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THE JOY OF THE ANGELS.

“I say unto you that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons which need no repentance.”—LUKE 15 : 7.

“ There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.”—LUKE 15 : 10.

It is well sometimes to turn our thoughts to the heavenly world ; and this contemplation is most inviting when it is assisted by persons and facts with which we are familiar. In this delightful employment the doctrine of angels affords us more aid than we are ready at first to acknowledge.

Jesus Christ is, indeed, the grand link which holds our faith to the unseen world. Uniting in his person both the human and the divine-neither God nor man alone, but both God and man in perfect union—we surrender our faith to him. He is our Great High Priest, who hath passed into the beavens. If we had no other aid to faith, we would trust alone in him. Although he is now “far above angels, and principalities, and powers," all whom are now " subject unto him," our faith wonld follow him to his highest throne. That ascension--that assumption of lawful authority by our Saviour, and Friend, and Brother—that glorified human nature which he carried up, far up, to the seat of the divinest glory, which Adam, and Enoch, and Moses, and David, and all the prophets have gazed upon thereit is this which makes heaven real to us, and near to hand.

Nevertheless, there are minor aids which we all need, but which, in contrast with this greater one, we are too apt to forget.

Perhaps there are few points of faith upon which Christians of every age and of every sect have been more united than on this: the existence of a higher order of intelligences, beings of exalted wisdom and virtue, whom we call angels. Although we know little of the nature of their influence upon us, or how their agency is employed to promote our happiness, it is not difficult to understand how we are aided by knowing that they stand between us and the unapproachable grandeur of the One Being, whom saints and angels adore. Raised above us in power and

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virtue, they are yet vastly inferior to the Infinite God. As compared with men, they are indeed, greatly superior to us ; so much so, that the apostle John, struck with admiration of the angel who showed to him the glories of the New Jerusalem, forgot, for a moment, that it was only his “fellow.servant" he would worship. But when, on the other hand, they are compared with God, they fall infinitely below him--they approach near to us, and man is then “but a little lower than the angels."

The advantage to us of this knowledge is-

I. That it gives distinctness to our thought of the unseen world. It peoples it. From the Scriptures we learn that angels, in their flights through the "void expanse,” have sometimes touched and trod our earth. They have been here. Here they have walked and ministered. They have floated in this air. Their voices have been heard in music such as mortals never raise. They have spoken, have instructed, and have passed away. Paul speaks of “an innumerable company of angels ;" Luke, of " a multitude of the heavenly host ;" Christ, of "twelve legions of angels.” And Daniel, in a vision of the Ancient of Days, and of the throne of his glory, beheld “thousand thousands who ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand who stood before him."

2. But it is more to my present purpose to notice another use which the doctrine of angels serves.

It is one which is sometimes employed in the Holy Scriptures. The doctrine affords us a point of observation where we may look down to earth and upon ourselves.

Irresistibly we are led to ask how finite beings, who are wiser and holier than we are, regard us, and regard our choices. We take, in imagination, the position which they occupy, and we judge ourselves in their stead. Nor is there anything irreverent towards God in this. It is but the conduct of children, all dutiful, all affectionate, towards a parent, who sometimes take counsel of each other, the younger of the older, while all alike rejoice in a parent's smile, and own a parent's law.

It is for this purpose, as it seems to me, that our Saviour em. ploys the touching words of the text. The Pharisees, who despised the penitent sinner, and who despised him the more because he was penitent, were referred to the different estimates which the angels of God put on such a character, and to the feelings with which they regard his conversion." There is joy in the

presence of the angels of God over one sinner that re• penteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons who need no repentance." It is from this high point of observation, that we are invited to view the stupendous change which is effected in a sinner's return to God. We are thus guarded against any low views and mean opinions of a moral act like this. The in

terest which these high intelligences have in it, dignifies it in the eyes

of men, and rebukes their scorn. It cannot be difficult, nor need it be unprofitable, to pursue this thought. The statement of fact, which Christ has made, justifies this use of his language. At the same time, it limits the subject, and guards us against all uncertain and unprofitable speculation,

The Jews had a saying, that "the angels weep whenever a Hebrew sins." Whether our Lord had this saying in mind or not, we have no means of knowing. It is, however, certain that it is in fine contrast wich the language be has himself employed. If angels weep whenever a Hebrew sins, they rejoice with singing when a sinner, whoever he may be, Publican, Pharisee, or Gentile, repents ; yea, more than over ninety and nine just persons who need no repentance. The Pharisees held that a genuine Hebrew rarely transgressed the law of God, and that when he did the angels wept in sorrow as at a brother's fall

. Christ passes at once above all that is false in the thought. He rejects whatever is narrow and selfish, and all that is falsely sentimental. He teaches that these pure and benevolent beings not only take the liveliest interest in our welfare, but that they are in perfect sympathy with his principles and practice. Their sympathies are atrracted wherever his are, so that while he, their Lord and Master, is on the earth, welcoming to his open arms the most despised penitent, they, in their seats of bliss, celebrate the event in notes of loudest praise.

In endeavoring to set before our minds the event of a sinner's conversion, as it would be presented to a mind in all respects superior to our own, I have no wish to make any unnatural use of the doctrines of Christianity. I wish to borrow no aid from what is uncertain or merely probable. I desire to speak soberly of what I am fully persuaded must be true.

The interest with which angels regard a sinner's repentance is, in kind, the same as the joy of all good men. But it is surer and greater, as their natures are superior to ours. I remark, then,

I. In the first place, that they rejoice in each transition from sin to holiness, as an event which they could not have foretold. The language of Christ seems to imply that it is the joy of good news which they feel. This is explained by remembering that no such pleasure as this is anywhere ascribed to God. Love, compassion, forgiveness, complacency, these are his; but not the joy of discovery.

“ To Thee, there's nothing old appears ;

Great God, there's nothing new.

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His infinite nature embraces the future, with the present and the past. It is not, therefore, said of him that he rejoices more over one penitent than over ninety and nine just persons. With reverence we may say that he cannot do it. Were his holiness, in which is all his delight, not infinite, could it measure and compare its delights, it would rejoice rather in the ripened character of the many, than in the birth of the new one.

But the angels are not like their Creator in this respect. Like us they measure time. They know not the future; at least, not as God does. It is expressly said that they know not when the day of judgment will be. So that when they see a child of sin turn to God, and put on the garments of righteousness, they feel, as holy men on earth would feel, more lively, joy in 'that event than they do over many who are already righteous. It is the event which thrills them. The tide of joy then rises and overflows. God's nature, however, is ever full; and as it knows do abatement of his, alone, infinite bliss, so it knows no rise.

The justness of the facts of the Scriptures to the nature of the beings whom they describe, whether God, angels, or men, is admirably illustrated in this instance, and is worthy of our most serious regard. Impostors never could have risen to so high a thought. Heathen Mythology, although corrected and refined by the most exalted human genius, never represented an unimpassioned God. And this distinguished superiority we claim, not for the Christian Scriptures only, but for the entire revelation. Thus we find it recorded in the first chapters of Genesis, that when God had, by a word, made the world ; when he had set the sun and the moon in the firmament, and the stars in their courses; when he had made the sea, and filled it with its inhabitants ; when he had covered the earth with verdure, and had . made the birds to fly in the air, and beasts and every creeping thing upon the ground; and, lastly, had made man in his own image, to have dominion over all the works of his hand, he but looked upon bis marvelous creation, and simply saw that it was “good.” What satisfaction is here expressed ; calm only because God's nature forbids his pleasure ever to be less !

But when this same new creation burst upon the view of angels, and they beheld it fresh from the hands of the Creator, it was theirs to feel the full inspiration of the sight. “The morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted

So in the instance of the Scripture now before us. God's welcome to the repenting sinner is not the less because it is expressed in terms consistent with his most exalted character. His estimate of such an event we gather from what he does ; angels, from what they feel and say. To them, who see the reality and nature of the change, it is an event of the highest im. portance. The only instances in which these superior beings

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are represented as rejoicing, are at the creation of the wiverse, the birth of Jesus Christ, and the conversion of a sinner.

II. But this is not all. Great though this event be, it is not its novelty in the sinner's history, nor is it his sudden transition from darkness to light, which alone gives joy in heaven. The representations of our Saviour are inconsistent with the supposition that the event the angels celebrate is in itself trivial, much less that it is irrational and vain. I remark, then, in the second place, that they view it as a moral change, in which their holy natures necessarily take delight.

It is remarkable, that in this passage conversion is represented by that element in it which it is not possible for us to mistake, viz., repentance. IIad Christ said that they rejoice when one believes, some would claim the character for themselves, because their faith is sound. Had he said, when one is renewed, some would have referred it to their baptism, when all their sins were washed away in the laver of regeneration. But there is no mistaking the terms he has employed : “when a simer REPENTS.” That determines his meaning. That fixes the character of the individual referred to, and the moral nature of his act. The case is that of one who, to the just view of holy angels, repents of the sins he has actually committed against his God and theirs, who sorrows for them after a godly sort, and breaks off from them with a godly hate. This is the point of immediate interest, and the one from which to view every other fact we have to present.

Were one from the ranks of those beings, who, we are told, are but a little above us, to visit our world; were be to come free from our long familiarity with the forms and fruits of sin, unprejudiced, in his estimate of human things, by habit or inclination; and could he see, not only what is said and done, but what is in the hearts of men, how certain would be his eye to fasten chiefly upon the moral aspect in which mankind would be presented to his view. And were he to visit the most cultivated community on earth, everywhere there would be spread before him the ruin which sin has wrought. He might see much which we call propriety and goodness; but save those few who have been "justified by the blood of the everlasting covenant,"

kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation," our good ones would be Hebrew sinners all, and the angel well might weep. There, in that unrenewed heart, he would see no love to God, no equal love to man; there, pride and ambition ; there, lust of gold or of pleasure, or at least for independence of the Maker's will. There he would see one who dares to make light of that holiest thing there is on earth-a broken and a contrite heart. There, one who holds the truth in unrighteousness—who takes it as the Word of God, but is tirmly

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