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and furnishings of Christ out of his resurrection, power, and glory; saying, Eph. iv. 7, “ But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now, that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth ? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave some, apostles ; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,” &c. [for I cannot quote all this glorious passage.]—It appeareth from this passage (1) That the grace which every one possesseth, he receiveth from Christ out of that fulness which he received from the Father upon his ascension. It becomes a gift to us, in consequence of its being first a gift from the Faiher to Him. Doth not this prove that he emptied himself of his Divinity in order to become man; which having done for the glory of the Father's name, that same Father for whom he had become emptied did fill the emptiness of his manhood, did strengthen its weakness, did glorify its vileness. (“I am a worm, and no man,” Psal. xxii.) From the moment of his conception he did so; sanctifying and perfecting that body which he had taken, and at his resurrection did endow bim with the power of endowing others, of quickening them, of enriching them, and finally bringing them to the inheritance of his glory.—(2) That when Christ had received the promised Spirit upon his resurrection from the dead, and would communicate it to as many as the Father should give him, he doth it not by a promiscuous, evenhanded, equal distribution, but by constituting an endowed class, through whom the endowment of the
should proceed. He constituted Apostles, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers, by gifts of the Holy Ghost, and gave these gifted men to the church, that, through their labours in the work of the ministry, bis whole body might be edified and reared up to perfection. To this same effect it is written in the last words of the Gospel by Matthew, that he came and spake unto his eleven disciples, saying,
All power is given to me in heaven and in earth.
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations.... And lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” This was spoken in the understanding that they were to wait in Jerusalem till they should receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, Acts i. 4,5: “Commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye bave heard of me. For John truly baptized with water ; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost, not many days hence.” And again, ver. 8: “ But
after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you : and ye shall be witnesses unto me, both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” The power which Christ received, “ all power in heaven and in earth," he doth at present put forth in the Holy Spirit, and the residue he retaineth in his hand until he shall come in the glory of his power. And the power of the Holy Spirit,-be it knowledge, be it holiness, be it healing, be it love, be it any gift whatever,—he communicates to the church through the means of the pastors and ministers of the church, (if so be that the offices of Evangelist and Apostle have ceased); he doth not scatter it promiscuously, but he gathereth it into the spring heads of living men, and the cisterns of visible ordinances, that he may keep up the form and body of government and obedience in the church till he come again.
Seeing, then, that this truth is both evidenced in the instance of the Apocalypse, and broadly stated as the universal rule, both in the Epistle to the Ephesians and other parts of Scripture, we are naturally led to expect that the angel to whom Christ committed the ministry of this gift, and who brought it to the vision and apprehension of the Apostle John, should stand closely related, in some way or other, to that church which is his fulness, to those men for whom he hath received gifts ; and, as he is manifestly a celestial and not a terrestrial person, that he is one of the church in heaven, whom Christ sent on this high and holy legation. I say this is the natural inference from the general doctrine stated in Scripture, concerning the end for which he hath received the resurrection-glory, and the persons by whom he dispenseth them. It is further evident, in a negative way, from certain things which are testified in various parts of Scripture, concerning the invisible beings commonly designated Angels, of whom it is not any where said that they teach any thing to the church ; but in one place it is revealed that they learn from the church (Eph. iii. 10); where the Apostle declares, that he received his commission and his instructions as an apostle, not only for the sake of the church, but for the sake of the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, who learn from the church the manifold wisdom of God. The order of revelation is not from the angels to the apostles, and thence to the church ; but from the apostles to the church, and thence to the angels. And agreeably hereto it is written (1 Peter i. 12), that the angels desire to look into those things which had been openly preached by the apostles unto the church; and such would not be their desire if they knew them already most perfectly, and had received them at first hand from Christ to bring them unto the apostles. But that which sets my mind at rest, both with respect to the inferiority and posteriority of the angels to the church in this particular, is the continual declaration of Scripture, that while the angels and principalities are under him, the church is his body and his fulness (Eph. i. 22). Now, what is meant by the body, if it be not that to which the head directly communicates its purpose, and through the organs of which it makes it known ? And how would the church be his fulness, if others knew more than she doth of his mind, from whence she receiveth it by distribution ? And how should knowledge pass from the head to the outward object, without passing through the body; and how return to the body again, without the consciousness of the head ? It is absolutely necessary for the substantiating of that relation of unity which the church standeth in to Christ, to believe that there is the most entire consciousness between the one and the other, without the intervention of a third party. Be it now observed, for the completeness of this idea, that the church is not two; one in heaven, and another on earth ; one indolent and inactive in heaven, the other active and militant on the earth : neither is the church cut asunder into two parts, because the one is within the veil -and the other without it; but the church is essentially one and indivisible, whether on earth or in
heaven; and it is this one body of the elect and saved which constitutes Christ's fulness. So far, therefore, from expecting that Christ should fulfil his function of High Priest and mediatorial King without the disembodied part of the church, by the embodied part of the church alone, I believe that such an idea is utterly subversive of the glory of the church, and contradictory to the tenor of Scripture, and especially of this revelation of Jesus Christ, as we shall have ample opportunities of shewing at large. At present, it belongs to our subject to shew that the angel through whom Christ shewed these things to John, is one of the disembodied church. When this celestial messenger, this legate a latere of our great Priest and King, had executed his commission, he doth thus describe himself, Rev. xxii. 9: “I am thy fellow-servant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them wbich keep the sayings of this book.” A question might be made with respect to the grammatical construction both of the English version, and of the original, whether the thing here declared be that he was one of the brotherhood of the Prophets, or that he was a fellow-servant with John and with them. I incline to receive the former interpretation as the just one, and to believe the sense of the passage to be, that he was John's fellow-servant, of John's brethren the prophets, and of the company of the church who observed or kept the words of this book; expressing three things thereby : the first, That he might not be worshipped, being himself a servant such as John ; the second, That his office while on earth had been to prophesy; and the third, That in the state where now he was, he was an observer of the words of this book, which, all neglected as it is on earth, hath the special observation of the church in heaven. If any one should prefer the other interpretation ; though it will not bear all this information, it will bear thus much, that he was a fellow-servant with the beloved disciple, and with his brethren the prophets, and with those who kept the words of this book. And even this, as it appears to me, is conclusive as to his being one of the church; for though angels be called ministering spirits (Heb.i. 14), they are not called God's servants, (dovdol to 0€w)—which expression is given to the church (ver. 1) to whom the prophecy was con
signed by God, ---but ministering spirits (Nectopyia Tvevmara, spirits of the liturgy, i. e. whose office is connected with the service of God, and how connected is straightway told us,) sent forth unto deaconship, for the sake of those that are about to inherit salvation. The meaning of which I take to be this, that angels have not co-equal rank with the Son, or with those who are heirs with him of glory, but do stand unto them in the relation of deacons to the church, for external ministry and outward accommodation: having, as I shall shew hereafter, certain provinces of nature and providence to watch over, which they govern for the glory of Christ and his church, but not intermeddling in the spiritual dignity of the kingdom of grace. As providence is to grace, so I believe angels are to the church; as the dispensation of Moses was to the Gospel, so I believe angels are to the church : therefore the Law is said to be given by the ministry of angels, but the Gospel by the ministry of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers: therefore also the Law is called the elements of this world, and the rudiments of the world, being, as it were, an image, made by means of angels out of those worldly rudiment over which they have the controul, but not the reality of grace which came by Jesus Christ. And therefore the Apostle, admitting that the ages past have been under angels, declares thus concerning the age to come, which it is the object of the Apocalypse to reveal, Heb. ii. 5 : “ Unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak." While, therefore, I firmly believe that, under the former dispensation, God did make use of angels to convey his mind to the prophets, because that Christ was not yet glorified, I believe that from this great epoch, they have not been made use of for the administration of the kingdom of grace, but glorified saints only, such as can be called with respect to the Apostles, ouvdoloi, fellow-servants ; charged with the same apostolic ministry within the veil, with which they were charged without. And, accordingly, we have those who ministered in word and doctrine to the churches, called angels of the churches, Rev. i. 20.
But, still further to shew that the angel's description of himself will bear no other interpretation than that which we have given above, let me refer to another passage,