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2. The Prophets themselves “inquired and searched diligently” into their meaning
[The inspired men did not understand the precise import of their own prophecies. They only knew that they “ministered to the Church in distant ages;" but they studied the word, and sometimes with good effect, to gain an insight into the intentions and purposes of God. And if they judged their predictions so important while they were involved in obscurity, shall they be less valuable to us who have seen their accomplishment?]
3. The Apostles, in declaring their accomplishment, received miraculous testimonies from the Holy Ghost
[They, “who first preached the Gospel, reported those things as done, which the prophets had beforehand testified” as to be done in due time; and their word was accompanied “ with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven." Nor was this divine seal ever more immediately set to their ministrations than when they expressly referred to the prophecies as fulfilled in Jesus'. Nothing surely could put a greater honour on the prophecies than this.] 4. The very Angels “ desire to look into them”—
[The angelic figures over the ark were formed looking down upon itk. This intimated the interest they feel in the work of redemption. They are indeed made wiser by the revelation given to the Church'. Though they dwell in the presence of God, they desire to know more of this mystery, Though they have no personal interest in it, they long to comprehend it. Can we then, whose interest in it is so great, have low thoughts of any part of those Scriptures which exhibit and illustrate it?] INFER
1. What a mercy is it to live under the full light of the Gospel!
[Those things, which the patriarchs saw only in types and prophecies, we are privileged to enjoy in their substance and accomplishment. Well therefore does Christ say to us, “ Blessed are your eyes, blessed are your ears;" but if our light be greater than theirs, our obligations to follow it are proportionably increased; and if we neglect to improve it, surely both prophets and angels will appear against us to condemn us.] & Dan. ix. 2. h Heb. ii. 4.
i Acts x. 43, 44. k Exod. xxv. 20. Eph. ii. 10.
2. In searching the Scriptures we should attend particularly to what is said of Christ
[Many read the Scriptures without ever discovering the fulness and excellency of Christ; but as “ they testify of him," so we are most concerned in what relates to him. Let us then fix our eyes diligently on that ark of God; let us treasure up in our minds whatever is spoken of “ his sufferings and glory;" and,“ mixing faith with what we read," let us seek to be made wise unto salvation.]
MMCCCLXXXIV. THE ANGELS INTERESTED ABOUT THE GOSPEL. 1 Pet. i. 12. Which things the angels desire to look into.
THE Gospel comes recommended to us by a great variety of most important considerations. It occupied the mind of God from all eternity. From the beginning of the world it has been revealed with gradually increasing light and evidence. When the period arrived for its full promulgation, it was opened by the Lord of life himself, and was spread with incredible effect by a few poor fishermen, whom he chose and qualified to proclaim it. The Holy Ghost also bore testimony to it by miracles unnumbered, that were wrought expressly in confirmation of it. But there is one circumstance, which is rarely adverted to, which yet should exceedingly endear the Gospel to us; namely, that the holy angels are greatly interested in it, and that they are daily studying to comprehend it. This is affirmed by St. Peter in the words before us: for the elucidation of which we shall point out, I. The subjects of their inquiry
The two preceding verses inform us, that the “ salvation” of man, and “ the grace that is brought unto us” for the securing of that salvation, are objects of their continual regard. More particularly they inquire into these things,
1. As foretold by prophets
[Every minute circumstance relative to the Gospel has been foretold by one or other of the prophets ; insomuch, that, if we understood perfectly every part of the prophetic writings, we might extract from them as complete an account of the person, work, and offices of Christ, and of the establishment of his kingdom upon earth, as from the New Testament itself. But the prophets did not know the full extent of their own prophecies. They knew that they spake by a divine impulse; but the precise import of what they spake, they knew not. As the wicked Caiaphas, intending to stimulate the Jewish council to put Jesus to death, delivered unwittingly a prophecy that Jesus should die for the whole worlda ; so the pious prophets frequently delivered their sentiments in language, which was dictated by the Holy Ghost for the purpose of proclaiming mysteries which they themselves understood not. Hence they “inquired and searched diligently” into the meaning of their own prophecies". The angels, in like manner, are desirous of investigating these deep subjects. To intimate the concern which they take in these things, there was a very striking emblem of it in the Jewish temple. In the holy of holies was the ark: on that was placed the mercy-seat: and over that were two cherubims overshadowing it with their wings. The ark (in which the tables of the law were kept) was a type of Christ, in whose heart the law was; and by whom it was fulfilled for us; and through whose obedience to it God exercises mercy towards us. This exhibited the substance of the Gospel. Now the cherubims were formed somewhat in an inclined posture, looking down upon the arko: and this was ordered of God on purpose to denote the interest which angels take in this deep mystery, and the desire which they have to comprehend it: and it is to this very thing that St. Peter alludes in the words of our text4.]
2. As executed by Christ
“The sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow," were fully declared before he became incarnate. The angels therefore were prepared for that stupendous series of events which in the fulness of time began to be accomplished: and, no doubt, they waited for them with devout and earnest expectation. Accordingly, the very instant that they saw him brought into the world, they carried the glad tidings to the shepherds, and informed them of the place of his nativity. From that moment, and especially in the most important scenes of his life, they watched him, not only as anxious spectators, but as agents employed by their Creator to minister to
a John xi. 49–52.
b ver. 10, 11.
his necessities, or to attest his triumphs. After his temptations in the wilderness, and his conflicts in the garden, they gladly interposed their friendly offices to comfort and support him. Though we are not expressly told that they were present at his crucifixion, we can have no doubt but that they attended on him at that awful period with more than ordinary solicitude. Were they capable of sorrow, methinks, their eyes would on that occasion be as a fountain of tears; and they would beat their breasts with grief and anguish. But with what joy did they roll away the stone from his sepulchre, in order that his re-animated body might arisee! How happy were they to satisfy the inquiring females respecting the truth of his resurrection, and the accomplishment of his own predictions ! At his ascension, too, they comforted his astonished followers, by announcing to them his intended return in the clouds of heaven at the last day. Shall we say that in these things they were mere servants and messengers, who felt no interest in the events themselves? We know the contrary : for at his birth a whole multitude of the heavenly hosts burst forth into that rapturous hymn, “ Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will towards men!")
3. As enjoyed by the Church
[It is not in a speculative view merely that they contemplate the great work of redemption : they consider it as “ the grace that is brought unto us :” and in that view their benevolent hearts are most deeply affected with it. Hence, as well as from a sense of duty to their God, arose that affectionate solicitude which they expressed on all the occasions above referred to. Wherever the glad tidings are carried, they hasten, to mark the effects produced by them: and if they behold a sinner impressed by them with humble penitence and contrition, not even the presence of their God, nor all the glory of heaven, will keep them from rejoicing on his account. They acquire, as it were, new joy from every triumph that the Redeemer gains, and from every benefit that man receives. From the moment of a sinner's return to God, they watch over him with the tenderest care. They encamp around him, and minister unto him. Little do we think how much we are indebted to their friendly aid; from how many snares they deliver us; in how many conflicts they succour us; and with what transport they bear our triumphant spirits into the world of bliss. As once they waited with impatience to see the prophecies accomplished, and the work of redemption executed in the person of Christ; so do they now wait with ardent desire to see the consummation of the Church's happiness,
e Matt. xxviii. 2--4.
and the completion of the Redeemer's glory. And at that great and solemn day will whole myriads of them attend, to perform their last kind offices to God's elect; to assemble them in one collective body; and to unite with them in ascribing everlasting praises to God and to the Lamb. They cannot indeed say, “ He has loved us and washed us;" but they will most heartily join in singing, “ Worthy is the Lamb that was slain."]
Their solicitude about things that relate to us, however strange it may appear at first sight, will not be thought strange, if we consider, II. The reasons of it,
If we were unable to assign any reasons for their conduct, we might be well assured that their actions were regulated by wisdom and prudence.
But it is not difficult to account for their anxiety respecting these things : they look into them, not to gratify a vain curiosity, but,
1. Because of the glory of God displayed in them
[The angels have been blessed with many bright discoveries of the Divine glory, both in the works of creation and of providence. But these have all been eclipsed by the brighter displays of it in the works of redemption. Every thing in the universe bespeaks the wisdom, the power, and the goodness of God: and the punishment inflicted on the fallen angels declares his justice and holiness. But the plan of salvation revealed in the Gospel is represented as being eminently, and beyond all comparison, “the wisdom of God, and the power of God.” Terrible as the justice of God appears in the miseries of the damned, it appears incomparably more tremendous in the sufferings of the Son of God, which were inflicted on him for our sins, and which were indispensably necessary to satisfy its inexorable demands. But what shall we say of mercy? There was not a single trace of that to be found in the whole universe. The angels, after seeing the judgments executed on the apostate spirits, could have no idea that mercy could be exercised towards the guilty. But in the Gospel it shines forth as with meridian splendour; and all the other perfections of the Deity unite and harmonize with it. Can we wonder then, that when they have a prospect of beholding “ the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ," they should look into that glass which reflects it? Can we wonder that they should examine with unwearied attention the prophecies that relate to Christ, the various incidents of his life and death,