« PrécédentContinuer »
and to deceive the elect, these powerful and beneficent spirits, acting under an immediate command from their gracious King, will indeed encamp around his people. We may comprehend in some measure the necessity of such a constant guard in our present comparatively safe and easy state, and take comfort in knowing that so it is with us, if we truly love the Lord; but how unspeakably precious will then be the thought of his having given his angels charge concerning us, to keep us in all our ways, when earthquakes and storms, signs and wonders, false Christs and false prophets abound, to terrify or mislead us! Many a defenceless child of God, finding himself, like Elisha in Dothan, accompanied by foes too numerous and too strong for him to contend against, will take comfort from knowing, and perhaps on some occasions, seeing that chariots and horses of fire, and flaming swords wielded by hands of angelic strength, are arrayed on his side. When Satan puts forth his utmost might in the rage of a last, despairing struggle, against the Lord his conqueror, and the little flock that are about to bruise the great enemy under their feet, we may be assured that the zeal of “God's host” will be roused, and their love inflamed in a proportionate degree, contemplating as they will do, the manifold wisdom of God in the dangers, deliverances and final glory of his church, while they execute the gracious purposes of his tender compassion towards the poor sheep of his pasture, appointed by wicked spirits and evil men, to be slain. It is, indeed, an overwhelming thought, what the aspect of this world will be, when, for a season, the restraint is
taken off thąt now holds the wills of fierce and crude men within bounds; when the heathen, that is, all who are not Christ's, rage, and their kings and rulers conspire together to cast off the government of the Most High, and to root out his dominion from the earth, “Except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved.” For the elect's sake they will be shortened, and the harvest will be brought in more quickly than men expect; but under what circum. stances will the angels divide and gather out the good seed from among the tares of the field ? We know how Lot and his family were rescued from Sodom; we know how Noah and his household were shut into the ark, ere the waters of the flood lifted it up from the earth; and we know, though not from the page of inspiration, how the Christians were delivered from Jerusalem's dreadful destruction, by a temporary movement of the besieging army, who never dreamed of assisting them, but who thereby enabled them to flee to a place of safety. An ark, a Zoar, a pillar, there will always be to shelter that church, against which the gates of hell shall not prevail ; and the Lord will send such guidance that his poor trembling flock of way-farers, “ though fools, shall not err therein.”
But it is when the Lord shall personally come again, in like manner as his disciples saw him go up into hea. ven, that the innumerable company of angels will be revealed. Such is the declaration : “ The Lord him. self shall be revealed from heaven, with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our
Lord Jesus Christ.”. 2 Thess. i. 7, 8. Then shall the splendid imagery of the Psalms and prophetic writings be fulfilled, and much more than fulfilled; for what language, even of inspiration, can convey to our weak and darkened minds any realizing idea of those things of which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor heart conceived, the terrible magnificence? One angel, described only as “a man in bright clothing," made the bold and · pious Roman centurion afraid ; another by the exhibition of his angelic knowledge and love so overpowered the mind of the holy John, that he would have offered him worship, due to God alone. What then must be the full display of all that is dazzling in the Lord's triumphant hosts, when thousands of thousands shall stand before him, and ten thousand times ten thousand minister unto him? Their lively interest in all that concerns us, a race of creatures infinitely every way inferior to them, save only through the high exultation of our nature by its union with Deity in the person of Christ, and the heavenly privileges thereby secured to his believing people, is matter of wonder; and whether they swell the chorus of praise over the ruins of the great harlot city, Rome, or spread the joyous tidings that Jerusalem is rebuilt, and again inhabited by her long lost children; or hover round the heavenly city itself, the abode of those who have attained to the resurrection from the dead, with that song of angelic sympathy, “Let us be glad and rejoice, for the marriage of the Lamb is come,” we shall be obliged to confess that they, respecting whom we have been ac. customed to think so little; who have been watching
the progress of all that regards us with unwearied dili. gence, and unfailing care, and whose loudest song of praise to their eternal King hails him the Lamb that was slain,-slain for our redemption,-have such a claim on our love and gratitude, as can never be properly estimated, until, seeing our Lord as He is, we also see them as they are, and remember how incessantly, how willingly, they ministered to us, through the long years of our unsteady, perverse, inconsistent course; contending with our foes, keeping guard over our steps, and finally thronging to welcome us to a full participation in all the glories of their own heavenly home.
This refers to the final period of the present dispensation, when we expect that He who is gone to receive for himself a kingdom will return to establish it on earth. There has, however, been a spiritual coming of the Lord Jesus to his people from the beginning, while the call to enter into the eternal world has suc. cessively reached them. When a believer departs to be with Christ, he becomes a resident in the celestial Jerusalem, entering into the peaceful rest of heaven, where Christ also sitteth at the right hand of the Ma. jesty on high, there to abide, until with all the other saints, he is summoned to attend his Lord, and to be re-united to the body which he once left below. In this transition of the departing soul, it is certain that angels are always present not merely as spectators, but as most active messengers of Christ. It is difficult to speak of the state in which a disembodied spirit finds itself, on launching into eternity: it is one of those
things which every one is certain to know by experi. ence, but which none can foreknow by any effort either of wisdom or knowledge, or the most vivid imagination. The separate existence of souls, of every soul of every human being, from Adam to the last of his posterity who shall taste death, is not even questionable by any who believe in the revelation of God; and that all who have already lived and died, are now in companionship either with angels or devils, awaiting the resurrection of the body, either to life or damnation, is also very plainly set forth in Scripture. To Abraham's bosom, to the rest and happiness enjoyed by faithful Abraham, the angels bore Lazarus; while the rich man, we are distinctly told, went to hell ; and what is most remark, able, the angel who showed John the wonderful things related in the Apocalypse, so identified himself with the prophets, and other obedient servants of Christ, as almost to do away the distinction between an angel and a glorified saint. Nor is this a solitary instance: our Lord, speaking of the claim that litttle children have on the tenderness and care of Christians, says, “ I say unto you, that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven." Matt. xviii. 10. And when the-damsel who went to hearken at the gate affirmed that she had seen Peter there, the other disciples, assured that he was either imprisoned in fetters or slaughtered, explained it, say. ing, “It is his angel.” Many ingenious theories have been started on this ground; but when all has been said that man can say, we are authorized only to re