Obrázky na stránke

postrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured.” When he condescended to manifest himself to individuals, he appeared in milder glory, and assumed either the form of him who was created in his own image, or the appearance of one of his heavenly retinue. Parkhurst remarks on the word molak, that it was Jehovah's agent, personator, means of visibility, or action; what was employed by God to render himself visible and approachable by flesh and blood.

2d, The word angel, it must be recollected, is a term descriptive of office, and not of nature. From it alone we can learn nothing as to the nature, dignity, or character of the messenger. It is applied to inanimate, as well as animated beings--to the powers of darkness, as well as to the ministering servants of Jehovah—to persons employed in no higher office than that of spies, and to the most dignified of celestial spirits who execute the plans of the Almighty. It is applied with equal propriety to the vilest of the emissaries of Satan, and to him who was the glorious shining forth, and who was sent to fulfil his Father's will. All we can know from the term itself is, that it is some person or thing, sent to execute the purpose of another. The nature, character, or dignity of the messenger, must be derived from other circumstances.

3d, In the accounts we have gone over, we see that the same individual is at one time called a man, at another an angel; then the angel of the Lord, and finally Jehovah. From this, I think we may conclude, that the appearance generally assumed was that of man, surrounded occasionally with some kind of glory or splendour, which indicated a superiority to human nature, and in which the divine

presence for the time dwelt.

4th, We see also, that though the individual to whom the messenger was sent, might for a short time be ignorant of the character of him who appeared; yet, before the messenger departed, he had such evidence afforded him, as left no room to hesitate about giving divine worship, and applying to him divine

These were never refused, as we find angels afterwards doing, which is a strong presumption, nay, I night say, a conclusive proof of the Divinity of those who appeared to the patriarchs.

5th, Again, these appearances did not produce fear or terror, at least not in the same degree as some other manifestations of the presence of God did. Perhaps this was owing, in some measure, to the Patriarchs being ignorant for a time of the real .character of him whom they saw, or to the glory of the di. vine nature being coneealed under the form that was assumed; or because they had more frequent intercourse with heaven,


than their descendants afterwards had, which rendered conversation with God less extraordinary and terrific.

These appearances, for the most part, were at an early period of the world. Their object, in general, was discovery and mercy; and aš the revelation of the divine will and the grand scheme of mercy became more complete, they became less and less frequent; and finally ceased, when the last angel sent by the Lord God of the hoiy prophets, announced to John the things which were shortly to be done, and threatened a dreadful judgment against any man who should either take from or aild to the things which were written in the book. The Redeemer's personal presence is new confined to heaven, sill the times of the restitution of all things. His word, which has long been completed, is the light of our feet, and the lamp of our path. To his throne of grace we have constant access; angels, autkorities, and powers, are all made subject to him; and though invisible, angels are now ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to the heirs of salvation.

It will now be proper to attempt to obviate a few difficulties or objections which may be started on this subjcct.

On any view of it, it may be asked how do we account for these spiritual beings partaking of refreshments? It will be admitted they were not flesh and blood, of course could not stand in need of meat or drink. I account for their eating and drinking, just as I account for the form they assumed. They did not really possess human nature, they only appeared so 10 do. So I say, respecting their eating and drinking, with Josephus, they made a show of doing it. The whole I consider to have been a deceptio visus, the principles of which I do not pretend to explain.

It may be objected to our views of these appearances, that he apostle calls them angels, Heb xiii. 2, and, in the 2d chap. of the same epistle, contrasts what was formerly spoken hy angels, with what was afterwards spoken by our Lord. In replý to the first objection, I refer to my second general observation that the word angel, is not descriptive of nature, but of office. In answer to the second, that the apostle is not speaking of the appearances we have been considering, but is contrasting the manner in which the law was given, with the giving of the gospel. In three several places of the New Testament, the Jaw is said to have been given by angels, by the ministry, or disposition of angels. It is certain that God was the author of the law, as well as the gospel ; but in giving the former, he employed creatures—in giving the latter, his only Son. I should not have noticed the objection from these passages, had they not been urged by Mr. Pierce, the learned author of commenLaries on some of Pauls epistles. I know it has often been

said, that the angels spoke in the name or person of Jehovah but this is utterly inconsistent both with their own language, and the language of the latriarchs and Moses concerning them.

3. It may be objected, that the occasion of some of these appearances was not sufficiently important, to warrant us ir thinking that God himself would appear. We ought to remember that we are very bad judges of what it is proper for God to do, or when it is becoming in liim to interfere. It is only from what he has done, that we can determine any thing concerning what it may be proper for him to do. It has been objected with the same plausibility, that it is not likely that God would have occupied almost the whole of the first book of Scripture, in recording the family occurrences and broils of the l'atriarchs. The fact is, the world was then in its family state, and Jehovah condescended to act as its head.

4. It may be urged, that appearing in a visible form was calculated to encourage idolatry, and give men gross conceptions of the divine nature. The same objection will equally hold against the incarnation of Christ; and these appearances had no greater tendency to produce gross notions of God, than the scenes described in the following passages. Exod. xxiv. 9-11. Ezek. i. 26_-28. Dan. vii. 9, 10. Rev. iv. 2, 3. These are the most plausible objections that have occurred to myself. They are not very formidable, nor do they seem to affect our general views of the subject.

4th, I was lastly to assign some reasons for God's appearing in this manner at that time. Here I shall be very brief. By appearing in a visible form, he showed the deep interest he fest in the happiness and safety of his people, and in the affairs of the world at large. Such appearances had a powerful tendency to increase the confidence of the patriarchs in his protection, to strengthen their faith in his promises, and to induce more frequent intercourse with heaven. They were calculated to prevent the discoreries which he made from time to time being soon forgotten. Of how much importance this was, we must judge from the nature of the revelations, and the want of means to commit them to writing. A vision or an appearance produced a more durable impression, than the oracle of a living prophet could have done. Jehovah thus afforded some faint idea of the nature of his future appearance in the world, to make a full atonement for sin; when he was not to descend and suddenly to vanish, but to become flesh, and dwell among us. Finally, that when this great event, the incarnation, should take place, it might appear less extraordinary, and meet with more ready reception. The Jews all believed that God had often appeared to their Fathers; and the Gentile mythology was full of accounts of the actions of their gods on earth. The belief of the Jews, and the accounts of the Gentiles, were both derived, though in different ways, from the same sources. None of them questioned the probability of God's appearing among men; they only objected to Jesus of Nazareth being considered a divine person. Happily for us, this appearance of God, our Saviour, is more interesting in its nature, and more abundant in its evidence, than the “ angel visits few and far between,” that we have been considering." Without controversy, great is the 'mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified by the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory."



Who knows what is good for man in this life ?" Our incompetency to determine what mode of treatment on the part of Divine Providence is really best for us, during this transitory life, admits of ample and easy proof; but is not, we fear, sufficiently considered. We are by no means apt, indeed, to suspect the accuracy of our own judgments in this matter; like inexperienced children, we imagine no one can be so good a judge of what is proper for us as ourselves; and, what may seem somewhat remarkable, those who have the greatest reason to distrust themselves are generally the most confident. As a due consideration of this subject will tend to diminish our too high opinion of our own judgment in this case, to promote in our minds a becoming self-diffidence, and thus induce us more implicitly to submit to the sovereign disposals of Him who cannot err, we wish, for a few minutes, to draw the attention of our readers to it.

The portion of Scripture we have taken as a motto, naturally leads our thoughts to this subject, as it clearly implies our incompetency to pronounce with certainty, what is or what is not good for us in the present state.

" Who knows what is good for man in this life, all the days of this vain life which he spendeth as a shadow ?" But before we proceed to the direct proof of this doctrine, it may not be unprofitable to state what we do know in relation to it ; or, in other words, to shew how far, by the combiņed aid of Scripture and experience, we can · proceed with tolerable certainty in this enquiry. And

First, We are sure that nothing is really good for us, which is prejudicial to our highest interest. During our abode on earth, we have, as this remark implies, two distinct interests

to attend to; one of which has respect to the life which not is, the other to that which is to come. Now, as the latter of these two interests, which we have called our highest interest, is infinitely more important than the former, it follows, that if they ever happen to clash, so that the things which are favourable to the former, be detrimental to the latter," these things are not in reality good for us. Because, thoughi advantageous in one respect, they are injurious in another, and the injury they occasion, greatly outweighs the benefit they confer. It is upon this principle that our Lord declares, in effect, that the acquisition of the whole world would not compensate the loss of the soul; and on tlie same principle we safely assert :-hat whatever injures the soul in a spiritual respect, or puts its immortal welfare to hazard, must, on the whole, be injurious to us, even though in other respects, it be · very advantageous. To this conclusion, no one who believes the gospel, can withhold his assent; and it is applicable to. every connexion, every situation, every profession, every enjoyment, and indeed, to every event and circumstance in life. The great question with respect to them all, is; how far are they calculated to promote the interest of the soul: for only so far, are they really good for us.

Secondly, Many things good in their own nature, and perfectly congenial to our wishes, may yet not be good for us ; bee cause prejudicial to the soul. Prior to all experience, and in. dependently of the aid of Scripture, we probably should not have-formed this opinion: for our judgments being much swayed by our feelings, we seldom suspect that the things which give us much pleasure and no pain, can be attended with danger. But Scripture and experience correct this error, and clearly teach us that from those very things which are most agreeable to our wishes, the greatest danger is to be ap prehended. To instance in one case only; a state of great affluence, or wordly prosperity, is generally classed among the first of earthly blessings; many eagerly covet after such a state, and few, very few contemplate it with any serious apprehension; but the Scripture holds a language in relation to it, which is enough to fill the mind with alarm; and very general experience proves; that in this case, the Scripture does not speak in vain, or without sufficient reason. 66 How huruly shall they that have riches, enter into the kingdom of God; it is easier for a Camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven!" “ Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not led away with uncertain riches." “ Which some having eagerly coveted after, have pierced themselves through with many sorrows." In this stile, the Scripture uniformly speaks on this VOL. II.No. 4.


[ocr errors]
« PredošláPokračovať »