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we, our children, our newly-born and newly-baptized children, have the help of the high, and holy, and blessed spirits, who live for ever in the presence of God! Surely this is an ever-present help against Satan and his evil spirits, to have the good spirits of God by our side, around our bed, around our path; well may we bless and magnify God's holy name for these unseen, but ever-present guardians.
And here it may help us to realize what we are told of the work of the holy angels, to consider what part they hold in the history of the gospel. It was the angel Gabriel who appeared unto Zacharias, and foretold unto him the birth of St. John Baptist. It was the angel Gabriel who was sent unto the blessed Virgin Mary, to announce unto her, that of her should be born, by the power of the Holy Ghost, her divine Son and Saviour Jesus Christ. It was the angel of the Lord who appeared unto Joseph in a dream, and assured him when he was in doubt: "Fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost." It was the angel of the Lord who appeared unto the shepherds, as they were keeping watch over their flocks by night: "And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good
tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord,' and not one angel only, but many, full of joy, full of love to man, full of zeal for God's glory. "And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will toward men." And so, again, it was the angel of God, in a dream, who warned Joseph, at the first, to flee into Egypt; and, again, after the death of Herod, to return into the land of Israel. So that we read of the holy angels, and of their ministry, no less than six times in the history of our Lord's birth.
Then, again, the angels are twice spoken of during His ministry. Once, at the very beginning; a second time, at the very end of His ministry. Thus, after His forty days' fast and temptation, we read, "And, behold, angels came and ministered unto Him." And again, in His agony in the garden, when He had prayed again and again unto His Father, and "His sweat was as it were great drops of blood," we read, "and there appeared an angel unto Him from heaven, strengthening Him." All which may be as a pattern of what takes place in our case,—that it is
chiefly in times of severe trial and temptation, or when we are weighed down by sorrow, or when we have prayed again and again, that God visits us with the ministry of His holy angels, and cheers, comforts, and upholds us. Thus the pattern of our Lord would teach us not to expect that help at once; but to be patient; to resist temptation, so far as we can; and to wait God's time to set us free; to continue instant in prayer, until He be pleased to hear us, and, should He see good, to answer our prayer.
Then, again, we read of the angels as present at, and after, the Resurrection of our Lord: “And, behold, there was a great earthquake; for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: and for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men." And again, another angel within the sepulchre : " And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified He is risen; He is not here: behold the place where they laid Him." And in St.
Luke and St. John, we read of two angels: "Two men stood by them in shining garments." "But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, and seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the Body of Jesus had lain." Thus
are the holy angels present at the holy sepulchre, present to awe and alarm the enemies of Jesus Christ, present to speak peace and comfort to His disciples, present to guard the sacred spot in which His blessed Body had lain.
And, again, at the Ascension, are the holy angels present, with a message of peace and comfort to the bereaved and sorrowing disciples.
'And, while they looked stedfastly toward heaven, as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven."
Such was the work and ministry of the holy angels during the time of our blessed Lord's sojourn here upon earth. Nor did their work and ministry cease when our Lord had ascended up into heaven. We still read of them as present to
deliver, to guide, to comfort the apostles and early disciples.
Thus, in the Acts of the Apostles, chap. iv., we read that, when "the high-priest and all they that were with him . . . . had laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison, the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said, Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life;" and again, in chap. xii., when "Herod the king prehended Peter, he put him in prison, prayer was made without ceasing of the Church unto God for him. And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and the keepers before the door kept the prison. And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison; and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell
And they went out,
and passed through one street; and forthwith the angel departed from him. And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety that the Lord hath sent His angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod."