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Good Words 1860
Joy Among The Angels


How significant and affecting are those words of our Saviour, "There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth!" How difficult it is to realise the truth that we are so eminently the objects of interest to those exalted beings. From the lofty position which they occupy —in the wide field over which their eye ranges— amid the countless worlds which perform their revolutions within sight of heaven's battlements, over which they cast their inquiring glance, or fly with unwearied wing—amid those worlds, in that vast field, from that elevated position, how insignificant must our world appear to them! An almost imperceptible speck on that shining veil which Jehovah has thrown around the brow of night! Nay, a solitary grain amid the sands of a desert! Its extinction fitted to produce no greater commotion among other worlds, and to leave no greater blank, than the fall of a leaf among the trees of the forest! And yet they not only watch the course of that world, and acquaint themselves with its history, but are so interested in each individual of the species by which it is peopled, that its motions exert an influence on their feelings; and on the reconciliation of one to God, a new current of joy is made to circulate throughout all their ranks. I almost tremble to think that I am the centre of such influences. I am astounded when I read the conjectures of philosophers, and recognise, at least, their possible truth—how, every time I plant my foot upon the earth, I produce an impression which affects every atom in its enormous mass—how my words and motions, the very respirations of my breath, produce vibrations in the atmosphere which flow all round the world—how my actions, whether good or bad, may be imprinted by the rays of light on the surrounding ether—and how, long after their performance, there may exist pictures of them, on which the inhabitants of other worlds may gaze,— I am astounded at the mere possibility of such a thing. But how overwhelming is it to be assured, not of the possibility, but of the fact, that, by mysterious ties, I am linked to those exalted beings who surround the throne of the Eternal—that currents of influence pass imperceptibly between me and them—that they watch my course, that they hail every step of the way by which I return into a state of allegiance to their King, and that, when my reconciliation is effected, a message of congratulation and triumph is published throughout their innumerable hosts, augmenting their joy, and giving a new impulse to their ceaseless song of praise! They saw my wanderings; they lamented my fall; they mourned over my vacant place at my Father's board; they were grieved for my wasted powers—powers, which might have honoured God, perverted to His dishonour; they felt pity for my misery; and when they see the wanderer return, the fallen one restored, the son seated at his Father's table, his faculties employed in promoting his Father's honour, the prodigal rejoicing in his Father's love, the event creates "joy in heaven"— joy throughout the length and breadth of the paradise of God—joy from the centre to the circumference of sinless creation—joy through the universe of unfallen worlds. There is "joy on the throne, in the heart of the mighty God himself, —deep, unutterable, wondrous joy in the bosom of Jehovah." And that joy circulates through all orders of being—from the principalities and powers in heavenly places, to the spirits that minister to the heirs of salvation. God gives the key-note, and then

"The jubilant song swells circling through the courts
Of everlasting joy, like a round wave,
Till it pervades all life, and floods the stars
On the unlimited eye-line of pure space."

"There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth."

It is hardly possible that a truth so sublime as this can be pondered, or even recognised by us, without giving rise to thoughts and feelings, in which it may be well briefly to indulge.

In the first place—though not from the order in which it arises in the mind, but because of its importance, do we give it the precedence of others— we are led to think of the grandeur of the plan of salvation. We must ever connect with that plan the interest felt in our recovery by the inhabitants of other worlds. But for it man could not have been restored to God's favour on any principle which would have rendered his restoration a source of joy to angels. But for the provision which is there made for the vindication of God's character, and the manifestation of God's righteousness, man's restoration, could we suppose it to have taken place, would have proved to them an occasion of the profoundest grief. And their joy over our repentance is to be attributed still more, perhaps, to their interest in the success of the plan of salvation, as an illustrious display of the Divine glory, than to their benevolent regard for our welfare. They desire to look into these things, we are told; and, doubtless, that which prompts their desire is the fact, elsewhere made known to us, that through the cross is manifested, to the principalities and powers in heavenly places, the manifold wisdom of God. Thus the scheme of redemption is lifted into a high place among the works of God. Calvary may be said to become the centre of the universe. And that point of time distinguished by the Saviour's death is the grand epoch of eternity. God's eternal purposes found their consummation there. Spiritual forces, which shall exert an influence on all coming ages, and throughout all the ranks of creation, were generated there. Not to us only do its bearings extend, but to every part of the peopled universe. To this point the eyes of all beings are directed. There, lines of attention from all worlds converge. And though the loftiest creature cannot fathom its wondrous depths, though an archangel's mind cannot solve its mysteries, they learn enough to confirm them in their allegiance, and to strengthen the ties which bind them to the throne of God. If it be our redemption, it is their preservation. If it brings salvation to us, it imparts security to them. If it leads us back to our Father's house and our Father's arms, it keeps them there—affording them that most illustrious display of the Divine perfections, which deepens their adoration, and quickens the burning seal with which, on wings of love, and with the joy which renders their service its own reward, they hasten to fulfil the high behests, and to celebrate the glories of their King. Oh! man may make light of it—man for whom it was devised— man whom it most deeply concerns—man who needs it most; but never will those exalted beings make light of, or cease to be interested in, the scheme which the great Father has devised for the recovery—the righteous recovery—of his lost and ruined child.

Again, in the second place, we are naturally led to inquire if those exalted beings do not perform some office or render some service in order to the promotion of the object in which they are so interested. If they have such a regard for our welfare—if our salvation affords them so much joy— we should suppose that, in case of opportunity being granted them, they do something to further the accomplishment of what they so eagerly desire. And, accordingly, it is a doctrine of Scripture that the ministry of angels is one of the privileges of those who become sons of God. "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to them who shall be heirs of salvation?" "The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them." "It is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee : and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone." When the prophet was surrounded with the armies of the king, and his servant was alarmed for his safety, relying on unseen protection, he answered him, "They that be with us are more than they that be with them." And did not the same beings visit Abraham?—deliver Lot from Sodom?—minister to Jacob? Were they not on Sinai when Moses received the law? Did they not go before Joshua as the captain of the Lord's hosts! Was it not an angel that destroyed the army of Sennacherib, and freed Palestine from its invaders? Did they not convey messages to Daniel, attend his brethren in the fiery furnace, and himself in the lions' den? Appeared they not to Zacharias in the temple, and to Joseph in a dream? Did they not salute Mary as the mother of the Lord, announce His birth to the shepherds, strengthen Him in His agony, roll the stone from the sepulchre, smite the persecuting Herod, and rescue Peter from prison? And, in a word, time would fail to tell of all the services they have rendered to the Church throughout past ages. It is true, we do not see them now. We trace not their steps to the door of any human dwelling. No gleam of light from angel pinion flashes through the darkness. No angel form is seen speeding across the distant horizon. No rustling of their wings is heard amid the stillness of night. No echo of their song is wafted to our ears. And shall we, therefore, conclude that their services have ceased?— that

"They have all within the veil departed—
That no angel wing e'er cleaves the empyrean now—
That many a tear from human eye has started,
Since angel's touch has calm'd a mortal brow?"

That were hardly in keeping with what the Scriptures tell us of the superiority of the present dispensation. That were hardly in keeping with the assertion of Paul, that they are "ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to them who shall be heirs of salvation." No; though invisible to the eye of sense, to the eye of faith they are still with us. It was only on special occasions, under the former dispensation, that they assumed a visible form, and spoke in an audible voice; but though unseen and unheard, their services were unremitting. And though we see them not, and hear not their voice, still do they hover around us, still do they wing their flight from their seats on high to visit our earthly dwellings. The very fact that we need their services as much as ever, that they are not less interested in our welfare, or in the triumph of Christ, that the present is an age of superior privilege—these facts are enough to assure us that God still sends them forth on errands of mercy. "He gives them charge over us." He makes them the mediums of the succour which He sends. Do they never support us, think you, when trials press heavily? When our work overtasks our strength, do they never strengthen the weak hands and confirm the feeble knees? Do they never, with fingers of light, smooth the brow which has been wrinkled by care? Oh, yes ! many times do they minister thus, even to the lowliest saint.

"Full oft do they their silver bowers leave,
To come to succour us that succour want!
Full oft do they with golden pinions cleave
The flitting skies like flying pursuivant,
Against foul fiends to aid us militant!
They for us fight, they watch and duly ward,
And their bright squadrons round about us plant;
And all for love, and nothing for reward:
Oh why should heavenly God to man have such regard!"

But this leads me to the third thought—the thought to which our minds most readily revert, when we contemplate the interest felt by other beings in the salvation of man—viz., the greatness of the human soul. Those exalted beings are not deceived by appearances as we are. They estimate things according to their real value. Too penetrating in their vision, capable of rising too high above the earth, to be imposed on by its vain show, they look only at the reality of things. The events which occupy the attention of the world, the pursuits in which men are so much engrossed, the fluctuations of the share market, the business transacted on 'Change, the struggles of contending armies, the jarrings of political parties, the rise and fall of governments, the overthrow of dynasties— these possess but little interest. They are more concerned in the struggles which take place in far humbler arenas. There is more to attract their attention in the spiritual experiences of some poor man whom the world proudly passes by. Over the closet where he groans in spirit, and drops the penitential tear, they bend with intense interest. They watch with eager sympathy his struggles to break the chains of habit. They would still their harps to catch the first accents of prayer that fell from his lips. They attach more importance to those new thoughts which are dawning on his understanding, and to those new feelings which are rising on his soul, and to that new purpose which takes possession of his will and bends his being to its control, than to the consultations of cabinets or the decrees of kings. And though they would not halt in their flight to notice the proudest pageant on which royalty ever gazed, and would make no mention of an empire's fall, when the spiritual life in that man's soul rises into existence—when he stands with tearful eye surveying the past, and casts a hopeful, resolute glance into the future— when the devil has been expelled and God has taken possession of his soul—when, his enmity to God subdued, he enters a forgiven sinner into His service,—then they are so interested that one communicates to another the tidings of the event, and louder and higher swells the stream of praise, which they are ever sending up to the eternal throne. For why? That soul which has been the subject of the change is more enduring than all material things. Those thoughts and feelings will outlive the stars. The influence of that change will be felt in the highest heaven, and to the furthest limits of intelligent creation, while eternity endures. That man is a greater thing than all the kingdoms of the world, and all the glory of them. He will bear God's image, and dwell in God's presence, and enjoy God's perfections, and celebrate God's praise, when the riches, and the rank, and the crowns, and the kingdoms, and the thrones of the world are no more. Oh, let the interests which angels take in my salvation teach me the worth and dignity of my own nature! Let it teach me that there is something better for me than ought that is earthly—that I am fitted for a higher destiny than to eat and drink and die. And oh, let me act such a part as will give joy to those beings who are so interested in my welfare. May their harps never be silent, may their eyes never droop for me ! May my course be such as will minister to their gratification, giving them ever new confidence, and new reason for rejoicing that " the dead is alive, and the lost found!"

Finally, we see how important and glorious is the work of winning souls. When we take any part, however humble, in bringing sinners to the Saviour, our endeavours are in harmony with angel sympathies, our success ministers to angel joy. The minister of the gospel, the teacher in the Sabbath school, the tract distributor, with all who in any way take part in this work, are augmenting heaven's joy; and when permitted to enter heaven, they will find its happiness greater for what they themselves have done. Oh, what an honour to be permitted to take a part, however humble, in a work so glorious—a work in which angels are our fellow-labourers! And how much greater is the honour, when we remember that the joy of angels is a joy in which the Lord participates? He is interested in our efforts. He rejoices over our success. My brother, thou art disheartened with the difficulty of the work, and thy tardy progress. But take courage. ''Be not weary in well-doing, for in due season thou shalt reap if thou faint not." Even the smallest amount of success will yield thee a glorious reward. For the highest luxury which a soul can know is, to enter a heaven whose inhabitants it has helped to multiply, and thus begemmed the crown and augmented the joy of its King.


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