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many angels around the throne, and around the four living creatures, and around the four-andtwenty elders, and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands ; saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.”
It is not for us to conceive in what particulars the services of heaven consist, after what manner the glorious Supreme will display himself, and [by] what forms of adoration he will be praised. These mysteries are hid from us; “ for who hath ascended up into heaven ?" Yet we may be certain they will be, in the highest degree, pure, spiritual, and sublime; the noblest exercise of the most exalted faculties on the greatest and best of Beings.
The term ministering spirits (Lectoupyırà) (used] here, signifies that species of services which is employed in sacred things. It is true, St. John declares, that in the New Jerusalem he saw no temple, for a temple implies a building appropriated to the worship of God, in contradistinction to the secular purposes to which other edifices are applied. In this sense there will be in heaven no temple, because the whole of those blessed regions will be filled with the immediate presence of God, and so be a temple. There was no room for a separation of any part to a sacred and religious use, when all was sacred. The reason
St. John assigns for this circumstance, sufficiently explains his meaning: “ And I saw no temple therein, for the Lord God and the Lamb are the temple thereof."
On that immediate presence which fills the heavenly world, the angels are constant attendants; they continually stand before the Divine Majesty.
The most exact representation of the heavenly world (considered as a place) that was ever given to men, was the ancient tabernacle, formed after the pattern given in the Mount.* The mercyseat was attended with two cherubim, and the two curtains, which formed the tabernacle, were filled with figures of cherubim, “ With cherubim of cunning work shalt thou make them.”+
In the visions of the ancient prophets, when a glimpse of heaven was given, every appearance of God was attended with creatures of an angelic order. “A fiery stream issued forth, and came forth from before him; thousands of thousands ministered unto him, ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.” (Daniel.) See also Isaiah: “ In the year king Uzzah died, I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphim.” Ezekiel “ beheld the cherubim, over which was a sapphire firmament, over which a throne was seen, and one sitting upon it like the appearance of a man, whose head was encircled
Heb. ix. 23, 24. + Exod. xxvi, 1.
with a rainbow. This,” he adds,“ was an appearance of the likeness of the glory of God.”
“ Then the Spirit took me up, and I heard behind me a great rushing sound, saying, Blessed be the glory of the Lord from his place. I heard also the noise of the wings of the living creatures that touched one another, and the noise of the wheels over against them, and the noise of a great rushing.”
Our Lord warns us against despising the least of those who believe on him, from this consideration, “ That their angels do always behold the face of God in heaven.” The angel who appeared to Zachariah, thus announces himself, “I am Gabriel, who stand in the presence of God.”
Improvement of Part I. I. Let us reflect on the greatness of God, and the glory of Christ.
II. On the dignity of religion, considered as constituting the employment and felicity of such glorious spirits.
SECOND PART. They are sent forth to minister for those who are to inherit salvation.
1. Though they are so superior, they, with much alacrity, engage in offices of love to believers, from a consideration of the dignity which awaits them; they are hastening on to possess salvation.
* Ezek. ii. 12, 13.
They (believers) are soon to be associated with them, to be sharers of their privileges, partakers of their glory. Infantine as is their present weakness, they are considerable on account of their future greatness. The infant of the family is not neglected or despised by the more advanced branches of it; they anticipate the developement of its faculties. They know the time will arrive when it will attain an equality with themselves. They that shall be thought worthy to obtain that world, at the resurrection of the just,“ shall be equal to the angels.”
1. Though they are now mortal, they are the heirs of immortality.
2. Though they are encompassed with infirmities and imperfections, those blessed spirits well know they will shortly become entirely like Christ.
3. Though they are immersed in trifling cares, and have necessarily much intercourse with the things of time and sense, they entertain noble thoughts, cherish high expectations, and having the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan, earnestly desiring to be delivered. And, ever and anon wet with the dews of heaven, and anointed afresh with the Holy Spirit, they wear upon their spirits the divine impress, which these blessed spirits distinctly perceive.
II. The intimate union of believers with the Lord Jesus Christ, to whom angels are in immediate subjection, [also] entitles them to their benevolent offices. They are members of Christ, his brothers and sisters; they are taken into a
still closer relation than the conjugal one: and are parts of that nature in which the Lord is glorified.
The nature of the benevolent offices (angels] perform for the church. They are not the servants of the church, but the servants of Christ for the benefit of the church. Their stated employment is to minister in heaven, whence, on particular occasions, they are sent on benevolent embassies for the good of the church. What are these services? What have angels done, and what are they doing for the benefit, and in behalf of the heirs of salvation ?
1. The heirs of salvation are indebted to them for much prophetic information, as well as for many important directions. See Daniel. Paul going to Macedonia.
2. The heirs of salvation have often been indebted to angelic interposition for their protection in seasons of extreme danger; for example, Daniel in the lion's den ; Peter's rescue from prison ; Peter and John, (see Acts v.); the deliverance of Elisha at Dothan.* “ He shall give his angels charge over thee, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.” “ The angel of the Lord encampeth about them that fear him.” Many secret deliverances for which we are indebted to angelic influence.
3. The support which good men have received in the season of extreme pain and suffering. “An angel appeared unto him, strengthening him.”
* 2 Kings vi. 15—17.