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Which things the angels desire to look into" — 1 Pet. i. 12.
We need scarcely remind you how richly the temple service of old was frau^t with the intimations of a coming Messiah; nor need we remark how every department of the temple itself, constructed as it was on a divine model, bore some pointed reference to the great blessings of redemption. Into no portion of its precincts can we enter which is not filled with the holiest inspirations — to no corner, whether of its outer court or of its inmost recess, can we turn, v.'hich does not speak of a higher and more spiritual economy than what the bleeding victim, or the smoking incense, might at first seem to indicate. You know, for instance, for Scripture informs you, that the holy of holies was a type of heaven, whither the great Forerunner has now gone with the
blood of sprinkling to offer up the praj'ers of all saints. You know, too, that the mercy-seat which covered the ark wherein lay the book of the law, was a type of Jesus, whom God has set forth as a true mercy-seat, and who covers and shelters his people from the curse of the law, being made a curse for them. Now, you will observe, that over this mercy-seat were placed two cherubim overshadowing it with their wings, looking down upon the ark with bended head, the posture of deep contemplation, as if there was that there which called forth their most powerful sympathy, and exercised their most fixed attention. Hence, it could not but happen that the devout Jew, whose mind rose from the shadow to the substance, and from the type to the reality, would
view this figure as intimating the fact, that the angels in heaven are no indiffer2
ent spectators of the development of the plan of mercy, but that their eyes are fixed upon it, as though there were nothing else in the whole circle of creation which could, in comparison, call forth their regards. To us, at least, who live in a clearer and more perfect dispensation, there is no mystery or doubt as to the studies and employments of the celestial throng. It is our privilege to know that the sufferings of Christ, and the glory which should follow, are the common ground of meditation on which saint and angel meet, and that the loudest song of the redeemed on earth is but the faint echo of that anthem in heaven, which seraphs, and the spirits of the just made perfect, conspire in singing to Him that sittelh on the throne, and to the Lamb, for ever and ever. It is our privilege to discover, in the covenant of grace, a chain of sympathy which binds heaven to earth, a centre of union around which the holiest thoughts of men, and the high3
est exercises of angels, ever circulate ; for though the message of its unsearchable riches is falling here with but little impression on the ears of a listless and alienated world, the finger of inspiration points us to a scene where those lofty intelligences who live in the light of the upper sanctuary, whose faculties are developed most widely, and whose aflfections glow most intensely, are expending their deepest regards on the great mysteries of redemption. This is the one sub»
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ject of all others which thrills heaven •with rapture, and lays angels and archangels prostrate hefore the throne of the Eternal. This is that field of glory whose height no manifestation ean display, and whose depth no created being, however exalted, can fully comprehend. This is the golden treasury of mercy on which the fixed gaze of the cherubim has for ages been turned, and from the fulness of which they draw such fresh supplies of knowledge as are adequate to the utmost measure of their still expanding capacities. They feel no weariness — they know no decay. Infinity is the only range, and eternity the only period, of their investigations. They have long basked in the effulgence of the beatific vision, and still as time revolves do they desire to look into these things, without danger of exhausting their powers, and without the possibility of terminating their inquiries. At the threshold of such a subject the
question at once occurs, How is it that the heavenly host contemplate the work of man's salvation with so much interest T And in answer, we remark, _;?r.s/, that it
IS BECAUSE THEY OBTAIN HERE THEIR MOST EXTENSIVE VIEW OF THE GLORY OF GoD.
We mean not from this to say, that angels are not awake to the glories which are so profusely scattered over all existence, as to be observed by men of every country, and kindred, and clime. Dwelling in the heaven of heavens, and as the messengers of God, in which capacity we have reason from Scripture to believe that they visit not only this world, but the innumerable planets which steal along the face of the sky, they have the most ample and perfect opportunity of understanding the endless multitude and the astonishing character of the works of creation and providence. Nature, in all its diversified operations, lies stretched out before them,
and from the throne of their Creator, they behold a golden chain of bounty which leaves no world beyond its embrace, and no creature beyond its control. Would they trace wisdom in the minute, or power in the magnificent ? Would they scan Jehovah's ways in the movements of the material universe, or in the even tenor of his providence 1 Would they see, in the
vicissitude of seasons, the superintendence of a faithful friend, and the bounty of an unwearied benefactor, or meet the footsteps of a parent in the worlds he had formed, and the arm of a Creator working visibly on the right hand and the left? they have but to turn from earth to heaven, and from heaven to earth; they have but to survey the new .Jerusalem, the capital of all creation, or contemplate those wandering worlds which are balanced on the emptiness of space; they have but to
gaze on the solid earth, or the rolling seas, and everywhere will they behold the skirts of that robe of glory with which the Deity is clothed ; everywhere will they behold wisdom, and goodness, and power, portrayed in characters too bright to be mistaken. Yes I the foundation of the temple of knowledge is laid deep, and wide, and lasting, on the face of the universe. All creatnres, whether animate or inanimate, demonstrate the being and perfections of Him who formed them ; and it cannot be supposed that those sons of God who raised the song of triumph as they saw Omnipotence calling this world into existence, should ever forget that shout of joy with which they hailed the birth of time, or cease to admire the wonders of creation throughout the endless progress of their being. But nature, with all its lessons of wisdom, must now yield to grace ; and the era, when this fair system arose at the divine command, must not vie with that, when, from condemnation
and misery, it emerged into happiness and peace. Every other theme of study must fade away before it, and acknowledge the supremacy of an enterprise, the very object of which is "glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, and good-will to men." This constitutes the bright centre to which all the divine attributes converge, and from which they are again reflected over the intelligent universe. This forms the choicest spot on which, amid much that is great and glorious, the eye of angels most instructively dwells.
It must not, however, be supposed that this superiority consists in any thing of outward grandeur or external magnificence. There is little in the manger of Bethlehem, or in the company of fisher-
THE EMPLOYMENT OF ANGELS.
men — little in the judgment hall of Pilate or in the hill of Calvary — little either in the commencement or in the evolution of that plan of grace, which, from eternity, had been folded up in the bosom of Deity, that is calculated to attract the carnal eye, or to arrest the carnal attention. Attended with no external majesty, the cross of Christ was to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness, and it perhaps might have been imagined that angels would have cqncurred in the estimate, and that the heavenly throng would have turned away from such an uninviting scene to seek for occupation in other spheres and in other studies. But we look, and the calculation is reversed. As a scheme of grace in which the glory of
God is manifested, through the medium of every thing that is awful and striking, the gospel is replete with much on which the soul of the believer feeds as its richest repast, and in that man of sorrows, in that weeping babe and dying victim, the principalities of heaven beheld the most glorious object in the whole created universe, because in him the perfections of Deity shine forth in their most stupendous exhibition. The veil of flesh and the guise of a servant, hide not from them the majesty of God, nor in the indignities of Calvary can they forget — a finished work — a perfect redemption. Their understanding is riveted on those unsearchable riches whereby the guilty fugitive is called back from his apostasy, and invited to an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away. Their affections bow before that sovereign liispensation which overlooked their fallen brethren, and brought the fellow of Jehovah from his throne, and stretched forth the
golden sceptre and established a spiritual kingdom in the very recesses of guilt and misery. On every feature of the work glory is described, and from every point the majesty of power and the rectitude of justice, the immutability of truth, and the beauty of holiness beam forth in lines of undying light. Does it not preserve untainted the dignity of a violated law, and the majesty of offended Godhead ! Does it not unfold the depth of human wretchedness, and let in the brightness of an-
other region on the darkness and the poverty of this? Does it not offer more than all the riches of this globe could purchase, or the services of all the seraphim in heaven could earnl What more than a crucified Saviour could angels wish to behold ; to what theme but salvation could the regards of time, or the studies of immortality, most instructively turn?
Every divine attribute has here its demands satisfied, its claims vindicated, and its essential dignity displayed and exalted. All harmoniously unite, and each lends its aid and co-operation in ennobling the other; wisdom dignified by power, and power regulated by wisdom ; mercy sustained and invigorated by justice, and justice tempered b}' the meltings of love — grace establishing its throne on the basis of Jehovah's truth, and the warm tide of mercy's beams mingling with, and pervading all. what an exhibition of every divine perfection is unfolded here ! Who can expatiate over this field of divine goodness and compassion, and not call upon his soul, and all that is within him, to bless the Lord 1 Take the highest creature in the universe, darken the light of creation around him, give him all the powers which earth or heaven can supply, and let him bend those powers to this one eflfort — the knowledge of a salvation wrought out for ruined man — and
how much will he learn? As much as to lay him prostrate before the throne in the heavens ; as much as to convince him that the measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea. Ages, as they pass over him, still find him at the task, breathing the fervent prayer, "Lord, show me thy glory;" and eternity, as it rolls on, will still witness him gazing on an ocean whose depth no line may fathom, and whose bounds no eye may reach.
Nor will the interest with which angels survey the great mystery of redemption, as displaying the perfections of Deity, lose any thing in its intensity when we reflect that it is of a growing character, depending on the gradual development of the plan of mercy. The mind of man can seldom rest for any period of time on a study, however elevated, which is not D
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increasing the boundaries of his knowledge, or rewarding him with fresh inforroation; and it perhaps might be supposed, that had the intimations of God's purposes, to tlie human race, been as familiar to the angels at their beginning as at their close, they would long ere now have tired in the contemplation of a subject which was ever presenting the same unvarying aspect. But, believing as we do from our text, especially when compared with the context, and with other passages of Scripture, that this knowledge is of a growing nature, and that they, as well as we, only learn the several parts of this design of grace in their successive accomplishment, it is at once manifest that the celestial company are perpetually alive to a subject
which is gradually disclosing, with broader and more defined features, its purposes of mercy. The church on earth was the groundwork on which were inscribed the praises of the living God, in order, as the apostle informs us, that by that church his manifold wisdom might be made known in heavenly places. The wells of salvation from which the saints below ever drew their supplies of knowledge and of strength, were the common resort of angels, and amid type and ceremony, from a bleeding victim and smoking incense, from the ark and the mercy-seat, from the prophet's school and the high priest's temple; they too, we may well conclude, were gathering up those bright intimations which strung their harps to a higher melody, and tuned their songs to a loftier praise. What, with them, is knowledge now, was thus perhaps at one period but mystery and gloom. Who can tell what silence reigned in heaven when, by the fall of Adam, the harmony of all creation
had been broken, and God himself, in the awful majesty of holiness, stood ready to pronounce his threatened award] What could angels expect for man in that hour of apostacy, but the full measure of insulted wrath, and the miseries of an irreversible decree ] And, O ! when the uplifted arm was stayed, and no voice bui that of rnercy was heard, saying, " Deliver from going down to the pit, for I have found a ransom," who can say with what holy joy they weleomed the iatima- ,
tion, that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head 1 It was now that a field of knowledge, as yet untrodden, was opened up before them, a field over whose shadowy outline the dimness of futurity still partially rested. It might be, that with patriarchs and prophets of old, they looked to the day of Christ when yet afar off, and that, like the early
travellers, they were cheered by some few streaks of the rising sun; yet was it to them but the faint presage of the opening day. It might be, that with Noah, and Abraham, and Moses, they desired to see; yet were they not able clearly to discern the face of Jehovah's mercy, shrouded, as it was, beneath the covering of a typical economy. It might be, that with the very followers of the Lamb, they traced the footsteps of their own King on earth, and watched over him at Bethlehem, and ministered to him in the wilderness, and comforted him in the garden of Gethsemane ; yet still, in the fulness of the latter day, ere the consummation had arrived, God alone knew how Judas should betray, and Pilate condemn, and the Jews crucify, the Prince of peace. Not yet is the vision full ; not yet is the harvest reaped. The years, as they sweep over our world, and bring to pass the purposes of Jehovah, are extending the boundaries of angelic wisdom, and though sur18
rounded with a blaze of glory, visibly gathered from every point of a finished redemption, the loftiest spirit who surrounds the throne is still travelling in the great circle of knowledge, like the planets in their course, unfettered in his movements, and unsullied in his progress. His zeal dreads not the languor of weariness, nor his pursuits the inroads of decay. Every new view is yielding God a fresh revenue of praise, and still does he desire to look into it, that he may show forth the greatness of Him who stepped forth to our aid unsolicited and uncalled, except by the tender accents of his own unmerited grace.
Secondly. We remark, that it is not
MERELY IN A SPECULATIVE POINT OF VIEW THAT ANGELS CONTEMPLATE THE GREAT WORK OF REDEMPTION, BUT THAT THET DESIRE TO LOOK IMTO THESE THINGS, BE-
THE EMPLOYMENT OF ANGELS.
CAUSE OF THE GOOD WHICH THEREBY
RESULTS TO THE HUMAN RACE. Men and angels once belonged to the same peaceful family, and had no tempter interfered to mar the harmony of their union, they had still lived in the bonds of a holy and happy fellowship. At the birth of time, no impediment existed to the spontaneous flow of social affection, or to the intercourse of heaven and of earth. The voice of the Lord God was hailed with delight ; and as there was no disposition in man to hide himself from his presence,
so was there nothing to arrest the footsteps of angels, or destroy the congeniality of kindred feeling. Our world was not yet degenerate, but reflecting in its every scene the beauty and the holiness of the upper sphere, the very angels smiled upon it as the home of brethren Vvhose souls burned with a common love to the great Parent of all. But when man revolted from his lawful Sovereign — when conscious guilt abashed Adam in the presence of a pure Being, and made him desirous of hiding himself from his view, not only did sin separate between man and God, but shut up the very gates of heaven to the egress of the celestial host. Henceforward the chain w'hich bound together the intelligent creation, was snapped asunder, and, dissevered from the harmony of the moral universe, our globe became a prodigal in the family of God. Henceforward happiness gave place to misery, holiness to sin, and far from the abode of his innocence, our great proge21
nitor saw the flaming sword of the once friendly cherubim, guarding the place where he had talked with God, even as one friend talketh with another. We cannot, therefore, but suppose, that as the friends and lovers of mankind, who take an emphatical pleasure in all that advances our happiness, the angels should desire to contemplate a scheme which has again reunited us to their company, and by destroying the works of the devil, holds out the blessedness of Eden, under circumstances of still greater serenity and peace. We cannot but suppose, that, next to the glory of God, they should be mindful of the salvation of man; and that while they seek in the mysteries of grace, a more
distinct knowledge of the perfections of Deity than creation yields, they should not rejoice the less in these discoveries of Godhead, because they have changed the
moral aspect of our world, and again opened up a channel, through which the sympathies of heaven may flow out over the habitations of earth. If angels weep, they must have wept over that act of apostacy which drove man an exile from paradise ; and if they rejoice, it must be to behold him no longer presenting that image of sin, with which their holy spirits can hold no alliance. The miracles of grace are to thern no mean or uninviting spectacle. That reconciliation cannot be neglected which satisfied divine justice, and from the smitten rock pour«ii forth those healing streams which a broken law- had dried at their source. That salvation cannot be overlooked, which is working a radical cure in the very centre and seat of the malady, cleansing the fountain of corruption, renovating the very constituent faculties of the human mind, and constraining them to a pure and holy service. Because visited by its influence, the lust of
the flesh, and the lust of the eye, and the pride of life — all lose their charms when contrasted with the requirements of the moral law. Because touched by its reviving energy, the believer springs from the cell of condemnation and the embrace of death, into all the holy activity, and living beauty, and usefulness of the regenerate man. The veil is removed which eclipsed the glories of the world to come ; the fetters of passion are burst asunder, iniquity is abandoned, the love of God cherished, and with the joy of Christ in his heart, and his praise on his lips, the once abandoned transgressor sinks to the grave, rich in all those spiritual endowments which can support the soul in the hour of death or prepare it for the communion and happiness of heaven. "Old things have passed away, behold, all things have become new." Over the whole inner man, the influences of heaven breathe once more, displaying themselves in their loveliest forms, aid
in their highest glory. Once more does the flame of devotion burn, and prayer
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deligrht to make known its request, and praise to offer up its incense of thanksgiving, and faith, though not sight, to welcome the presence of Him whose face he shall yet behold in righteousness, and be s-atisfied with his likeness. Once more does the disencumbered spirit rise upwards to its proper good, and, amid the remembrance of miseries escaped, and the anticipation of mercies in reserve, pant for the hour when, freed from all
corruption, it shall be raised in its attachments to a congeniality with a holier and happier sphere. This is the glory ; these are the triumphs of the gospel ; and, impressed with their greatness, they who once watched the earthly paradise, the raessengers of wo, now celebrate the change with all the benevolence of gratulation and joy, and desire to contemplate a scheme which, like the ladder of Jacob, is binding the throne to the footstool by imparting to both the harmony of one great and peaceful throng.
In adopting such an argument, it must not be thought that we are travelling beyond the range of Scripture, and indulging in the mere wanderings of fancy, which may, or may not, have their origin in truth. We know that there " is joy" in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, thus intimating that the very seraphs notice and rejoice at the success of that process on character which conforms man
to the image of Christ, and that this, more than any other cause, conspires to scatter blessedness over the celestial plains. Bound to a holy obedience by the distinct apprehension which they have of the supreme excellence of that Bein^ in whose presence they dwell, they know 4he peace which flows out upon them who are admitted to his fellowship; and this knowledge must doubtless be accompanied with the conviction of the extreme wretchedness of those who rebel against the majesty of heaven. Living in the purity of the upper sanctuarVf they drink pleasure at the fountain head, and belonging to the government of .Jehovah, they owe and pay to him an unlimited love and obedience. Their minds, then, on the one hand, must be fully awake to the exceed-
ing sinfulness of sin, and, on the other,
their very loyalty must serve to augment their joy, when Satan is defeated, and man restored ; so that we cannot assign too much importance to the idea, that the blessings with which redemption is fraught, is an incitement to their study in the celestial world. The gospel is the seed which, lodged in the heart, gradually produces a new creature — a seal which, stamped on the soul, leaves the deep and abiding impression of the divine image — a light chasing away the shadow of darkness — the rod of Christ's strength and the sceptre of his might, by which he bends the nations before him, and subdues unto himself a peculiar people in the day of his power. The ministry of reconciliation is the moral lever, which is raising our world from the depth of misery into which it had sunk — the great resurrection which is gathering into one the dispersed members of Christ's body — the stream which, issuing from the throne, is running through the dry places
of this earth, reflecting from its peaceful bosom many a smiling village and Christian shrine. Instead of holding forth a single cup of water to the fainting pilgrim, it has opened up a fountain in the desert, to which nations repair; instead of sheltering itself amid the ruins of Jehovah's sanctuary, it recognises no other limits but those of the globe ; it scorns a narrower temple than the earth and the skies. United in the sympathy of a common faith, and touched by the inspiration of the same Spirit, the sons of the stranger are bowing down before it, and from their numberless habitations, are sending forth the high praises of God and of the Lamb. Here the dark understanding has been illumined; there the rebellious will has been softened ; here the troubled conscience has been tranquillized ; there the depraved affections have been sanctified. The prejudices of the idolater have fallen before the wisdom of the just; the pride of the philosopher has humbled itself be29
fore the Spirit of truth ; the profligate Gentile and the bigoted Jew have become the willing subjects of the Prince of peace. Yet a little while, and all flesh shall come before the Lord ; yet a
THE EMPLOYMENT OF ANGELS.
little, and the human heart shall become an holy altar, and this earth one great temple, in which the children of men are made meet to join in the new song, and to mingle with the innumerable company of angels in the Zion above. Even now has the decree gone forth, and this central fire, this mighty reservoir of spiritual light, is
but awaiting the divine command, to burst up in splendour, to disperse the gloom, and consume the impurities of a degenerate world.
It is not to be wondered, then, that they who rejoiced over man's birth, and, it may be, wept at his fall — who sung the descent of peace on earth, and are still the heralds of the good news of repentance to their fellow spirits in the heavenly kingdom, should desire to contemplate an object thus full of mercy to the human race. It were unnatural to conclude, that amid all the joys of their father's house the inhabitants of heaven should not desire to look into those mysteries which have for their end such a change of character, and such a transformation of will as assimilate man to God, and the worship of the footstool to the nobler services which encircle the throne. Deeply imbued with seraphic love, there is no delusion in the idea that thej' enjoy all the
luxury of philanthropic affection as time discloses the fresh trophies of redeeming grace. Accustomed to look upon the whole human family with a benign aspect, there is no presumption in the thought that they turn their attention to that treasure house of mercy which is scattering so many blessings on our path, that they bend an attentive eye on the progress of the gospel — that they sympathize with the toils of those holy men who have borne the ark of the true God into the lonely wilderness, and that they are waiting for the era when the kingdoms of this earth shall become the kingdoms of our God and of his Christ. Nor as eternity runs on, can it be imagined that the highest archangel should forget that love which is gathering up all that is fair and holy out from the ruins of the tomb, and the deeper ruins of the fall, ^d in the new Jerusalem is more than realizing the harmony and the peace of Eden. Vol. II.— 6
In conclusion. Are these the studies and employments of angels? Then, my friends, we would turn this day from heaven to earth, and remind you, that, if destined to become their companions hereafter, you must be associated with them in spirit and in character now. This world is a nursery, in the distant soil of which the spiritual plant is reared, until removed to adorn the paradise of God, and it is impossible that they should have any meetnessfor its pure pleasures and its exalted society, who are total strangers to all those ardent affections which religion demands. And yet it is melancholy to think how little this world, amid its bustling pursuits, is reflecting the exercises of heaven — how to a wicked generation the empty vanities of time and sense have a more exquisite relish than that bread of life with which angels are replenished
through eternal ages. It is mournful to hear the scoffing of the ungodly, while the highest intelligences wonder and adore — to behold the lofty attitude of unconcern with which men listen to that which is the study and the delight of principalities and powers. Why this great dissimilarity of moral taste between seraphs who bow before the throne and creatures who dwell upon the footstool 1 \Yhy should the man whose soul burns at the contemplation of nature going forth in her majesty, feel no holy love as he traces the living footsteps of heavenly grace 1 Why should the philanthropist, whose eye kindles at the mention of an enterprise which has touched the chains of the captive and bid the slave go free, turn away with aversion from that sublime undertaking which, more than all the 'bounties of creation, is fraught with m^rcy to the human race T And, ; bove all, why is it that the philosopher and the sensualist, the worldling and the profane, start from their
appropriate occupation to fling the sneer of ridicule against him who dares to break the frivolous current of ordinary converse, by adverting to the glad ?'dings of salvation as the main-spring of his hope and joyl If angels tremble, 'tis at such a sight. This sad neglect of every thing which ought to occupy the attention, is as clear as it is tremendous. This disd2
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cordance between the employments of heaven and the pursuits of earth, is disqualifying man for the pure services of
the upper temple, where the triumphs of the cross are felt as the most animating subject of delight. Nay, to you they are not only important as a matter of study, but as a matter of deep and serious interest. It is on your account that angels desire to look into these things, and if you seek to neglect them on your own, nothing can be expected for you but a "certain fearful looking for of judgment and of fiery indignation to devour the adversaries." As then you would not perish in the vision of light the most clear, and advantages the most distinguishing — as you would enjoy somewhat of the glories and the felicities of the upper sphere in this the house of your pilgrimage, we would call upon you to make the blessings of redemption all your salvation and all your desire. To sit in faith beneath the shadow of the cross — to derive by the ministration of the Spirit all our hope and happiness from the inestimable merits of the Lamb that is in the
midst of the throne — to cast anchor on the covenant favour and covenant faithfulness of Father, Son, and Spirit, are the grand and only sources of holiness and joy. Without these you cannot enter the kingdom of God — without these you have no meetness for the inheritance of the saints in light. The lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, must stand eclipsed by the riches of th' cross, or in the midst of rejoicing hosts, you would still be wretched and sigh again for the scenes you had left. The snng of salvation must be learned now, or the Spirits of the just made perfect, shrinking from your presence, would seek some purer spot in the realms of space, where no jarring voice would mar the melody of their heavenly anthem. Wherefore "how shall you escape, if you neglect this great salvation ?" Amen.
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