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of angels, and the many thousands of Israel, with the multitude of those who in all ages had looked forward, and by faith embraced the promise of the Seed of the woman, and having seen the day of Christ afar off, now witnessed his actual entrance on the arena of that terrible conflict which he came to wage. We can have but very poor conceptions of that awful hour, if we consider not the great cloud of witnesses, angels, and disembodied souls of men, who thronged to gaze upon the spectacle; and who, beyond doubt, likewise surveyed the personal encounter that followed it.
Of this we have before spoken, and exhibited the successive wiles of the devil to allure his mighty antagonist into some concession on which he might lay hold. He left the man Christ Jesus on a pinnacle of the temple, whither he had been permitted to bear him for the last trial of his steadfastness; and then it was that "angels came and ministered unto him." Up to that moment they were not permitted to interfere : Michael and his holy angels might form in bright array, and the dragon's fallen angels might eagerly look on, panting for their master's success, but none durst interpose. The strife was personal, and the triumphant issue certain; for who among created beings, ever hardened himself against God, and prospered? "Seen of angels" at all times, it was not often that they were privileged to succour their incarnate Lord as now we are told they did. The cake and the cruse of water provided by the angel for Elijah's refreshment, were cheerfully prepared and courteously bestowed; but with what eager gladness of heart must
those ministering spirits have brought to their gracious King the sustenance that his body, exhausted by the prolonged fast, then required! We may believe it to have been an epoch in the existence of the holy, happy creatures who were chosen to render this service and gently too; to facilitate his return from the giddy height to which Satan had borne him; and to listen to the gracious words that spoke acceptance of their devotion: for he who with such authority rebuked and com manded the unclean spirits whenever they crossed his path, had surely words of another tendency whereby to encourage the obedient, and to animate the zealous
But from thenceforth unmitigated suffering was to be the lot of the Lord Jesus, in order that ours might be the lot of unmingled blessedness: foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man had not where to lay his head. Disbelieved on by his brethren, who also mocked and aspersed him; slighted if not opposed by other kindred after the flesh; not openly acknowledged or countenanced by any but the poor of the people; and subsisting on the little aid that such could afford to give; it does not appear that the angels were allowed to yield relief to his bodily necessities, or to cheer his human spirit by any perceptible sympathy in his griefs. They, however, furnished him with a continual theme of discourse; so constantly adverted to, indeed, that were no mention made of them in any other part of God's word, we could gather enough from our Lord's incidental illusions to inform us what are their natures, their employments, their
dispositions, and their present and future privileges. It is remarkable how often he dwells upon them as interested spectators of the affairs of this world; and witnesses of what shall hereafter come to pass. "Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of Man also confess before the angels of God: but he that denieth me before men, shall be denied before the angels of God." Luke xii. 8. 9. "Whosoever shall be ashamed of me and my words, of him shall the Son of Man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his father's, and of the holy angels." Luke ix. 26. "When the Son of Man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory; and before him shall be gathered all nations." Matt. xxv. 31, 32. It would be impossible to reconcile such expressions as these with any ignorance on the part of the heavenly host as to what passes among men; on the contrary it clearly implies that they, having looked upon every transaction in the human family throughout its continuance, will be summoned as witnesses to the exact justness of the final award, when all are gathered together in one vast assemblage, to receive their everlasting doom.
But we must return to the story as regards angelic interpositions, recorded in the narrative of our Lord's personal sojourn on earth. After the close of his combat with the Evil One, we read no more of their appearance, until that most awful scene when, with his soul exceeding sorrowful even unto death, the Redeemer withdrew a little way from his drowsy disci
ples, and poured out before his Father that prayer which betokened the extreme death of his humiliation, in submitting to endure the mortal anguish of human fear, the fear of approaching death. Far be it from us to follow the example of some who would fain pry into the impenetrable mystery of that hour's suffering! We are told that it was the hour of the powers of darkness; when the prince of this world came to find that he had nothing in the Son of God; when the supplication was wrung from the Redeemer's lip, that if it were possible the cup might pass from him ; yet qualified by the submissive addition, "Nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done." Then it was that "there appeared an angel unto him, from heaven, strengthening him," Luke xxii. 40, and what a mission that angel had!
The mind sinks under this scene; not the bright throng of chariots and horses of fire that surrounded Elisha; not the array of seraphim, seen by Isaiah, giving glory to the Lord of hosts; not the great multitude of the heavenly host who appeared to celebrate his incarnation; not even the party of those who came to minister unto him when Satan had departed; but one single solitary angel appeared, coming direct from heaven, from the immediate presence of God the Father, advancing through the gloom and stillness of night, and for what purpose? to strengthen him from whom all strength is derived! We cannot tell of what nature was the strength conveyed: we have the word, and nothing more; and we know that, notwithstanding the strength thus imparted, "being in an ag
ony he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground." Luke xxii. 44. Of this spectacle the angel was a witness; and a witness he will prove against such as reject the salvation wrought out for them at such a fearful price by the Son of God! We cannot pretend to descant on this heart-piercing scene; we have it, indeed, most clearly set forth for our trembling contemplation, and deeply ought we to ponder it. The Lord of hosts, the King of glory, prostrated on the earth that he created, offering up "prayers and supplications, with strong crying and tears," Heb. v. 7, in an agony that wrung a bloody sweat from every pore, while one of the brightest of his creatures, sent from the invisible throne of God, stood by, imparting such strength as he was commissioned to bring, and beholding the sons of men, for whom all this was undergone-unmindful of the repeated admonition to watch and pray, and not even sufficiently alive in their Master's cause, at this extreme point of his distress, to watch with him one hour-slumbering at the distance of a stone's cast. Surely this was the lowest point of the Saviour's humiliation, when he could accept strength from a created angel and surely it ought also to lay us in the lowest depth of self-accusing shame, that for our grievous sins and provocations he was so bruised, so put to grief; while not one of the three especially selected out of the chosen twelve, no not even the beloved and loving John had a word of consolation, or a gesture, or a look of sympathy to tender; nor a movement of the heart towards him who could have read its most secret throb.