Images de page

host, and between their outstretched wings shadowing the propitiatory was the visible glory of Jehovah. The design of bringing together all these different objects into one great symbol must have been to teach us that there are important relations between the administration of grace to man on earth and the heavenly world, and that there is a close connection between all the dispensations and arrangements of the great plan of redemption. The very forms under which some scriptures represent the cherubim, are the symbols of intelligence, strength, courage, endurance and activity," the face of a man, a lion, ox, eagle." But here they are brought before us as fixing their intent gaze upon the "THRONE OF GRACE," desiring to comprehend the things represented by the Ark of the Covenant, the approach of guilty man to God seated upon the throne of mercy, that man may obtain mercy and find grace to help him in time of need.

Angels are beings of astonishing intelligence. Over the vast fields of science, where man proceeds with much difficulty so tardily, and he has never traveled at all, they fly with ease. To them nature is an open space; they can wing their way from one world to another, and sweep over the wide domain of universal creation. They are permitted to watch the changes of earth and its scenes, and to note the entire progress of the vast schemes of Providence, a part of which, "a little part alone, we scan." But over whatever other sights their view ranges, there is one that fixes their gaze. There they stay their flight, and bending down with profound attention, they look into the peculiarities of the gospel, which worldly wisdom accounts foolishness. Nearly two thousand years have rolled away since Jesus suffered, and still they "desire to look into these things," not having yet comprehended them. When I permit my imagination to wander away from the naked facts of the record, I seem to see them profoundly studying, with bending gaze and knit brow, these high mysteries for a thousand years, and then they lift up their heads a moment and then add another thousand years of study, and lifting up their heads again, exclaim, "O the depths both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!" Learn on, high-born students of God Almighty's wonders! The universe is your text-book-eternity the period of your tuition! Poor witlings of earth, what is your whole stock of learning compared with the knowledge of angels, gained by

the study of thousands of years, without the interruption of sleep or languor, gathered from a survey of God's works and ways without the fogs of earth and sin and clogs of flesh and blood? Yours is nothing but elements, shreds and scraps gleaned from fictions and newspapers; and you will not believe the mysteries of redemption because you cannot comprehend them! Instead of cavilling, we should, with angels, believe, love, obey.

Secondly. Their desire implies adoring wonder. Not only the head bowed in profound attention, but the sidelong glance over the lid of the ark seems to say: Stupendous gift of God to man! "Though he was rich, yet for their sakes he became poor, that they through his poverty might be rich." And then, "He hath given them exceeding great and precious promises whereby they might be partakers 'of the divine nature."

Angels had seen their fallen companions "passed by,” their fellows who had sinned cast down from God and heaven, and no Christ was promised to them; no gospel proclaimed peace in hell and good will to devils, and fearful to them did the evil of sin appear. Must they not wonder and adore over the scheme of man's redemption; over the mysterious agony of the garden and the cross; over the suffering of the Great Victim, who died to put away sin and bring myriads upon myriads of souls to glory?

They also, doubtless, wonder at the opposition this system encounters in the world. The race of man is fallen; the whole race has been redeemed. All are diseased; there is one remedy, and but one, for all. The rejection of this remedy is ruin-utter and irremedial ruin-and but few are disposed to avail themselves of it, while multitudes resist the grace of God. When will this foul reproach be washed away from all the world, and salvation be its common heritage?

3. The Probable Motives of Angelic Study.

These can only be conjectured from their nature and relations.

They delight in knowledge. Being pure spirits, unencumbered with flesh and blood, the salvation of man must be to them a subject of intellectual interest. Every new display of Divine wisdom and glory must give them a new pleasure. The advent of the Saviour was their joy; they sang it in strains of heavenly music. His resurrection and ascension added fresh anthems to their praise.

The progress and development of the whole plan of salvation have added new stores to their knowledge. "Unto me," says Paul, "the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I might preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; to the intent that now, unto principalities and powers, in heavenly places, might be known, by the Church, the manifold wisdom of God." There is in this passage a collateral reference to the knowledge of angels; and the knowledge thus acquired surely ministers to their happiness as well as to their holiness. Of all other knowledge it seems best fitted to do so. It would seem that their bright lamps burn brighter when fed by oil from Christianity. They are called "seraphim "—that is, burners. They are compared to a flame of fire. They not only shine with light, but burn with zeal. The gospel reveals God to man; they love it—delight in its study; it brings glory to God-they glory in it. They praise God, and love to praise God.

Another motive may be, the large moral benefit accruing to them from this study.

That they need no redemption we know, for they have not fallen; and if any moral benefit flow to them from this scheme, it is not in the way of direct redemption. Yet it is easy to see, that if to any being already pure, brighter views of God and higher degrees of moral knowledge be communicated, such communication must always be an instrument of increase both of holiness and felicity. And it is as easy to show that there are great subjects connected with the history of our redemption, with which angels can become better acquainted than they ever could have been had there been no redemption. They were deeply impressed with God's power when they witnessed the wonders of creation-when nothing heard the voice of God, and was substantiated into the goodly fabric of the universe. Then they shouted for joy. But here was nothing to resist-all was passive. ""Twas great to speak a world from nought, 'Twas greater to redeem."

In redemption they have seen bad principles subdued and eradicated, alien and resisting hearts won back to God, and sin and uncleanness washed away by the blood of the cross. They had seen the virtue of holiness in each other, and knew what it was in the abstract; but this was a ray of brightness in the element of light. By the power of grace in man they had seen the virtue of holiness exhibited and maintained in a corrupt world—a beam of light shining in

a dark place. Here they see virtue in action, which they had before contemplated only in the abstract. They had witnessed bright and vast displays of the love of God; but they had never beheld love so embodied and realized as in the gift of the Son of God for man's salvation-love teaching, travailing, toiling, suffering, dying, rising, ascending, but to return in teeming showers of richest blessing on man, that he might not perish; and the triumphs of victorious grace in men, subduing their own nature, resisting temptation, bearing up under crosses, forgiving injuries, sustaining afflictions with patience, and believing against hope. They have witnessed prisoners for Christ's sake rejoicing in bonds, and singing at midnight the praise of God; they have looked upon the meekness of the martyr, and listened as he prayed for his murderers; they have admired his constancy in torments, and the cheerfulness and triumph with which he hailed reproach and welcomed the cross of Christ. And can they behold such scenes and hear such sounds (which they never could have seen and heard but for redemption) without moral benefit?

A third motive may be their benevolence toward us. They wish us well, and delight to attend the heirs of salvation. Benevolent beings are angels. How much they are interested for us, and what they are able and willing to do, we learn from the Bible. God has always employed them in the affairs of his government over this world. I know this infidel and jovial age scoffs at the doctrine of supernatural interposition, as far below the wisdom of human philosophy, while in fact it is far above it.

When God expelled man from Eden, an angel guarded the gateway to the Tree of Life. When Jacob committed himself and his interests to God in prayer, angels descended and ascended his ladder of vision reaching from earth to heaven-binding the footstool to the throne. When Egypt's first-born must be smitten, an angel's hand gives the blow. When Daniel was to be preserved among the lions, an angel is there to shut their mouths. When Herod would destroy the infant Jesus, an angel puts Joseph on his flight to a place of safety. When Jesus agonized in the Garden of Gethsemane, an angel strengthens him; and when he is dying on the cross, forsaken of his friends and insulted by his foes, amid the lonely desertion and darkness of that hour they spread their hovering wings around his sinking head, and leave him not till the mortal pang is past. It was an angel that rolled the stone from the door of his sepulchre, and saw

the light of immortality for the human body when first it flashed forth from the vacated tomb of the risen Jesus. Angels were with him on the mount of ascension, lingered awhile in the shining wake of his passage to heaven, and returned to the gazing men of Galilee, with intelligence of what took place beyond the cloud which had veiled him from their vision, and with assurances of his coming again, in like


God's cause and God's people are still in the world. Angels take an interest in these. When a missionary was called to go out with the word of the Lord, he inquired, "Who shall go with me!" "An angel," was the Divine answer. They were with Moses, with the prophets, and apostles; they are with all pious souls in strife. Is a preacher in prison?-angels are there. They delivered Peter, Paul, and John. Is the preacher discouraged?-do his hands hang down? An angel touches his lips with a live coal from off the altar, and strengthens his hands. Is he successful?-angels are present; and when the word of God takes effect, intelligence is conveyed to heaven with more than telegraphic despatch, and "there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth." Not all the joys of heaven can supersede the shout; its thundering volume fills the palace of their King.

Perhaps every christian has a guardian angel. It may be that there is one angel to every christian, or a score of them; or one may have charge of a score of christians. Some of the ancient fathers believed that every city had a guardian angel, while others assigned one to every house and every man. None of us know how much we are indebted to angels for our deliverance from imminent peril, disease, and malicious plots of men and devils. Where the pious die, angels are to carry the soul to heaven, though it be the soul of a Lazarus.

Finally.-Angels are witnessing the whole history of our world in its connection with the administration of grace and Providence, and are studying it with reference to the final issue, for their instruction and our good, as in the end they and the redemed from the earth are to be associated in the kingdom of glory. Long has there been a grand struggle between light and darkness, truth and error, holiness and sin. It commenced in the case of "angels who kept not their first estate." In that case, however, I suppose the struggle was short, and the punishment of transgression summary and sudden;

« PrécédentContinuer »