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Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath brought him forth to view.” (John, 1:18; 5: 37.) Here then, is the first relief to our thoughts. We can look upon Jesus Christ as the manifested God, and no longer doubt the divine personal providence.
But, again, there is another relief for us; and that is, in the multitudinous angelic ministry. “He shall give," saith the Psalmist,“ his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.” (91: 11.) Here again we may perceive that the same accommodating principle of reasoning is preserved, which is, that by shrinking up into certain limited spheres, we thereby preserve all the proportions of truth, and lose none of its correctness in our inferences concerning infinity and eternity.
Here also is personal providence. The angels of God encamp around them that fear Him, and are continually in the habitations of men. In the primaval ages of the world, when men lived in greater simplicity and purity,- in the Golden age, which is no mere fable, we have the evidences of an open and common communication with heaven. The men of those times, says Swedenborg, “enjoyed immediate revelation in consequence of their consociation with spirits and angels, and also by means of visions and dreams from the Lord.”
Again, the whole heathen mythology is profuse in its recognitions of the ministry of spiritual beings. The great sages of antiquity were by no means strangers to a theme like this. The great truth gleams all athwart the history of man.
The Sacred Scriptures are most full upon the subject. The patriarchs and prophets were cheered and guided on their way by these bright messengers of God: Abraham, and Jacob, and Elijah, and Daniel, and Zechariah; in fact, almost all who form a part of that magnificent drama of the Israelites, show their acquaintance with these heavenly messengers. They came to the infirm humanity of Jesus, in his temptation and his agony, -to Paul, in his fear of the shipwreck, -to Cor
nelius, who was directed in his vision to send to Peter, - and to many others mentioned in the Scriptures; and there can be no doubt, these spiritual beings form an immense and very particular part in the all-embracing providence of God.
There are also evidences, and always have been, among private Christians, of the approach and interposition of these heavenly guides, impressing the right thought at the right time, weakening the power of temptation, suggesting noble resolutions, and interposing their friendly care in the more difficult and trying straits of human existence. And how often has the bed of death been cheered by the open vision of these celestial messengers!
These, then, are the agencies of a divine, personal providence. It is not all law, as that word is usually understood; we do not live in a staid and mechanical universe, given up to fate and nature; there are thousands upon thousands of watchful and untiring eyes upon us; yea, in strictest truth may it be said with the poet Milton
“Millions of spiritual beings walk the earth
And now, in the light of this truth, we can see something more of the propriety and meaning of the term “special.” It is manifestly more special for an angel to approach and influence me, or any friend for me, than for me to be blessed with the common air of heaven, or the sight of the green grass, or the light of the sun. The regulations of the atmosphere, of light, and the growth of vegetation, come under the head of natural law. Yet we should not forget that the Divine Person established even these laws, and works in them. But do not the angelic ministrations come under the head of spiritual law? For, behold the analogy. An angel is not moved to come from his high abode to relieve the distresses of a suffering mortal, or to minister to his spiritual good, by any less of law, than that by which a stone falls to the ground. The stone falls by
the law of gravitation. The angel comes by the strong law of sympathy, by which, in a certain degree, he is impelled to draw near to a suffering mortal, and to impart the needed relief. He comes because he cannot help it; just as a good man cannot refuse to give a loaf of bread to a starving beggar. It is the law of his goodness that prompts and urges him on. Or, in other words, it is spiritual attraction of soul to soul, instead of material attraction of earth to earth. But surely, there is something in the contemplation of angelic performance help from the heavens — and in that personal will and effort which an angel, like a man, puts forth in our behalf, which takes the occurrence out of the common order of nature, and invests it with a divine speciality and importance. These, then, although in a high sense special providences, yet are no more out of the sphere of law and order, than the growth of the grass or the falling of the rain. They are special with man, but not with God. Highly opportune and timely, but with God they were always so! They come under the operation of a higher law, and of personal agencies acting by those laws, and that is all the difference. Yet this is a difference which wonderfully affects the heart of man. It touches more peculiarly his religious nature, and causes him to look up.
Here, then, is a great central truth. The truth is, it is only the infinity of the subject that confuses us. As before said, the contemplation of an abstract infinity is overpowering and embarrassing. It is the fly upon the steam-ship. When we once take this whole subject, and do with it as our finite natures require-shrink up into certain limited spheres, in which we may preserve all the proportions of truth, and in our inferences concerning infinity lose none of its correctness, then we shall grow wise. When once we see the true God in his Divine Humanity, and so accommodated to human senses and faculties; and when we recognize the spheres of angelic being hid from mortal sight, and ranging up and down with their bright ministries, then the whole contemplation gleams with
beauty and brightness, and is in fact a system of truth far more correct and beautiful than the most magnificent system of material astronomy that enriches the heavens, or adorns the pages of scientific truth. It is divine philosophy; it is the philosophy of spiritual things. It is that theology, too, for which the heart of man craves, and for which his reason is now hungering and thirsting. The universe of existence thus contemplated becomes a connected chain of being and operation, from inmost God to outmost nature; and as the impulses of divine love and care first stir in the heart of the infinite Father, so they are communicated to the angels nearest Him, or nearest the Divine Centre of being, and thus on, out and down through the vast ranks of glorified spirits, till they reach to earth, and protect the merest child from injury and danger. They also have the highest and most constant reference to the regeneration of man, and to his place in the heavens for eternity. But this is a branch of the subject which falls to another division of the volume,
THE NATURE AND MINISTRY OF ANGELS.
“Oh, never rudely will I blame his faith
In the might of stars and angels! 'Tis not merely
In the further pursuance of this subject, it were well to gain some clearer idea of the nature of angelic beings, and the particular part they play in the great movement of the universe. If we have not a right conception of the true nature of these heavenly beings, we shall fail to appreciate the dear and familiar truth conveyed to us by the contemplation. The word angel suggests to most people an intermediate order of beings between God and man. And the poetry and painting current in Christian literature and art convey frequently no other truth than the winged cherubs and seraphs which people the imaginary heavens. But this is both to unhumanize and undeify the truth. There is nothing in the Scriptures to justify this view of the heavenly beings; or, if there appear to be passages which speak of cherubim and seraphim with wings, the word is used in a correspondential or spiritual sense, to signify that power of elevation of which material wings are the proper emblems. But when the angels appeared to the patriarchs and prophets, and to Jesus Christ and the apostles, they were in