« הקודםהמשך »
temper, which sometimes in their most solemn worship is the privilege and the pleasure of saints.
But there is a further point to be noted in this service of the angels. It would seem that we Christians have a personal interest in their service. They are “sent forth to minister,” says the Apostle, “to those who shall be heirs of salva“tion:" that is to say, as after the awful temptation in the wilderness angels came and ministered to the Lord Jesus, and as in the garden of Gethsemane an angel appeared from heaven to strengthen the Lord in His agony, so the members of Christ, His faithful servants on earth, still militant against sin, the flesh, and the devil, have angelic ministry and help sent direct from Heaven. Here, indeed, is the propriety of the name angel: messenger : the name seems to imply that although having their home in heaven their chief employment is to carry the messages of God-His heralds in some way which we cannot comprehend—to all parts of His universe. And certainly this is the part of their ministry in which we have most interest: it may well comfort any one who walks in God's ways with faith and zeal to believe that those words are true of him : “He hath given His angels charge
“concerning thee, and in their hands they shall “ bear thee up, lest thou hurt thy foot against a
'stone." I shall not enter into the curious question whether there be ground for belief that each servant of God has his own guardian angel: certainly those words of our Lord concerning the angels of little children would seem to favour such a view: but I shall content myself with the broad Scripture truth, that it is part of the office of angels to minister to us men: and if this be believed, then no one can say that the doctrine of angels is a fanciful speculation, in which we have no concern : on the other hand this will be true, that every thoughtful person will find in the subject much material for solemn religious musing, and much to lead him to meditate concerning his own spiritual life. And since I desire above all things to put the doctrine of angels before you as having this practical character, I will endeavour to shew you several distinct ways in which as I believe, and as much better men than myself have also believed, the doctrine may do our souls good.
In the first place as a matter of mere contemplation, (as may appear from that story of Hooker's deathbed, which I quoted in the
beginning of this sermon,) it is both profitable and delightful to think upon the angelic host as a multitude of absolutely obedient creatures. It is profitable, because it illustrates the truth that happiness is to be found in doing God's will: and it is delightful, because it must rejoice our hearts, if we have any zeal for God's honour, to see His will obeyed. For what makes the contemplation of mankind painful and distressing, but their state of rebellion ? Paradise is a picture of delight, but the world as it is cannot be a picture of delight, and the holier and better a man grows the more does the ungodly atmosphere of the world oppress and trouble him. But he who has trained his mind to look up from earth to heaven can have his soul cheered by the sight of that which this world might have been and ought to have been : there are beings who have no selfish desires and godless aims, “ ministering “spirits” they, spirits whose very life it is to do the will of God. This is no imaginary view, as I have already shewn you : it can support the heart of a dying saint: and that which can stay the mind in the valley of the shadow of death must needs be a subject worthy of some consideration in the days of health and strength.
There is another view of the subject akin to this, but which must be noticed separately. The contemplation of the angels in their obedience may well lead us to high thoughts of the majesty of God. What is it that impresses us with wonder at the creative power of God, but the order and harmony of the creation ?-stars, sun, moon, planets, all holding their courses without jar or jostling, and all the operations of nature from the least to the greatest carried on as though an Almighty hand were immediately directing the work: it is from these things that we conclude the wisdom of Him who has made and governs all. But if we wish to see a picture of the moral majesty of God, this world does not so easily furnish it: we see confusion and rebellion in God's dominions, and though we may believe that evil will one day vanish, and virtue triumph, and vice be hated as it ought to be, still we do not see this result at present: on the contrary, there is much to grieve us, much even to astonish us : and he whose mind has been grieved and astonished will gladly raise his mind to the throne of God, and see there that picture of God's majesty which he knows earth ought to exhibit, but which as yet it does not.
And this leads me to observe that the holy angels are not to be looked upon in mere wondering amazement, but are to be regarded as patterns of what we ought to be. Our daily prayer ought to suggest to us this view of angels: we pray that God's will may be done on earth as it is in heaven,—done by whom in heaven ? surely by those ministering spirits of whom I am speaking. And observe that they do God's will, not mechanically, as the sun and moon do, not without the exercise of will, but by choice and purpose : the angels have a will which for aught we know might be exercised in opposition to the will of God, even as the angels who kept not their first estate fell through disobedience : the holy angels who minister in heaven serve willingly and with the heart; and herein they are patterns for us to follow, and they shew that entire submission and ungrudging service are the highest condition that a reasonable creature can enjoy. Perhaps they may even be taken as examples of the way in which we should perform our duty to our neighbour : for if to minister to mankind be part of their office, and if they do not think it beyond their dignity to watch over creatures who must seem to them lamentably impure, if on the