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his human nature, he is "Jehovah's Fellow," "God manifest in the flesh," "Emmanuel, God with us."]
The whole scope of the Apostle's argument leads me, from speaking of the Majesty of Christ, to shew, in the next place,
II. The excellency of the Gospel as revealed by him
Why, when the Law was committed to us by the ministry of angels, should the Gospel be spoken to us by God himself? Is there any thing in the Gospel that calls for such a distinction? I answer, There is an immense disparity between the two, even such as may well account for the high honour conferred upon the Gospel. Consider what the Gospel is: consider,
1. The depth of its mysteries
[The law was not without its mysteries: but they were all veiled from human sight; in token of which, Moses put a veil upon his face. But "in and through the Lord Jesus Christ, that veil is taken away," and we behold his glory with unveiled face'. We are led even to the council-chamber of the Most High, where the Father and the Son concerted together for the recovery of mankind, even millions of years before they fell. We hear the Son undertaking to become a man, in order that he might suffer in the stead of his offending creatures, and expiate their guilt by his own obedience unto death. We see this very Saviour become incarnate: we behold him sojourning on earth, as the accredited Ambassador of heaven. We hear his voice; we trace his footsteps; we witness all his sufferings unto death. We see him yet again, raised from the dead, and ascending up to heaven; and sending down the Holy Ghost, to testify of him, and to establish his kingdom upon earth. We behold his kingdom actually established, and maintaining its pre-eminence on earth, in despite of all possible opposition from men and devils. And, finally, we behold in this stupendous mystery every perfection of the Deity, shining in harmonious and united splendour.
Here then was a mystery, which deserved to be marked with all the honour conferred upon it. True, " this treasure" might well, at a subsequent period, be put "into earthen vessels:" but at its first exhibition it was well that it should be displayed by our incarnate God, and that the word which
f 2 Cor. iii. 14, 18.
unfolded it should" at first begin to be spoken by the Lord himself."]
2. The richness of its provisions
[In this is contained all that man can need, and all that God himself can bestow. We were fallen, even our whole race, like the apostate angels themselves: and being partakers with them in transgression, we were doomed to partake with them also in their punishment. We were sunk even to the very precincts of hell: yet, behold, from thence are we taken, to be restored to the favour of our God, and to inherit a throne of glory. Could we conceive of the fallen angels, as taken from their sad abodes of misery, and restored to the felicity from which they fell, we might have some idea of the blessings imparted to us by the Gospel of Christ. But who can declare all that is comprehended in pardon, and peace, and holiness, and glory? Eternity itself will not be sufficient to compute and estimate the mighty sum.]
3. The duration of its benefits
[Eternity! Amazing thought! eternity! Yes, eternity shall be the duration of blessedness to every believing soul. The benefits of the Mosaic dispensation soon passed away: but not so those which we inherit by the Gospel. As long as the believing soul shall retain its capacity for enjoyment, and the Saviour himself exist upon his throne, so long shall He who bought us with his blood, dispense to us all the blessings that he has purchased for us: and the inheritance that shall be accorded to us, shall be "incorruptible, and undefiled, and one that fadeth not away."]
Observe, then, from this subject,
1. How worthy of acceptation is the Gospel of Christ!
[When we consider who it is that has proclaimed the Gospel to us, even the true and faithful Witness," the Lord Jesus Christ, we cannot entertain a doubt either of its truth or excellency. Take all the promises and invitations; take them in all their freeness, and in all their fulness; which of them is not worthy to be embraced with our whole hearts, and to be relied upon with our whole souls? Well did St. Paul say of the Gospel, "It is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation." O that we could receive it as we ought! O that we felt our need of it, and that we were duly mindful of the authority and veracity of Him who has revealed it to us! We should not then dare to slight it; nor should we hesitate to rest in it with most implicit confidence.]
g Heb. ii. 3.
2. How worthless are all things, in comparison of it!
[Let crowns and kingdoms be put into the balance against it, and they will all be found lighter than vanity itself. What is become of all that the greatest monarchs ever enjoyed? It is vanished away as a dream. And what will soon become of the whole world? It will all pass away, as a morning cloud; and be as though it had never been. Of this we are all sensible; but yet we find it difficult to realize our own principles. In opposition to our better judgment, we are carried away after some worthless objects, which often elude our grasp; or, if enjoyed, are no sooner possessed than they perish. But if we seek for Jesus and his kingdom, all will be secured to us. No one ever sought eternal things in earnest, and was disappointed of his hope: no one ever suffered loss for them, but he found it to be gain in the end. To all then, I say, "Labour not for the meat that perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of Man shall give unto you; for him hath God the Father sealed."]
THE MINISTRY OF ANGELS.
Heb. i. 14. Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?
THE superiority of Christ to angels occupies the mind of the Apostle throughout this chapter. He has illustrated it already in a very convincing way. He has adduced many passages of Holy Writ which confessedly belong to the Messiah; and has shewn, that they never have been, nor can be, applied to them, because the things predicated in them, exclusively belong to him. The representations given of the angels necessarily imply a great inferiority to him: for they are commanded to worship him, as their Creator, and their God". Nor is it him only whom they serve they are the servants of his people also, appointed by him to that very office, and executing it for his honour and glory. This the Apostle mentions as an indisputable fact; and appeals to the
c ver. 8.
Hebrews themselves respecting it: "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?"
The ministry of angels is not only a curious subject as it relates to them, but a very interesting subject as it relates to us; since we, if we be heirs of salvation, are the very persons for whom they minister. We propose therefore to consider the ministry of angels,
I. As evinced in their services for God's people of old
They are called by the Apostle "ministering spirits," which designates at once both their nature and office. In their nature they are not corporeal, but spiritual beings: and they possess both wisdom and strength far beyond any of the sons of men. Their number was once far greater than it at present is; for vast multitudes of them "kept not their first estate, but left their first habitation, and are reserved in chains of darkness to the judgment of the great day." Those who have held fast their integrity are called "the elect angels;" and of them there are myriads, yea millions without number'. Amongst them are different ranks and orders, (as there are also amongst the fallen angels,) under Michael their head, who is therefore called "the archangel," whilst they are called "his angels"."
On God they wait, as his servants, with the utmost alacrity and zeal: and by him they are employed in executing his holy will.
They were employed by him at the promulgation of his law and they have been rendered useful also in the diffusion of his Gospel*.
By him they have been sent forth both as executioners of his vengeance and as dispensers of his mercies. By an angel, he slew in one hour the whole
Egyptian first-born both of men and beasts'. By the agency of one of those powerful spirits was the pestilence produced, to which, for the punishment of David's sin, seventy thousand Israelites fell victims". It was by a sword wielded by a similar messenger from God, that one hundred and eighty-five thousand of the Assyrian host also were slain in one night". Nor is it in such extensive ravages only that they have been employed: a single individual, whom God has ordained to punish for his iniquity, has been the object of a similar commission, and been made to feel the weight of an angel's avenging arm: an angel smote Herod for his pride, and he was eaten up of worms". In like manner they have been frequently made God's ministers for good. In the instances already mentioned they proved signal benefactors, no less than avengers: for, if they smote the enemies of God, they effected thereby a great deliverance for Israel and if they corrected his people, it was with a view to humble them, and to bring them to repentance. But they have been no less willing to minister to individuals than to a whole nation: nor have they accounted any office beneath their attention. Was Abraham's steward sent to seek a wife for Isaac? an angel went before him to prepare his way". Did Hagar flee from the face of her mistress? an angel advised her to return. And when she was put away by Abraham, and her child was perishing with thirst, an angel directed her to a well, where she might find an immediate supply. Were Lot and his family in danger of perishing in Sodom? with what affectionate solicitude did angels go to bring them forth from that devoted places! Does Balaam hasten to curse Israel? an angel obstructs his way, and does not suffer him to proceed, till he engages to utter nothing but what the Lord shall put into his mouth'. Does the highly-favoured Daniel pour out his soul
1 Exod. xii. 23.
o Acts xii. 23.
r Gen. xxi. 17.
m 2 Sam. xxiv. 16, 17.
n Isai. xxxvii. 36. 4 Gen. xvi. 7-9.
s Gen. xix. 1, 11, 15-17.
t Numb. xxii. 22-35.