Images de page

for doctrine and instruction." It is one of the excellences of this revelation, that it supplies us with information concernimg those things and rational beings which our eyes have not seen, nor our ears heard. Among these revelations the existence of angels is not the least important. Although the Bible may not reveal enough on this subject to gratify our insatiable curiosity, yet it reveals enough for our faith, enough for our comfort. Does it teach us their existence ? It teaches, also, that the burden of their song is praise to God, and that they are ministering spirits to the heirs of salvation, battling under the clouds of earth and time.

As to the nature of angels, they are spirits, not clogged with flesh and blood as we are. Their bodies, if they have any, are not earthly, gross, and gravitating like ours; but of finer substance, ethereal— resembling flame more than any object of which we have knowledge. This is probably intimated by the Psalmist: "Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire." They either have bodies, or power to condense the atmosphere, to collect vapor around them, or in some other way make themselves visible to mortals; for they have been seen of men. They are indued with understanding, will, affections, and liberty. These attributes are essential to the existence of spirit, if indeed they do not constitute its essence. What are we to think of the understanding of an angel? Who can conceive the extent of his knowledge? What should hinder one from seeing the very thoughts as they rise in our hearts? Not the thin veil of flesh and blood can intercept the view of an angel. Massive walls are no obstruction to his piercing glance, no more than unopposing space of open air. Can we read a man's thoughts in his face? Far more easily can an angel read them in our minds, forasmuch as they can see the spirit more clearly than we can see the body. Much of the past and present they doubtless comprehend, but the future sets limits to the extent of their knowledge. They know not the day nor the hour of Christ's second coming. Notwithstanding this limit, the extent of their knowledge, the degree of their wisdom is inconceivable. How amazing must have been its increase during the last five thousand years, resulting from an employment of their mighty understanding and the lofty faculties with which they were originally endowed, in surveying the ways and hearts of men through successive generations, and by observing and studying the works of

God, creation, providence, redemption! And, above all," beholding the face of their Father!"

The strength of angels-how astonishing is this! One of them, and a fallen one, could raise a whirlwind to level Job's house with the dust, and destroy all his children at once. A single angel passed through the Syrian camp, and slew one hundred and eighty-five thousand soldiers in a night-perhaps in an hour, a moment. The strength of an angel, implied in the slaughter of the first-born of man and beast in the populous and fruitful land of Egypt, is prodigious. Nor is his speed less so. The four angels of the Revelation, one standing at each "corner of the earth," had power to hold in check and confine the winds of heaven.

Their number is indefinite, countless. There are myriads upon myriads of them, peopling heaven and ranging the wide realms of their Creator's universe. They are the model patterns of our obedience: "Thy will be done on earth as in heaven." As fellowstudents, they desire to look into the things of our salvation.

1. What things form the subject of Angelic Study?

The subject itself is the grace of God to man, in the world's redemption through Jesus Christ. Peter divides this subject into two parts," the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow." It was long a subject of prophetical investigation, employing the minds of men under the inspiration of the spirit of Christ, and demanding the closest and most diligent research from those who bore witness to it. Clearly impressed with its superiority over every thing in their dispensation, they inquired of one another, and searched the sacred writings as men would search for gold hid in the sand or embedded in rocks deep down in the earth, that they might ascertain the nature, time and manner of this wonderful display of God's love

to man.

"God, at sundry times and in divers manners, spake unto the fathers by the prophets;" and though the superiority of our privilege is undoubted and incalculable, yet we have not lost our interest in⚫ the wondrous mode of teaching vouchsafed to the ancient Church, nor have angels lost theirs. There is a harmonious connection between prophets and angels in this great investigation. The plan of redemption is God's. It originated in his infinite mind, was arranged by his wisdom, cherished by his love, and manifested to the

[ocr errors]

world in due time by his Son. In the mean time, types, sacrifices, priests, kings, and a succession of prophets to strike the harp of sacred song with inspired impulse, in hymning the advent, sufferings, and subsequent glory of the Saviour, were employed to awaken and keep awake the attention of men and the expectation of the world till Jesus himself appeared. Thus the faith of good men was upheld and maintained, and their desires thrown forward to future ages, when the better things for which they hoped should be made manifest. O, with what intensity were these things studied! It was thus they were" searching what, or what time, the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow."

It may be the prophets themselves, in many instances, did not understand their own predictions. They had a general view of God's design, but may have studied particular details in their own prophetic declarations. They describe the sufferings of Christ as a man of sorrows, under circumstances that leave them no paralel in the history of human wo; suffering as a SUBSTITUTE, not for himself or his friends, but for a world of enemies. They also foretold that these sufferings should be a remedy wide as the posterity of Adam and deep as the corruption of human nature. And finally, that they should bear to the faithful in every age an absolute efficacy in pardoning and cleansing from sin. "The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." The iniquity of us all was made to meet in him, as all the rivers meet in the sea. The punishment due to us all was laid on Him. This is the first division of the great subject of angelic study. The next is the glory that should follow upon or rise out of the sufferings of Christ.

Not the glory of an earthly conquerer, built upon the carcasses of the slain, coming fresh from the field of carnage, reeking with the blood of his fellows, sending forth his heralds to trumpet his praise as he rides in a triumphal chariot amid the shouts of a venal soldiery; but the glory of a deliverer, an almighty hero, who shed his own blood for the salvation of his enemies, coming from a field of strife piled with the ruins of death, hell, and the grave, lauded by the choral anthems of angelic hosts. The glory of saving men's souls. Not the glory of his resurrection and ascension only, but of his followers and companions. Like branches from a parent stock, and streams from a fountain, partaking of the nature of the stock and

fountain, so they partake of the nature of Christ, and conform themselves in heart and life to his glory.

The glory also of the ministry of reconciliation, established and perpetuated by Him. Neither the light of nature nor the law of Sinai could teach the doctrine of pardon, but in Jesus justice and merey meet together.

"Here the whole Deity is known,
Nor dares a creature guess

Which of the glories brighter shone-
The justice or the grace."

God is just; man is guilty. God is pure; man is polluted. God is love; "the carnal mind is enmity against God." How can they be reconciled? Nature and law only stir up the opposition, and put the parties farther asunder. Jesus came to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, and to publish the glorious doctrine that "God is in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself." Whether young or hoaryheaded, rich or poor, sick or in health, we may now be reconciled to God, and saved.

The glory of regenerating the human heart and human character. Man is a sinner; not only guilty as an inexcusable violator of divine law, but depraved in his moral nature, bereft of the divine image. He is earthly, sensual, devilish; in body a brute, in mind a ruined demon. This may sound harsh in your ears, for the reason that you have seen human nature in its best estate only. Could you see it in its homely, uneducated condition, roaming through the forest, thirsting for blood, dancing on the enchanted ground, practicing witchcraft, or revelling in a pagan bacchanal, the strongest terms would seem too weak to depict fully its degradation. What makes you to differ from others of your race? The gospel of Christ. But for this you would have been the same that they are. That there is a regenerating power for man, a spiritual resurrection to spiritual life, is a truth at which Jews wonder and, Gentiles too. This regeneration is radical and thorough, and if preserved and perfected will issue in lifting up and making immortal and blessed our entire humanity.

Once more. The glory of bringing innumerable souls to heaven. «Through suffering he designed to bring many souls to glory." Millions have already gone; millions more are on their way, and if it please God to let this system go on a few centuries longer, millions

more will follow to swell the song in heaven, "Unto Him that loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood, to him be glory." As yet the world does not glorify God. The glory due to his name is given to idols and vanities, to men and their works, to wealth and ease and pleasure. The idea of glorifying God never enters the minds of besotted and imbruted thousands, and even the mind of multitudes professing religion. Worship is paid and songs are sung in the dark and evil land, but neither is offered to God nor designed to glorify Him. Where the gospel mission is accomplished, the work of divine religion done, the scene is different. God will then be glorified in the mighty moral change which shall be presented by a regenerated world on its way to heaven; in the exaltation and universal dominion of Jesus over the nations; in the spread and triumph of his truth, and in all nature. God's glory will be seen in all-in every shower that falls, in every plant that grows, in every. in all objects by which his regenerated human worshippers are surrounded. The great plan is at work. God is in it; men are employed it; angels are interested in it; it is moving, advancing to completion-constantly bringing new glory to God, new blessings to man; all is intense anxiety, spirit-piercing interest; and when all shall be accomplished according to the promise of Omnipotence, both men and angels will be inspired and thrilled with eternal admiration and love.

2. What is implied in the desire of angels to look into these things?

[ocr errors]

First.-Profound attention. Parakupsai, "stooping down to," represents them in the posture of those who are earnestly intent on finding out a thing. For example, a difficult and mysterious writing bending, "poring" over it. The same word is used to describe the attitude of the disciples at the sepulchre : "stooping down, they looked in."

The allusion here is to the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies, with its lid of gold, or "mercy seat," and cherubim bending down and covering it with their wings. That was an illustrious type of the propitiation made by the Son of God. The ark was an oblong chest containing the tables of the law; over these was placed the lid or covering, the "mercy seat," and also called "the throne of grace," and over this the sculptured cherubim, representations of the angelic

« PrécédentContinuer »