than they, those that are without helper against you?
Shall we count the man worthy who, for the sake of his friend, robbed another
man too feeble to protect himself, and too poor to punish his assailant?
For the sake of your children, would you waylay a beggar? No real good
can grow in the soil of injustice.
I cannot help suspecting, however, that the desire to know has a greater
share in the enormity than the desire to help. Alas for the science that
will sacrifice the law of righteousness but to behold a law of sequence!
The tree of knowledge will never prove to man the tree of life. There is
no law says, Thou shalt know; a thousand laws cry out, Thou shalt do right.
These men are a law unto themselves-and what a law! It is the old story:
the greed of knowing casts out righteousness, and mercy, and faith. Whatever
believed a benefit may or may not thus be wrought for higher creatures,
the injustice to the lower is nowise affected. Justice has no respect of
persons, but they are surely the weaker that stand more in need of justice!
Labour is a law of the universe, and is not an evil. Death is a law
of this world at least, and is not an evil. Torture is the law of no world
but the hell of human invention. Labour and death are for the best good
of those that labour and die; they are laws of life. Torture is doubtless
over-ruled for the good of the tortured, but it will one day burn a very
hell in the hearts of the torturers.
Torture can be inflicted only by the superior. The divine idea of a
superior, is one who requires duty, and protects, helps, delivers: our
relation to the animals is that of their superiors in the family, who require
labour, it may be, but are just, helpful, protective. Can they know anything
of the Father who neither love nor rule their inferiors, but use them as
a child his insensate toys, pulling them to pieces to know what is inside
them? Such men, so-called of science-let them have the dignity to the fullness
of its worth-lust to know as if a man's life lay in knowing, as if it were
a vile thing to be ignorant-so vile that, for the sake of his secret hoard
of facts, they do right in breaking with torture into the house of the
innocent! Surely they shall not thus find the way of understanding! Surely
there is a maniac thirst for knowledge, as a maniac thirst for wine or
for blood! He who loves knowledge the most genuinely, will with the most
patience wait for it until it can be had righteously.
Need I argue the injustice? Can a sentient creature come forth without
rights, without claim to well-being, or to consideration from the other
creatures whom they find, equally without action of their own, present
in space? If one answer, 'For aught I know, it may be so,'-Where then are
thy own rights? I ask. If another have none, thine must lie in thy superior
power; and will there not one day come a stronger than thou? Mayst thou
not one day be in Naboth's place, with an Ahab getting up to go into thy
vineyard to possess it? The rich man may come prowling after thy little
ewe lamb, and what wilt thou have to say? He may be the stronger, and thou
the weaker! That the rights of the animals are so much less than ours,
does not surely argue them the less rights! They have little, and we have
much; ought they therefore to have less and we more? Must we not rather
be the more honourably anxious that they have their little to the full.
Every gain of injustice is a loss to the world; for life consists neither
in length of days nor in ease of body. Greed of life and wrong done to
secure it, will never work anything but direst loss. As to knowledge, let
justice guide thy search and thou wilt know the sooner. Do the will of
God, and thou shalt know God, and he will open thine eyes to look into
the very heart of knowledge. Force thy violent way, and gain knowledge,
to miss truth. Thou mayest wound the heart of God, but thou canst not rend
it asunder to find the Truth that sits there enthroned.
What man would he be who accepted the offer to be healed and kept alive
by means which necessitated the torture of certain animals? Would he feel
himself a gentleman-walking the earth with the sense that his life and
conscious well-being were informed and upheld by the agonies of other lives?
'I hope, sir, your health is better than it has been?'
'Thank you, I am wonderfully restored-have entered in truth upon a fresh
lease of life. My organism has been nourished with the agonies of several
dogs, and the pangs of a multitude of rabbits and guinea-pigs, and I am
aware of a marvellous change for the better. They gave me their lives,
and I gave them in return worse pains than mine. The bargain has proved
a quite satisfactory one! True, their lives were theirs, not mine; but
then their sufferings were theirs, not mine! They could not defend themselves;
they had not a word to say, so reasonable was the exchange. Poor fools!
they were neither so wise, nor so strong, nor such lovers of comfort as
I! If they could not take care of themselves, that was their look-out,
not mine! Every animal for himself!'
There was a certain patriotic priest who thought it better to put a
just man to death than that a whole nation should perish. Precious salvation
that might be wrought by injustice! But then the just man taught that the
rich man and the beggar must one day change places.
'To set the life of a dog against the life of a human being!'
No, but the torture of a dog against the prolonged life of a being capable
of torturing him. Priceless gain, the lengthening of such a life, to the
man and his friends and his country!
That the animals do not suffer so much as we should under like inflictions,
I hope true, and think true. But is toothache nothing, because there are
yet worse pains for head and face?
Not a few who now regard themselves as benefactors of mankind, will
one day be looked upon with a disapprobation which no argument will now
convince them they deserve. But yet another day is coming, when they will
themselves right sorrowfully pour out disapprobation upon their own deeds;
for they are not stones but men, and must repent. Let them, in the interests
of humanity, give their own entrails to the knife, their own silver cord
to be laid bare, their own golden bowl to be watched throbbing, and I will
worship at their feet. But shall I admire their discoveries at the expense
of the stranger-nay, no stranger-the poor brother within their gates?
Your conscience does not trouble you? Take heed that the light that
is in you be not darkness. Whatever judgment mean, will it suffice you
in that hour to say, 'My burning desire to know how life wrought in him,
drove me through the gates and bars of his living house'? I doubt if you
will add, in your heart any more than with your tongue, 'and I did well.'
To those who expect a world to come, I say then, Let us take heed how
we carry ourselves to the creation which is to occupy with us the world
To those whose hearts are sore for that creation, I say, The Lord is
mindful of his own, and will save both man and beast.