Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

phim vail their faces and their feet in his glorious presence, and ery one to another, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts, the whole earth is full of thy glory:" his separate and transcendent attributes are the foundation of their humility and subjection.

They received their being from his mere pleasure. This most free favour infinitely binds them to his service. A derived being has dependant operations. They are confirmed in their state of ever-flourishing felicity, by peculiar grace. In the morning of the creation heaven shined with innumerable stars, the angels of light, of whom a vast number are by their rebellion become wandering stars, “to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.” How dreadful was their fall? From what felicity into what woe? Now the good angels are in a supernatural state, without the least danger of change and separation from the blessed presence of God. The grace of confirmation renews their obligation to the divine goodness; they are not safe in themselves, but their fidelity is secured by the continual influence of the Holy Spirit. In them is perfect light and perfect love, the fountains of their obedience. The matter wherein their obedience is exercised is secret to us; the laws and admirable order in heaven are not fully discovered: but we are assured, they continually magnify and celebrate the perfections of God. In this lower world, they are ministering “ Spirits to the heirs of salvation,” the adopted children of God. The highest angels are not exempted from this service, nor the lowest saints excluded from the benefit of it. How many unforeseen and inevitable dangers, as to human prevention, do they prevent ? The evil angels would destroy the saints, from a principle of revenge and despite against the high and everlasting Judge, and are hindered by the interposing of the good angels. “ Michael overcame the devil, in the contention about the body of Moses.” The devils have totally lost their moral excellency, and their natural excellency, their lustre and power are lessened. But of what power they have to do mischief, there are terrible proofs recorded in scripture : they raised the storm that overthrew the house, wherein Job's children were suddenly destroyed; and struck his body with loathsome and tormenting boils.

The good angels inspire holy thoughts, and excite holy affections in the saints: for certainly they have an inspiring faculty for good, as the devils have for evil. Satan put it into Judas'

[ocr errors]

heart to betray Christ. They execute vengeance upon the wicked: “ The angel of the Lord destroyed in one night a hundred fourscore and five thousand of the Assyrian army." When the saints leave the world, the angels guard them through the air, the dominions of satan, and secure them from the spiritual Pharaoh, who pursues them in their passage to the celestial Canaan.

At the last day they shall “gather the elect from all the quarters of the world,” before the tribunal of Christ; and after the judgment is passed, they “shall cast the wicked into everlasting fire.”

The perfection of their obedience is signified: they obey God readily without delay or reluctancy. Delay is a virtual denial of obedience. The angel told Zacharias, “I am Gabriel that stand in the presence of God:” it implies his prepared disposition to receive and perform all his commands. It is said, “ they hearken to the voice of his word;" the first signification of his will puts them in motion. They entirely obey him ; there is no alloy, no mixture of contraries in their principles, nothing suspends or breaks the entireness of their activity in God's service. They obey him with all their powers, and the utmost efficacy of them. It is said, “He makes his angels spirits, his ministers a flame of fire :" to signify their celerity and vigour in doing God's will. They Ay like the wind, to rescue the saints from imminent destructive evils; and like a flame of fire, are quick and terrible to consume the wicked. They fully perform his commands: the two angels that were sent to preserve Lot from the destruction of Sodom, while he lingered, they took him by the hand, and brought him out of the city, and would not destroy it till he was safe. They freely and cheerfully obey God, esteeming his service their glory and felicity. They are styled “ Thrones and dominions, principalities and powers ;” but they are more pleased in the title of his angels; that is, messengers, and in the relation o. his servants. They esteem it their highest exaltation and happiness to obey God. They with as much diligence and delight watch over the meanest saints, though never so obscure and despicable in the world, as those who are in royal dignity; because they in it obey the orders of God. They are steady and uniform in their duty, above all temptations from hopes or fears that may slacken their endeavours, and unstring the bent of their resolutions in his service. There is an eternal constancy in their obedience.

It may be said, this example is above our level in the present state: our wings are broke, we flag, and cannot reach so high a flight. We sometimes conceive more clearly, sometimes more darkly of our duty: we are sometimes declining, sometimes reviving and returning to our duty: we do not practise obedience with that degree of diligence as it is commanded. The weakness of the flesh controls the willingness of the Spirit. How should it upbraid us, that we fall so short in the imitation of angelical obedience, who are under equal, nay peculiar obligations to please God? The grace of God in our redemption, is more illustriously visible than in their creation: the goodness of God was most free in making the angels; but it is merciful in saving man from extreme misery, the desert of his disobedience. The divine power made the angels, but men are redeemed by the dearest price, the blood of the Son of God. In this God commended his love to us, " that when we were sinners, he gave his Son to die for us." Now beneficence is magnified by the principle and motive of it; gifts are endeared by the affection of the giver, and ingenuous thankfulness chiefly respects it. All the precious benefits, and vital influences, that we receive, are from the dearest love of God: supposing the angels receive as great favours from his bountiful hand, yet there is a clearer discovery of his heart, his tender and compassionate love in our salvation. How should this consideration inspire our prayers with a holy heat, that God would enlighten our minds to know his holy, acceptable and perfect will; and incline our wills to choose it, and enable us to do it, as the angels, the most illuminate and zealous servants of God ?

(4.) The scripture has lighted up excellent examples of holiness in the lives of the saints upon earth, for our direction and imitation. There is a great advantage by looking on examples : they are more instructive than naked precepts, and more clearly convey the knowledge of our duty. A work done in our sight by another, directs us better in the practice of it, is more acceptable, and of more powerful efficacy to reform us, than counsel and admonition by words. A reproof, if spoken with an imperious air, wherein vanity has a visible ascendant, is heard with distaste, and often with disdain; but an excellent example is a silent reproof, not directed immediately to irregular persons, but discovers what ought to be done, and leaves the application to themselves, and the impression is more quick and penetrating than of words. In difficult precepts, no argument is more effectual than examples; for the possibility of doing them is confirmed by instances in others; and the pretence of infirmity is taken away. The command binds us to our duty, example encourages us to performance. The pattern of the angels, who are pure spirits, is not so influential upon us, as the pattern of the saints, that is more correspondent and proportionate to our present state; as the light of the stars, that are so vastly distant, is not so useful in managing our affairs, as the light of a candle that is near us. The saints are nearly allied to us; they are clothed with the same frail garment of flesh, they had like passions, and were in the same contagious world, yet they were holy and heavenly in their affections and actions : they lived in civil conversation with men, and spiritual communion with God. This will take away the pretence of infirmity; for we have the same word of grace, and spirit of grace to strengthen us.

The practice of holiness is regular and uniform, wherein the saints resemble one another; yet there is a conspicuous singularity of active or suffering graces in some saints, that eminently distinguish them from others; and these we should especially regard. “ Enoch walked with God:” his life was a continual regard of God, therefore he was translated into his glorious pre

Abraham's faith was illustrious, in that without reluctancy, he addressed himself to offer up his beloved son; a command so heavy, that God would not permit his performing it. Moses' self-denial was truly admirable, in choosing to live in a solitary naked desert, rather than in the Egyptian court, wherein was the height of pomp, and the centre of pleasure. Job's patience was unparalleled, when encompassed with the sharpest affliction. Daniel preferred a den of lions to Darius' palace, rather than neglect one day his desired duty of prayer to God. Whom would it not inflame to read the narrative of the trials of the excellent saints recorded in the 11th to the Hebrews ? They were persecuted and patient, afflicted and resigned; they were victorious over the blandishments of the alluring world, * and the terrors of the enraged world: from those instances, the apostle exhorts us to “run our race with patience, looking to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.” The knowledge that is in our view from the practice of others, will make obedience more easy, and best lead us to practice. * These excellent examples should make us blush with shame, and bleed with grief, that notwithstanding there is a more copious communication of grace by the gospel, tnan under the law, and a more clear revelation of the glorious reward, we are so many degrees below them. Nothing will convince us more of our negligence, than comparative and exemplary instruction. There is an envious emulation among those that are in public places; it is not so pleasing to see many below them, as it is uneasy and grievous to see any above them. This seems to be one of those plants, that in its native soil is poisonous, but transplanted into another climate, and under another heaven, is not only innocent, but healthful. It is a noble emulation worthy the breast of a saint, to strive to excel others in holiness.

* Cur ergo ad excusationes proni, quæ fortiora sunt non intuemur ?

sence.

VOL. II.

нь

Our present joy, and future glory, are improved according as we rise to perfection here. The life of a saint may be compared to the labour of the bees, who all the day either fly from their hives to the flowers, or from the flowers to their hives ; and all their art and exercise is, where there is fragrancy or sweetness. In divine worship the soul ascends to God, by holy thoughts and ardent desires, and God descends into the soul, by the communication of grace and comfort.

It is true the carnal man cannot see nor taste the divine delight, that a saint has real experience of; for a lower nature is incapable of the perceptions and enjoyments of a higher : a plant cannot apprehend the pleasure of sense, nor a beast the pleasures of reason ; and reason must be prepared and elevated to enjoy the pleasures of holiness, which makes all the charming contents of this world insipid and nauseous : for according to the excellency of the objects, and the capacity and vigour of the faculties exercised upon them, such is the delight that results from their uni

The holy soul is a heaven enlightened with the beams of the Sun of Righteousness; a paradise planted with immortal

on.

* Nemo eorum qui in republica versantur, quos viocant sed a quibus vincitur, aspicit: et illis non tam jucundum est multos post se videre, quan grave aliquem ante se. Sen, Ep. 73.

« EdellinenJatka »