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him shall be gathered all nations; and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats.' Again (Matt. xxvi. 53), speaking to Peter: 'Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?' Furthermore, we read (Heb. i. 14): 'Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?'
These passages (and many more might be quoted) would appear to show that, according to the Scriptures, the angels take a very prominent part in the administration of the universe under the direction of the Son of God. They are his ministers, his messengers, who execute his decrees and perform his errands, whether of mercy or of justice. Therefore it is said of Christ, 'Thou art the King of angels;' and of himself in his glorified state, speaking to his disciples, Christ says (Matt. xxviii. 18): ‘All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.'
Let us close these quotations by one from the Old Testament-2 Kings vi. 15-17: And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host encompassed the city both with horses and chariots: and his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do? And he answered, Fear not; for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, and
said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man: and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.'
Finally, it is the belief of a large portion of the Christian Church that the Spirit of God dwells in and acts upon the souls of believers. This action represents the influence which reaches the soul of man from the unseen, enabling him to live for the unseen.
250. We have in our opening chapter quoted a very remarkable passage from Swedenborg upon the particular nature of God's providence. Let us now hear what the Scriptures say upon the same subject. Christ tells us (Luke xii. 6): Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.' Again, St. Paul tells us (Rom. viii. 28): 'And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.' Also (Rom. viii. 38): 'For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.'
251. We think it may be concluded from all these passages that the doctrine of a particular providence is taught in the Scriptures. Nevertheless it is one of the hardest things to understand how this doctrine can be made consistent with the working out of general laws which, so far as we can study them,
appear to have no reference whatever to individuals. This was a difficulty intensely felt by the late John Stuart Mill. He says, in a work published after his death :
'For how stands the fact? That, next to the greatness of these cosmic forces, the quality which most forcibly strikes every one who does not avert his eyes from it is their perfect and absolute recklessness. They go straight to their end without regarding what or whom they crush on the road. Optimists, in their attempts to prove that "whatever is, is right," are obliged to maintain, not that Nature ever turns one step from her path to avoid trampling us into destruction, but that it would be very unreasonable in us to expect that she should. Pope's "Shall gravitation cease when you go by?" may be a just rebuke to any one who should be so silly as to expect common human morality from Nature. But if the question were between two men, instead of between a man and a natural phenomenon, that triumphant apostrophe would be thought a rare piece of impudence. A man who should persist in hurling stones or firing cannon when another man goes by," and, having killed him, should urge a similar plea in exculpation, would very deservedly be found guilty of murder. In sober truth, nearly all the things which men are hanged or imprisoned for doing to one another are Nature's every-day performances.'
This objection to belief in the reality of the government of God has been clothed in very eloquent language in a sermon by the Rev. James Martineau : -The battle of existence' (he tells us, putting himself for the moment into the position of Mill and his school) 'rages through all time and in every field; and its rule is to give no quarter-to despatch the maimed, to overtake the halt, to trip up the blind, and drive the fugitive host over the precipice into the sea.'
In very beautiful language the poet Tennyson, after proposing the same riddle, replies to it thus :
'Are God and Nature then at strife
That Nature lends such evil dreams?
"So careful of the type"? but no.
O life as futile, then, as frail !
O for thy voice to soothe and bless!
In another passage of equal beauty the same poet expresses his conviction
'That nothing walks with aimless feet :
That not a worm is cloven in vain ;
Is shrivel'd in a fruitless fire,
Professor Jevons, again, in his Principles of Science (vol. ii. p. 468) alludes in the following terms to this difficulty: The hypothesis, that there is a Creator, at once all-powerful and all-benevolent, is surrounded, as it must seem to every candid investigator, with difficulties verging closely upon logical contradiction. The existence of the smallest amount of pain and evil would seem to show that He is either not perfectly benevolent, or not all-powerful. No one can have lived long without experiencing sorrowful events of
which the significance is inexplicable. But if we cannot succeed in avoiding contradiction in our notions of elementary geometry, can we expect that the ultimate purposes of existence shall present themselves to us with perfect clearness? I can see nothing to forbid the notion that in a higher state of intelligence much that is now obscure may become clear. We perpetually find ourselves in the position of finite minds attempting infinite problems, and can we be sure that where we see contradiction an infinite intelligence might not discover perfect logical harmony?'
252. Before we leave this subject there is one consideration which ought not to be forgotten. It is evident that the development of the visible universe is of such a nature that we can understand it, and to a great extent explain it by means of laws and processes with which we are familiar: nay, the order of the universe is something which it is our very duty to investigate. But the result of our inquiry is, and can only be, the appretiation of general laws of action. The working out of these laws can have, from this point of view, no possible reference to individual interests. If gravity acted sometimes, and at other times refrained from acting, we could derive no certain information from our experience; we could not advance in art or science, and should infallibly be plunged into speedy confusion. Nevertheless, it is not impossible that the occurrences which take place through the action of gravity may, after all, be so arranged as to have reference to the real welfare of individuals, although this reference may not be apparent because we are not in a position to recognise it, and it is not intended that we should do so, at least