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highly privileged “fellow-servants." May the Creator and Preserver alike of angels and of men, be with us to direct, to guard, and to bless our inquiries into the precious record of these angelic ministrations of mercy and love!
The first instance we meet with is that of Hagar in her desolation and distress, brought on herself by despising her mistress. A fugitive, alone, and friendless, she had reached a fountain of water, and there rested ; probably unable to choose a path in that desert. “And the angel of the Lord found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur. And he said, Hagar, Sarai's maid, whence comest thou ? and whither wilt thou go ?” She could not answer the latter part of the interrogatory, and to the former she gave a reply that included no acknowledgment of her own misconduct; “I flee from the face of my mistress, Sarai.” No reproof was given : not a word of reproach for her rebellious of fence, but what was implied in the answer, proving how well the celestial speaker knew the actual cireumstances of her case. “ And the angel of the Lord said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands. And the angel of the Lord said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude. And the angel of the Lord said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and call his name Ishmael ; because the Lord hath heard thy affliction. And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him: and he shall dwell
in the presence of all his brethren. And she called the name of the Lord that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me?” Gen. xvi. 7–13. There is a difficulty here that often meets us in similar circumstances: the speaker is an angel of the Lord; yet the latter part of his address is delivered as in the person of God himself; and Hagar evidently considered that the voice was that of the Lord. In some cases we know that he is spoken of under the term angel : though in the appearance of the burning bush, where Moses
says, “ The angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the middle of the bush," he presently adds, “when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I.” Exodus iii. 2—4. So that it may be supposed he first saw a glorious angel, and afterwards heard the voice of God himself. This seems at first to be con. firmed by Stephen's narrative: he says, peared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai an an. gel of the Lord, in a flame of fire, in a bush. When Moses saw it, he wondered at the sight; and as he drew near to behold it, the voice of the Lord came unto him, saying, I am the God of thy fathers; the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Ja. cob.” Acts vii. 30–32. Yet presently afterwards he adds, “ This is he that was in the church in the wil. derness, with the angel which spoke to him in Mount Sinai, and with our fathers, who received the lively oracles to give unto us,” verse 38. And once more,
6 There ap
“ Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears . . . who have received the law by the dis. position of angels, and have not kept it,” (verses 5153,) and the plural is again used by Paul : “If the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation, which at first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him? ..... For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak.” Heb. ii. 2-5.
By collating these passages we may learn caution in pronouncing that, when the Bible tells us an angel appeared or spoke, it was God who appeared or spoke: and we may also remember that the prophets very frequently make abrupt transitions from speaking in their own persons to speaking in the Lord's, without the usual preface, Thus saith the Lord : and we can readily suppose a created angel, fulfilling the office of an ambassador from the Most High, may do the same thing, delivering his Master's message in his Master's words; and so occasioning us to draw conclusions not warranted by the text. The instances in which we are undoubtedly to believe that by the term angel our Lord Jesus is meant, are Gen. xlviii. 15, 16, where Jacob says, “ God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my life long to this day, the Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads ;' and in that remarkable passage, Exod. xxiii. 20: “Behold, I send an angel be
fore thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place I have prepared. Beware of him and obey his voice, provoke him not : for he will not pardon thou shalt indeed obey his voice, and do all that I speak; your transgressions, for my name is in him. But if then I will be an enemy unto thine enemies, and an adversary unto thine adversaries.” This could hardly be spoken of any created being; and we know that the provocations of the Israelites in the wilderness are called by St. Paul “tempting Christ.” 1 Cor. x. 9. These cautions recorded, we may be satisfied to proceed, with the plain word of inspiration to guide us.
The three men who visited Abraham as he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day, (Gen. xviii. 1,) are no where called angels; but there can be little doubt that two of them were the same who immediately afterwards went to Lot, in Sodom. This we know, that it is distinctly said of Abraham, in reference to this event, 6 The LORD appeared unto him ;” and that in the subsequent part of the narrative the LORD is represented as communing with him, and is repeatedly named. We will not intrude into what the Holy Spirit has so closely veiled, but proceed to the next chapter, where we are not left to guess at the nature of the persons spoken of. “There came two, angels to Sodom at even,” (Gen. xix. 1,) evidently in human form, for Lot, as Abraham had done, proffered hospitable entertainment, and pressed it upon them with earnest importunity: the whole story shows that Lot had then no suspicion of their being other than mere mortal men, and that so far from need. ing his generous, self-devoted protection, they had
power and authority to destroy the place, which was only respited until he and his should be delivered. Considering how wholly Satan and his infernal crew triumphed in those guilty cities, and how perfectly conscious of their presence and influence the holy angels must have been, their patient abiding in such a place, the purely defensive nature of the miracle which they wrought, and the deliberate manner in which they proceeded to extricate the favoured individuals committed to their charge, are very striking. Unmoved by the tumults in the streets, continuing all night, they quietly awaited the break of day, for Lot was not to quit the place unseen, or under the cover of darkness, nor to leave his ungodly sons-in-law unwarned; and so long as he staid, his presence was a protection to the cities, and to every sinner in them. The mission of the angels was two-fold, first to deliver the godly; then to destroy the ungodly; and this renders it so lively a type of the great day of the coming of the Son of man, when the angels will be sent to gather his elect from the four quarters of the earth, previous to the terrible destruction that shall fall upon his foes. The angels expressly said to Lot, “We will destioy this place . .
the Lord hath sent us to destroy it,” (verse 13 ;) and again, “I cannot do any thing till thou become thither.” (verse 22.) Yet they expressed anxiety, as though delay endangered him; “Escape for thy life: look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain : escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed.” (verse 17.) It is lovely to contemplate the earnestly devoted spirit in which these blessed creatures fulfilled