The following reproduces pages 41-50 in Stowell's book.
Readers are invited first to read the REVIEW of Stowell's Angels and Others from LIGHT.
Pages 41-50 begin here:
(1) THE BIBLE
MANY were the forms and fashions in
which God spoke
What does Holy Scripture say about Angels, Spirits, Devils, Hell, Purgatory, Heaven?
Let us take them in order.
WHEN first the stories of the angels at Mons were attracting attention a well-known cleric wrote to the papers warning Christians against accepting these tales saying they would lead only to worse scepticism and unbelief than ever. He had in mind the first danger that besets our willingness to believe, namely insufficient evidence. For spiritual realities external evidence alone, however strong, is always insufficient. Without reasons arising within his own heart and life to confirm the vision a conscientious man will not believe even his own eyes at the appearance of an angel. And indeed he ought not to; for his eyes may deceive him. And there is the further danger, that, granting the reality of unseen spiritual beings men may trust to these rather than to God. Magic, wonderworking necromancy, spiritualism, theosophy, "higher thought," faith healing are not new discoveries. They are so old that some scholars have supposed that they are the vague beginnings out of which our faith in God sprung. But they have been also an alternative to a direct dealing with God; a trusting of spiritual forces in such a way that it has been a mistrusting of God.
Yet if we guard against these two dangers - dogmatising on insufficient evidence, and trusting "powers" to the neglect of the Supreme Power - we may take the comforting assurance that the world is well supplied with unseen powers, agencies and ministers of God ready to work with us and for us. Not to weaken self-control or responsibility or development of character, but to watch and foster God's work in us, spur us to effort, reassure us in difficulty, shield us in peril, restore and refresh us in exhaustion; till in death there shall not fail us an angel of the resurrection to take us by the hand, never away from Christ but with Him; and never instead of the Father but for Him. Let us look at the Bible references to angels and then consider how far the older views are to be modified at the present time.
The poetry of Ps. 19. 1-4.
" Day unto day uttereth speech
And of Job 38. 7. describing the laying of the cornerstone of the earth ...
When the morning stars sang together
associates what we still call the " heavenly bodies " with angelic ministrations. And this idea appears definitely in Rev. 9. I.
" I saw a star fall from heaven, and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit."
Perhaps also in our Lord's words, Luke 10.18 " I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven," and in Isaiah I4. I2.
How art thou fallen from heaven
In some cases they appear in a bodily form which is not like the human form at all. The two cherubim in Solomon's Temple were carved figures fifteen feet high, made of olive wood and overlaid with gold. They had wings, fifteen feet from tip to tip, and these two pairs outstretched touched from wall to wall thirty feet across the sanctuary. Their shape was not human. What precisely it was is not told us. They were the upholders of the throne or seat of the glory of God. Hebrew poetry speaks of God as sitting upon (or between) the Cherubim; and upon the clouds; "The Lord rideth on a swift cloud." Isa. I9. I.) " Behold he cometh with the clouds, and every eye shall see him”(Rev.1.7). It is as though in the first instance the stars, which " in their courses fought against Sisera," and then the great forces of nature, the tempest, the thundercloud and the lightning were felt to be definite messengers of God. And with the Cherubim are associated the Seraphim whom Isaiah saw (6. 2.) "each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, with twain he covered his feet and with twain he did fly." These also have some undefined shape which is not human. If the Cherubim are a figuring of the thundercloud upon which poetic vision sees God approaching, or by which He debars the sinner's return to the Garden of Eden, the Seraphim are controllers of the flashing sword that turns every way the lightnings that play about His presence in the cloud.
But for the most part we find the appearance of angels to be definitely human, and without any added features such as wings. The angels that appeared to Abraham, at his tent door, and that afterwards went their way and led Lot " by the hand " out of Sodom are spoken of simply as "men" (Gen. 18--19). So it was " a man " that wrestled with Jacob (Gen. 32.25.) and that " stood over against Joshua with his sword drawn in his hand " (Josh. 5. r3.). And in some instances the angel though in human form is understood to be no mere messenger but God Himself.
In Jacob's dream (Gen. 3r.) the angel says, "I am the God of Bethel." And Abraham's pleading for Sodom (Gen. 18.) is an ordinary conversation between him and God who appears to him obviously in human form,and then, like a man, "goes his way." When Manoah and his wife had entertained an angel who foretold the birth of their child Samson (Judges 13. 6-22) they said, "We shall surely die because we have seen God." The angel that accompanied Moses and the Israelites through the wilderness was the angel of the Presence of God (Ex. 33. 14.).
Yet these appearances are mostly not of God Himself but of His servants. And it is as such that Jacob sees them ascending and descending on the Ladder between earth and heaven (Gen. 28. 12.). Later they meet him on his way (Gen. 32. I.) and he I calls the place Mahanaim, two camps, " My camp and the camp of the hosts of God."
In God's moral control of the world these agents of His punish men by smiting them with pestilence and death, or they "encamp round about those that fear Him" and chase and persecute the enemy. Or they are sent, as Gabriel to Daniel (8. 16.--9. 21.), to give skill and understanding; or to explain the significance; of trouble (Job 33. 23.) an angel, an interpeter, " to show unto man what is right for him," "Unto which of the saints, the holy ones (the angels) wilt .thou turn" (5. 1.) says Job, as if one might try the experiment of consulting the messengers rather than appealing to God Himself.
Then another office we are shewn them filling is that of forming an assemblage of dignity and display around God, a vast congregation in His presence like a fitting Court about a King. As in Ps. 89. 7.
Who among the sons of the mighty is like unto the Lord? A God very terrible, in the Court of the holy ones. And to be feared above all them that are round about Him.
And Ps. 103. 21.
Bless ye the Lord, all ye His hosts.
They are the Holy ones that go up and down and to and fro in the earth and return to report to Him. And among these even Satan has his place (Job 2.1.). In the same way" evil angels from the Lord" (Ps. 78. 49.) are not themselves morally evil but are sent to discipline men by bringing physical suffering to test them or to punish them at God's bidding.
Another function assigned to angels is that of being specially appointed guardians of nations. So Daniel (10. 13) speaks of the guardian or heavenly Prince of Persia and of Greece (v. 20.). Michael the Archangel is the " prince " of Israel. The angels of the seven churches of Asia (Rev. 2. ) seem to have a similar duty as representatives of Churches. And our Lord's words about little children that " their angels do always behold the face of My Father which is in heaven " (Matt. 18. 10.) are the basis of the belief that every redeemed soul has a specially allotted heavenly guardian.
But also on earth they are shewn in the New Testament acting as heralds and helpers to human life, Gabriel foretells (Luke 1.) the birth of John to Zacharias, and of Jesus to Mary. "A multitude of the .heavenlyhost " appear with the angel who announces the birth of Christ, praising God and saying Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men." Twelve legions of angels (Matt, 26. 5. 3) are declared by Christ to be ready to help Him against His foes if desired. Angels ministered to Him after :His temptation in the wilderness and His Agony in the Garden. One descends from heaven to roll away the stone at the Resurrection ;" His appearance is as lightning, and his raiment white as snow." (Matth. 28. 3). (Luke 24. 4) speaks of “two men in dazzling apparel," and Mark (6.5.) of a “young man arrayed in a white robe," at the empty tomb. Jesus speaks of his second coming “and all the holy angels with Him." An angel of the Lord by night opens he prison doors to the Apostles (Acts 5.19.) and sends Philip to meet the Ethiopian. In the Book of the Revelation the whole vision is given to the writer by n angel and the summary of all earthly history is Represented as a vast conflict in which the host of Heaven finally overcome the hosts of wickedness.
One point of special interest is that while free from specific earthly defects even these good spirits are not altogether perfect moral beings, nor are they in all cases higher than man:
Behold he putteth no trust in his
John would have worshipped the angel who brought him the Revelation, but he was stopped; "See thou do it not; for I am thy fellow servant. .worship God." The argument of the Epistle to the Hebrews is that Christ as Son is " so much better than the angels," who are only servants. The filial relation is much closer than that of master and servant. And we share with Christ in this higher and closer relationship. " Know ye not that we shall judge angels? " (I Cor. 6. 2.). So while the Church has permitted an invocation to them, which many of our popular hymns embody, it is clearly understood that this is not intended as the adoration which is due to God alone.
But now how far has the modern standpoint modified these ancient ideas? A scientific and critical habit has almost swept them away. When the Gnostics of the first five centuries taught that all creation was but a series of successive emanations, in infinite gradations down from the Godhead; and when the schoolmen of the middle ages developed fanciful and even ludicrous lengths of speculation on the nature and powers of angels; and Swedenborg set forth his curious parallel of an unseen world at all points corresponding to the visible world, and his presentation of angels, almost in the Gnostic fashion, as graded emanations or receptacles of the divine life, the old ideas were being injured by overstatement. And the very much increased knowledge that we have today of the immediate causes of natural events, such disease and healing, earthquakes, lightning and so forth has seemed entirely to explain as physical what had been attributed to spiritual agency.
And yet if we give imagination its right function as possible organ of truth we scarcely need to modify the old ideas at all. The mind of the poet, the artist, the child can quite freely use the conception of angels, for certain elements of reality which without this medium seem to escape us altogether. They have in is respect the blessing of the “pure in heart," whose reward is that “ they shall see God." Amongst wise teachers of the young there has been lately a significant revival of the “belief" in fairies. Ideal truth, spiritual and beautiful aspects of life can be best set forth and grasped in certain unfettered activities of imaginative powers, and along these same lines there is not merely a going forth from the soul of its own substance, but a receiving, by the soul, of objective and inspiring truth.
When we read of the Angels appearing at Mons, and, earlier, of the Serbians having been encouraged visions of one of their historic chiefs; it recalled the similar experiences with which the history of the worId is strewn. The Greeks at Marathon were inspired by Theseus. Hannibal was led into Italy by “one of the gods" of his country. Constantine was fired to conquest, and to christianising of the Roman Empire by his vision of the Cross and the cry "By this sign, conquer." At the siege of Constantinople the defenders were sustained by a vision of the Virgin Mary. The first Crusaders, in their most desperate plight at Antioch were roused by a vision and gained one of their greatest victories. The castle of St. Angelo at Rome is an ancient tomb, but by its crowning figure commemorates the vision of the destroying angel who was seen there after three days of public humiliation and prayer, sheathing his sword. Whatever there is from the scientific point of view"fictitious" about these alleged experiences, it is nevertheless to be recognised that, from the standpoint of a faith for which God is personal, and all the forces of nature, as obedient to Him, are ultimately personal forces, the imagination is not altogether a false guide when grappling with spiritual realities.
So, on surveying the Bible teaching,
even in its early form, we can in its essential significance receive
it. Our confidence to-day persists in the personal, gracious,
thousandfold ministries of God in the Unseen world about us.
END OF CHAPTER