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THE MINISTRATION OF ANGELS.
Of the nature and order of spiritual intelligences we have necessarily very contracted ideas; nor can we have any certain knowledge thereof until we arrive at the heavenly state, which is the world of spirits.
There are terms which we apply to spiritual intelligences—essential, immaterial, &c.—but which convey no definite notion of their nature; and we find nothing revealed in the word of God to satisfy curiosity. The Bible contains descriptive passages, which may be useful in assisting our meditations upon this subject. We read of “a strong angel ;" of mighty angels; of angels who excel in strength ; of the archangel.” Each of these may be supposed to be a distinct order; and if we notice the difference of the intellectual capacities of men, and reason by analogy or from natural appearances, seeing “ that one star differeth from another star in glory,” we shall be induced to coincide with Mr. Locke, that “it is likely there are more orders of those intelligences than of corporeal substances."
The immortal spirit of man is aspiring and emulous; it is always aiming at making greater attainments; and this characteristic of the soul is an argument in favour of its immortality, and will not be lost in a future state, but will, to all eternity, be acquiring
greater degrees of perfection in knowledge, love, and happiness.
To suppose that angelic beings, whose intellectual capacities must be far superior to those of men in the present state, and may be proportionably so when the spirits of just men are made perfect; to suppose that they, with the same opportunities of fathoming the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God, whose judgments are declared to be past finding out, and the unsearchable riches of Christ; to suppose that they should remain without any increase in intellectual endowments, or without any new attainments in heavenly knowledge, would be unreasonable ; and therefore, there being no passages of scripture from which we may infer the contrary, we are at liberty to conclude that they, with us, will for ever be aspiring to, and increasing in, knowledge, love, and happiness.
Of their power and influence we can form no adequate conception. There are some beautifully descriptive passages to be found in the Bible, from which we may gather an idea of their greatness. At the resurrection of Christ, “ the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back thc stone from the door of the sepulchre, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow.” And from the book of the Revelation, in which the angels are represented taking an active part in the great events precursory to the final termination of all things and the day of judgment, we draw the conclusion, that they must necessarily be invested with great potency.
With these few prefatory remarks we will now consider the application of the powers of angels to the service of mankind. Angels, constituted as they are, must be well calculated to minister to man's necessities, and to
carry into effect those arrangements of Providence which are intended to meet the exigencies of the fallen sons of Adam. When we reflect upon the adaptation of spiritual beings to pervade substance, as well as to unite and combine with congenial spirits, we naturally suppose that their influence with men may be very great.
With gigantic faculties, unknown power, and unlimited love, they have the charge of mankind ; possessing the ability of communicating their thoughts to each other; doubtless by pervading our minds and spirits, they are able to convey ideas to us; and this, so far as it respects the influence and agency of wicked spirits, is generally admitted. The devil, who is called the god of this world, is the exciter of all wicked thoughts and devices; he is said to rule in wicked men: “ He hath blinded the minds of those who believe not.” In the case of Judas Iscariot, “ the devil put it into his heart' to betray Jesus. And the apostle Paul exhorts to put on the whole armour of God, “ that ye may able to stand against the wiles of the wicked one." This busy and malicious foe is not only employed in injecting evil thoughts into the heart, but also in endeavouring to dissipate and destroy everything that is good ; hence he is represented by our Saviour as coming and taking away the word.”
Now, it is admitted that the pure angelic beings are at least equally powerful, if not superiorly endowed, with the spirits who kept not their first estate, and therefore as capable of influencing the minds of men ; although how far they are permitted to exercise their powers for our advantage is hidden from our knowledge. But we are at liberty to gather from many texts of Scripture, that they are the instruments appointed to execute the orders of Providence; and it may not be
thought presumptuous to suppose that they are the secondary medium of conveying, or of eliciting good thoughts in the minds of men. Nor, to a certain extent, does it seem to interfere with the office of the Holy Spirit as the primary, whose influence and operation is the origin and cause of that which is good and holy in the hearts of men.
It may be supposed that because God is omnipresent to superintend and issue the orders of Providence, that no agent whatever is required to execute them. In meeting this objection I would remark, that the arrangements of the divine will are usually brought to pass through the agency of instruments. He who ordains has een fit to appoint means; his providence is " a wheel within a wheel.”
When Mordecai's life was in danger, and the gallows was erected for his execution by his inveterate enemy Haman, on that very night could not the king sleep. And why? He knew nothing of the gallows, and the danger of the servant of the Lord; nevertheless, he could not sleep, and commanded the book of records of the chronicles to be read before him, in which he found the service done by Mordecai remained unrewarded ; thus his inability to rest seemed a trifling thing in itself, but it was appointed to lead to the frustration of the wickedness which had been devised against one who was under the especial care and superintendence of Providence. In this case the curtain was not lifted to shew.us who were the agents. When Herod thirsted for the blood of the infant Jesus, the angel of the Lord appeared unto Joseph in a dream, directing him to take the young child with his mother and flee into Egypt; not because an omnipotent arm could not defend his life in Bethlehem, but because the appointed flight was calculated as well to further the fulfilment of ancient prophecy, as to prove the means of safety.
There are numerous instances that might be pointed out, to prove that the angels are “his ministers to do his pleasure ;" and it is expressly recorded that “he gives his angels charge concerning us." That is a striking instance in St. Luke's Gospel where it is written, - Jesus prayed, being in an agony; and there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him." Now we know that God appeared unto Moses in Mount Sinai, and spake in person ; and therefore in a case like the one cited, there could be no other reason why the eternal God did not appear unto his well-beloved Son, as he had audibly communicated with him on former occasions, than that he willed to work by one of these angelic messengers ; and perhaps by this mode of sending succour, it was intended to shew that, as well in this as in every other point of view, the human nature of the Redeemer was subjected to the same laws and appointments as those by which mankind were governed.
The nature of their services. “ Are they not all ministering spirits ?" They accompany the believer in all his various journeyings through life : “He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways; they shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone." They are represented as encamping round about those who fear God, to turn their steps aside from evil. How often are we in circumstances in which danger is near and apparent, and yet we are preserved ; so that often we find occasion to exclaim, “ It was an hair-breadth escape, a providential interference,” &c.; and no doubt thousands of instances of moral danger occur which are not manifested to us, nor known, but which