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do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.” That is, I again repeat to you, take heed that ye treat not with scorn and contempt such little children as ye now see before you, or those believers in me who resemble these children in docility, meekness, humility, and indifference to all that the world calls great and honourable. Take care that you do not consider their welfare, their salvation, as below your notice and regard, and wantonly endanger both by giving way to your own irregular desires; for I say unto you, that however contemptibly you may think of them, your heavenly Father regards them with a more favourable eye. He even condescends to take them under his protection, he sends his most favoured angels, those ministers of his that do his pleasure, and stand always in his presence ready to execute his commands, even these he deputes to guard and watch over these little children, and those humble Christians, who are like them in purity and innocence of mind.
From this passage some have inferred, that every child and every faithful servant of Christ, has an angel constantly attached to his person, to superintend, direct, and protect him ; and this is the opinion of the learned Grotius himself; whilst others only suppose that those celestial spirits, who (as we are told of Gabriel) stand before God, are occasionally sent to assist the pious Christian in imminent danger, in severe trials, or great emergencies. And hence perhaps the favorite and popular doctrine of guardian angels; a doctrine which has prevailed more or less in every age of the church, , which is without question most soothing and consolatory to human nature, and is certainly countenanced by this and several other passages of holy writ, as well as by the authority of Origen, Tertullian, and other ancient fathers and commentators. In the Psalms it is said, “The angel of the Lord tarrieth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them *.” And in the
* Psal. xxxiv. 7.
the Epistle to the Hebrews” we are told, “that the angels are all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation.” No one therefore that cherishes this notion can be charged with weakness or superstition; and if it should be at last an error, it is, as Cicero says of the immortality of the soul, so delightful an error, that we cannot easily suffer it to be wrested from us +. But whatever may be the decision of learned men on this point, there is one thing most clearly proved by the text now before us, and confirmed by a multitude of others, and that is, the doctrine not only of a general but of a particular providence, . which in one way or other, whether by ministering angels, or by the all-compre
hending * Chap. i. 14.
+ The excellent Bishop Andrews has, in one of his animated prayers, a passage which plainly shews that he believed this doctrine. It is as follows: “That the angel of peace, the holy guide of thy children, the faithful guard set by thee over their souls and bodies, may encamp round about me, and continually sug
gest to my mind such things as conduce to thy glory, grant, O good Lord!”
hending and omnipresent eye of God himself, watches over those true disciples of Christ, who, in their tempers, dispositions, and manners, approach nearest to the humility, the meekness, the innocence, and the simplicity of a child. This doctrine is indeed so distinctly and explicitly asserted in various parts of Scripture, that it stands in no need of any confirmation from this particular passage; but every additional proof of so material a support under the afflictions and calamities of life, must be grateful to every heart that has known what affliction is. The verse that comes next in order is this: “For the Son of man is come to save that which is lost.” The connexion of this verse with the preceding one is somewhat obscure, but seems to be as follows: You may think, perhaps, that man is too mean, too insignificant a being, to be worthy of the ministration and guardianship of celestial spirits. But how can you entertain this imagination, when you know that for this creature man, for fallen fallen and sinful man, did the Son of God condescend to offer himself up a sacrifice on the cross, and came to save that which was lost?, Well then may the angels of heaven be proud. to guard, what their Lord and Master came to save. ... Jesus. then goes on to exemplify, by a familiar similitude, his paternal tenderness to the sons of men. “How think ye, if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone tastray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and go into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray ? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep than of the ninety and nine that went not astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father that one of these little ones should perish.” We are not to: infer from this similitude, that God sets. more value, and looks with more complacency and approbation on one repenting sinner, than on ninety and nine righteous persons who have uniformly and, devoutly served him. ; This can never be: 2 imagined ;