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The angels being placed as lawful authorities over that church, it became their duty to serve and worship angels. It is right, and a duty, to revere and pay homage to the authorities ordained of God over us. The services of the Jewish church, was the subject in view, when the apostle said, Gal. iv. 8, ye did service to them which by nature are no gods. The church of Galatia was composed of converted Jews and Gentiles......... The dispute which existed among them, was raised by those who had been Jews; and it related to the state of the Jewish church, as under the law. No question was made by any, whether they should return to heathen idolatry. It is plain, from the connection of the passage, and the argument throughout, that not heathen idolatries, but Jewish services were intended, when it was said, ver. 9, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Hence the apostle, adverting to the Jewish services, Col. ii. 18, mentions the worshipping of angels. Many instances are recorded, in the Old Testament, of worship being offered to angels, and it was in no instance refused.
It has been thought, by some, mysterious, that John fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which communicated to him the revelation; and, it has been supposed, that John had mistaken the angel for the Lord Christ. This conjecture, however, cannot be admitted; for it appears that he wrote the revelation immediately, as the distinct parts were signified; and he had repeatedly written the name of him who stood by him, the angel. This was, undoubtedly, the proper archangel. But John, in this case, offered no more than what had often been done by holy men, and had been accepted, doubtless by the same person. It may be observed, that
the angel refused the homage of John for this reason expressly, that he was not his superior, but his equal, his fellow servant; or, perhaps, the expression implies, that the superiority was rather on the other side. The words, as in the original, are, for I am the fellow servant of thee, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book. The circumstance appears very important, and worthy of being recorded upon the divine page; not as some suppose, to shew that good men have made great mistakes; but to shew the effect of the change of dispensation, that acts of homage respecting angels, which were done while the church was in a subject state with the greatest propriety, in the present advanced state can by no means be admitted.
The government under the law, being constituted of dependant powers, could exercise no Sovereignty. The highest authorities in that church acted by strict precept. No dispensing power was lodged in their hands; they could pass no acts of pardon. Hence has arisen the observation, that the law knows no mercy. It was not because Joshua and the Judges, &c. were not tender hearted men, that no acts of forgiveness are recorded of them; nor was it for want of liberality of mind, that the whole administra tion was so straitened, particularly from Moses to David. They had, as servants, their express orders; and they could not, in the least, depart froin them. Saul, the king, fell under the divine displeasure, for daring to dispense with the extreme points of his orders, utterly to destroy Amalek. This limitation under the law, did not exist merely with the men in that authority; the exercise of the sovereign prerogative was equally beyond the sphere of that most glorious angel which presided over them.. See Exodus
xxiii. 20, 21. Behold I send an angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not: for he will not pardon your transgressions. It may also be observed, that to work a change upon the heart of man is a sovereign prerogative, which was beyond the reach of the highest powers of that. constitution; and which sovereign effect was not an object of their ministry.
The powers of this government being depend ant, and therefore unable to effect a work of grace, and to exercise mercy, is assigned expressly as the reason for its being set a side in order to make room for more perfect things. See Heb.. viii. 7....12. “For if that first covenant had been "faultless, then should no place have been sought "for the second. For finding fault with them, " he saith, Behold the days come (saith the Lord),
when I will make a new covenant with the "house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: "Not according to the covenant that I made with "their fathers in the day that I took them by "the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; " because they continued not in my covenant, "and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For "this is the covenant that I will make with the "house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; "I will put my laws in their mind, and write "them in their hearts: and I will be to them "a God, and they shall be to me a people..... "And they shall not teach every man his neigh"bour, saying, know the Lord: for all shall "know me, from the least to the greatest. For "I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and “their sins and iniquities will I remember no 66 more."
It has already been noticed, that the operati ons of one dispensation do not wholly cease
and those of the other begin, at any particular point of time; for, as in the ancient times, the power and glory of the Son of God was anticipated in many wonderful instances; so in the present, the angelic government has a vast sway over the whole creation. The angel is yet standing with one foot upon the sea, and the other upon the earth, and none but the spirits of the new-born have been able to overcome his strength, and to rise above his feet; and this will continue to be the condition of the world until the archangel shall begin to sound; at which time, that which decayeth, and waxeth old, shall vanish away. It is for this reason, that we still preach to natural men, as being under the law, and therefore under the curse; a part of which is that, as servants of servants, they are doomed to hard labour for life; very hard! by the sweat of their brow, must they eat bread; stooping to the earth, they must dig their subsistence out of a ground that God has cursed; the same thankless ground that, instead of giving, with the daughters of the horseleech, cries give, give; and is one of the three things that say not, it is enough; which, even requires the hand of its tiller for its food. The ultimate attainment of the greatest proficient in the law, is a remembrance of his sin. His incessant services, instead of releasing him from his bonds, are proper acknowledgments of judgment upon his forfeited life; and bind him, as with so many new cords, a sacrifice to the altar.
The contrariety between the angelic and the gospel systems, is largely illustrated in the scriptures. Jacob, to obtain the blessing, must needs wrestle with the angel, and prevail over him. He called the name of the place Peniel, for 1 have seen God face to face. The same idea he associated with Esau.....he bowed before him to the ground seven times; and said to him, I have seen
thy face, as though I had seen the face of God. This surely was not done or said to Esau, as a flattering compliment to his vanity. Esau had the appearance of an angel. He was red all over like an hairy garment; but Jacob was a smooth man. It has been noticed, that the angels are represented by the forms and countenances of the creatures; but, notwithstanding this opposition, these two powers subsist, side by side, together. According to our theory, the archangel world is constructed of two opposite powers. Like Rebekah's womb, it contains two struggling nations; and whilst this world continues, so long must Jacob's trouble last. Jacob was once dressed in Esau's raiment, and his hands and neck were covered with the skins of kids; and Isaac his father noticed, that the voice is Jacob's voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau. This is the exact picture of the church under the law. Elijah, though he shared so illustriously of the power of the spirit, yet being a minister of the angelic sanctuary, he could not throw off the dress of the angels; he was an hairy man, and girt with a girdle of leather about his loins. And for the same reason, John the harbinger, had kis raiment of camels hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and, like Esau, he was a man of the wilderness, and lived upon wild, uncultivated food. The peculiar dress of the church triumphant, are white garments and golden girdles.
The apostle suggests the idea repeatedly, that Christ, by his death and resurrection, spoiled principalities and powers. It has been thought strange by some, that in these declarations there is never made any distinction between good and bad angels. The fact is, that the work of Christ affected equally the natural powers and dominions of the whole angelic world. It shook irreparably the foundations of the whole system;