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saw a vision. When they were past the first and the second ward, they came unto the iron gate that leadeth unto the city ; which opened to them of its own accord; and they went out, and passed on through one street; and forthwith the angel departed from him. And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews.” (Acts, 12: 6-11.) It has been well remarked on this passage
“ Who can read this narration, and doubt that angels can even act upon matter? Or that they bend their high intelligence, through love, to the trivial wants and necessities of our outer life? It seems very wonderful, that so powerful an angel, whose mere presence filled the dark prison with light, should bid Peter gird himself, and bind on his sandals, and cast his garment upon him ; and even Peter thought it a dream or vision ; but the ponderous iron gate that had opened before the will of his bright attendant, and the free, open street, in which he found himself, were tangible proofs of the material actuality of his presence." But it was not that the angel had a material body. To such
ineffectual presence, the iron gate would have presented a more formidable barrier. But it was that the angel acted from a sphere within and above matter, by a more substantial organism. So also was the stone rolled away from the door of the sepulchre. So were the foundations of the prison shaken, and the doors opened, for the release of Paul and Silas. (Acts, 16: 26.) The operation of the angel upon the body of Peter, in causing him to arise and walk, may indeed have been through the spirit of Peter; but the operation upon the iron gate not so. Here was a power exerted directly upon the strong barriers of materiality, which were swept away by the angelic will like a feather before the blast.
How perfectly such accounts set at naught the vague theory that the spirit of man is a flamy vapor or ether, floating some
where in space, or in limbo, without form or vitality, awaiting its final re-union with matter!
Such are some of the evidences which the Bible affords of the distinct and efficient ministry of angelic beings. Other evidences and illustrations might be cited to almost any extent.
ILLUSTRATIONS AND INSTANCES OF THE ANGELIC MINISTRY.
“Far above the glances
Of our eager eyes,
Murmurous with loving."-Mrs. E. B. Browning.
THROUGHOUT all the works of God, there is a perfect analogy and harmony. The higher everywhere ministers to the lower. In human life, where that life is not perverted, the helpless infant finds its natural guardian in its mother's love; and watch ful and constant as an angel's eye, is this kindly providence extended. The good parent is guardian to his children; the learned to the ignorant; greatness, everywhere, is not given to be ministered unto, but to minister. They that are strong are to bear the infirmities of the weak. In a righteous government, the higher always protects and guards the lower. The good king is the friend, not the oppressor of his subjects; and in that perfect state of society which is yet to bless and save this world, - in that day of days when the church and the world shall be one one grand harmonious unity, corresponding to the man of whom the apostle speaks, composed of the head and all the members, how will all human governments as they now appear, sink and dwindle into insignificance before that order and form of heavenly wisdom which shall observe a regular chain and series of protection, blessing, and mutual help, from the centre and highest, to the
farthest off and lowest down of all the members of that divine Association !
Now, inasmuch as it is so on earth, so is it according to nature and reason to suppose it in the connection between earth and heaven. “ It is this system of existence which the ancient mythology represented by a chain, which, fastened to the throne of God, fell in perpetual folds, embraced the earth, encircled with one or other of its golden links, every created being, and then returned to Him from whom it descended. Or, to refer to another and more appropriate symbol, the laws of existence thus understood, realize the ladder of the patriarch's dream. It rests upon the earth, and its top is in the heaven ; and upon every step of its infinite length, the angels of God are descending and ascending forever and ever.” *
Thus, by this beautiful law of connection and affinity, each individual has his or her spiritual friend, who is near when no other is near ; whose vigilant eyes, in moments of danger, sleep not nor slumber; whose nature and delight it is to guard its kindred from danger and from evil, and by the spirit of a loving God, to carry it through this scene of earthly trial, and lead it up to virtue and to heaven.
I confess myself surprised, when I look over the ancient records of the Hebrew and Christian faith, and see the almost endless recognition of spiritual and angelic agency, that no more account of it is made by those who profess to be guided by them. It is all, or nearly all, in our day, a theology of the immediate agency of the Deity, while in truth scarcely any can form a worthy conception of what the Deity in his great infinity is, or how He personally operates, while here, in the agency of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the angels who are his ministers, is a familiar, interesting, definite theology, dear to every human heart, and such as the understanding can intelligibly receive.
* Parson's Essays, first series, p. 35.
Even the heathen had a much better faith than many of us have. Confucius, the Chinese philosopher, taught that the spirits of the departed frequently returned to the halls of their ancestors. Zoroaster, the founder of the Persian religion, claimed, and we have no doubt truthfully, to have intercourse with the spiritual world. Pythagoras and Plato both taught distinctly the doctrine of guardian spirits. Socrates, the wisest and best of all the heathen philosophers, always declared himself to be sensible of the guidance of a superior being, who warned him of danger, and directed him aright. The ancient Egyptians are full of the same faith, and the evidence is, that, cleared from ignorance and superstition, and unobstructed by sense and materiality, it is the faith of human nature. It has been the powerful support of all fiction, and the highest element of romance is indeed missing when this feature of it is not present.
The early ages of the Christian Church also furnish the most direct evidence that what was vouchsafed to the Prophets and Apostles was also, in a degree, continued to many private members of the church. It is matter of well-authenticated Christian history, that, so late as the middle of the third century, but especially in the age of the Apostles, many spiritual gifts, such as prophecy, speaking with divers tongues, working of miracles so called, healing of the sick, discerning of spirits, vision and revelation, and other divine influences connected more or less with powers and intercourse of the spiritual world, existed and were multiplied everywhere. And it is well known, that such works as the Epistles of St. Barnabas, St. Clement, St. Ignatius, St. Polycarp, and the Shepherd of Hermas, written immediately after the apostolic age, or perhaps one or two of them just before the death of St. John, recognize the existence of such extraordinary gifts and privileges as properly belonging to the church at that time; and these epistles were for a long time publicly read in the churches, as baving