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Burning Ones; sometimes, Watchers, and Holy Ones; and one is denominated the Archangel. We likewise read of some, who are called by name; as the man Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God; Michael, the archangel, who disputed about the body of Moses; and Lucifer, one of the many names given to the Chief Leader of the fallen angels, who were cast out of heaven for sin. The Holy Angels are moreover called Morning Stars, to denote their peculiar beauty and splendour of character; and not improbably as harbingers of Christ, the Sun of Righteousness and Sons of God, to teach us that they are nearly connected with the Creator, dwell in his house as children, and enjoy his parental presence, care and love.' From a consideration of the above names, it will be manifest that Angels are the highest order of intelligent creatures. This truth is also evident from their being assigned to heaven as their birthplace and residence. The Living Ones, mentioned by John in the Apocalypse, are described as being full of eyes before and behind; 'that is, to have been all sense, all intellect, all consciousness; turning their attention every way; beholding at once all things within the reach of their understanding; and discerning them with a clearness of perception, which is the most perfect created semblance of the intuitive and boundless views of the Omniscient Mind.' The exalted rank of Angels is also indicated from the glorious splendour in which these beings have usually appeared in this present world. When the Angel descended to roll away the stone from the sepulchre of the Saviour, his countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow; and for fear of him, the keepers became as dead men. And St John saw a mighty Angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud ; and a rainbow was upon his head; and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire. Surely beings thus splendid must be of the most elevated rank in the scale of created intelligences.
II. The Attributes of Angels. These are of the noblest kind. First, they are endowed with wonderful powThis is evident fiom the fact that the appellative 10*
Power is frequently given to them in the Gospel. David exclaims, Bless the Lord, ye his angels, that excel in strength. St John also speaks of a strong angel, and a mighty angel. The Scriptures furnish proofs of the power of Angels. In three days, an angel destroyed three score and ten thousand persons out of Judah and Israel, when David sinned in numbering the people. In one night, an angel destroyed an hundred and eighty-five thousand men of the army of Sennacherib. St John represents the angels as holding the four winds of heaven; and as pouring out the vials of God's wrath upon this wicked world. An angel is also exhibited as binding that outrageous and deadly spirit, the Prince of the power of the air, and casting him into the bottomless pit, and as sealing him there, until the thousand years should be fulfilled. Surely then Angels are endowed with almost inconceivable power.
Secondly, Angels are possessed of wonderful activity. King David says, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flaming fire. Here they are represented as moving with the velocity of winds or spirits, and acting with the resistless energy of an excited flame. The same attribute is taught by the symbol of the many wings upon the visioned Cherubim and Seraphim. But the activity of angels is most emphatically illustrated in the case of the prophet Daniel; where an angel, called the man Gabriel, came down from the supreme Heaven to explain to Daniel the vision and the prophecy, before Daniel had finished his evening prayer. That an angel should thus come from Heaven to earth during the uttering of a prayer exceeds the rapidity of light, and equals the incomprehensible celerity of thought.
Thirdly, Angels are always young. They are endued with unfading and immortal youth. This is taught in many parts of Scripture, and forcibly exhibited in the name Living Ones given them by St John in the Apocalypse, and by Ezekiel in his prophecies. The same doctrine is also beautifully exemplified in the Angels, who appeared to Mary, in the tomb of our Saviour. These illustrious persons were then, at the least, four thousand years old. Still they appeared as young men ; and in all
that long succession of ages had undergone no decay. Their youth, a bright and beautiful blossom, still shone with all its lustre, and fragrance; and directly indicated, that it was superior both to accident and time; and would, after many such flights of years, survive in all its vigour ; being destined, as well as fitted, for immortality.'
Fourthly, Angels have the most superior intellectual faculties. The first name given to Angels, as we read in Genesis, was Cherub, that is, fulness of knowledge. Their faculties were at first such as became the sons of God, created to circle, rank above rank, around the throne of Jehovah, and there to minister in all the hallowed and sublime offices of adoration, and dominion; to sit in the high seats of power, to wear the diadems of distinction, and to bathe in the effulgence of glory, in the eternal kingdom. 'With the nature and extent of their faculties, has the place of their residence in this respect exactly accorded. They have ever dwelt in the world, where truth reigns without opposition; where knowledge is the universal state and character; where all mysteries are continually disclosed; and where the nature and propriety of both the means, and the ends, of providence are, more than in any part of the universe, unfolded. There, day and night, for six thousand years, they have been unceasingly employed in studying the works of God. Weariness and decay they know not. Strength of understanding in them is incapable of being impaired. Every object of investigation is to them delightful; and every faculty, by its nature, susceptible of improvement. What then must be the extent of their attainments at the present time ?'
Fifthly, Angels are perfectly holy. This truth is so abundantly evident from the Scriptures, that it needs no particular illustration. Who was it, that rejoiced at the Creation, and sang in transport at the nativity of the Redeemer? And who rejoice over one sinner that repenteth? The name Seraphim, or burning ones, is also an indication that the mind of an angel is burning with one intense and unquenchable flame of divine love; such a love, as is suited to those, who stand before a holy God, in his own habitation, enjoy his favour, and fulfil the glorious offices of his kingdom.
Sixthly, Angels are perfectly lovely. In this world, we are apt to look too exclusively to external symmetry of form, gracefulness of demeanour, and beauty of complexion, in objects whom we esteem lovely; and these imperfect and unenduring endowments are suffered to fire the passions, and to engross the affections; to blind the reason, and to lead captive the judgment. But the angels have not only every imaginable exterior grace and beauty, but are pre-eminently endued with that virtue, which is the beauty of the mind; that beauty, which is 'as superior to that of the form, as the soul is superior to the tenement in which it dwells.'. On this amiable quality, the mind fixes its eye in unwithdrawing approbation; and the heart yields up the fulness of its fondness with unsatiated delight. Virtue is the beauty of the heavenly world; the beauty which alone receives the homage of angels. This is the beauty, which reason will approve, which eternity will never fade, and which will never cease to please.
Seventhly, Angels are invested with high personal dignity. To this character, their rank, their abode, and their occupations, all necessarily contribute. What other beings are blessed with that nearness to their Creator, which enables them to understand the mysteries, and contemplate the magnitude of his dispensations, both of providence and of grace? 'Heaven is the centre, and the seat, of all that is great and wonderful, all that is refined and exquisite, all that is splendid and glorious. To angels, these magnificent things are habitually familiar.' Their operations also are of a kind amazingly sublime. Behold one mighty angel holding fast the four struggling winds of heaven. Behold another, throwing his chain around the tremendous prince of the power of the air. And another, in a twinkling, gliding down, like a beam of light, from the throne of God, on an errand of love to man. Is not this a dignity, a sublimity of character, beyond even the stretch of human thought? I need not here recount the splendour and majesty in which angels have frequently appeared, in their visits to this lower world, as they must be familiar to every reader of the Scriptures. Nor need I add, that all these dignified and beautiful attributes of angels are eternal.
III. The Employments of Angels. That the offices of Angels are the most exalted in the Universe, is clearly indicated by their Names. They are styled Angels, that is, the immediate messengers of God. They are styled Thrones, Dominions, Principalities and Powers, 'to denote, that they sit upon thrones, exercise dominion, hold authority, preside in government, and are invested with the power, necessary for these great purposes.' They are called Chief Princes, to indicate that they are the first order of rulers in the universe under Deity; and Sons of God, to teach us that they are assimilated to God in chararacter and residence. They are called Morning Stars, to signify that they outvie all other intelligences in created splendour; and Cherubim and Seraphim, to inform us that they are beings furnished with superior discernment in knowledge, and superior ardour in holiness.
Secondly, The Angels are often exhibited as nobly employed, in the Scriptures.
1. Angels are engaged in rendering glory and praise to God. When the Creator was ordaining and framing this beautiful world in which we live, the angels clustered around his throne, and watched its daily progress; and when it was finished, the Morning Stars sang together, and shouted for joy.
When the Lord Jesus descended on Mount Sinai, amid thunders and lightnings, to publish the Law, he was attended by the chariots of God, even thousands of Angels.
When Jesus became incarnate, the angel Gabriel announced his birth to Zachariah, and to Mary. And to the Shepherds, who watched their flocks on the plains of Bethlehem by night, an Angel of the Lord came down, surrounded with a celestial radiance, proclaiming the tidings of great joy; and was immediately accompanied by a multitude of the heavenly host, who joined in the triumphant, burning, thrilling chorus, Glory to God in the highest! and on earth, peace: good will towards men!
When the Redeemer ascended up on high, and led captivity captive, the rejoicing Angels, as he was rising towards the Heaven of Heavens, again broke out into singing, Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of Glory shall come in!