And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth…
First, then, man being compassed with a cloud of witnesses of his own infirmities, and the manifold afflictions of this life, had need of some light to show him the right way, and some strength to enable him to walk safely in it. And this light and strength is here proposed in the assistance of an angel. Which being first understood of angels in general, affords a great measure of comfort to us, because the angels are faithful and diligent attendants upon all our steps. But our security of deliverance is in a safer and a stronger hand than this; not in these ministerial and missive angels only, but in His that sends them, yea, in His that made them. This angel, which does so much for God's saints, is by many expositors taken to be our Saviour Christ Himself. And will any man doubt of performance of conditions in Him? Will any man look for better security than Him who puts two, and two such, into the band, Christ and Jesus: an anointed King, able, an actual Saviour, willing to discharge not His, but our debt? This security, then, for our deliverance and protection, we have in this angel in our text, "I saw an angel," as this Angel is Christ; but yet we have also another security, more immediate and more appliable to us. Besides this all-sufficiency of the Angel of the Covenant, Christ Jesus, we have for our security, in this text, "I saw an angel," the servants of Christ too. This angel is indeed the whole frame and hierarchy of the Christian Church. So, then, to let go none of our assistants, our safety is in the Angel of the Covenant, Christ Jesus, radically, fundamentally, meritoriously. It is in the ministry of the angels of heaven invisibly; but it is in the Church of God, and in the power of His ministers there, manifestly, sensibly, discernibly. This addition is intended for a particular addition to our comfort; it is a particular endowment, or enlargement, of strength and power in this angel, that he comes from the east. Those angels which have had their sunset — their fall — they came from the east. "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning?" He had his begetting, his creation, in the east, in the light, and there might have stayed for any necessity of falling that God laid upon him. Take the angel of the text to be the Angel of the Covenant, Christ Jesus, and His name is The East. Every way the gospel is an angel of the east. But this is that which we take to be principally intended in it, that, as the east is the fountain of light, so all our illumination is to be taken from the gospel. If thou suffer thy soul to set in a dark cloud of ignorance of God's providence, or in a darker of diffidence of His performance towards thee, this is a turning to the west, and all these are perverse and awry. But turn to the east and to the angel that comes from thence, the ministry of the gospel of Christ Jesus in His Church. It is true thou mayest find some dark places in the Scriptures, yet fix thyself upon this angel of the east, the preaching of the Word, the ordinance of God, and thine understanding shall be enlightened, and thy belief established, and thy conscience unburthened. Our angel comes from the east, a denotation of splendour, an illustration of understanding and conscience, and there is more — he comes ascending. "I saw an angel ascend from the east," that is, still growing more clear and more powerful upon us (1 Samuel 28:13). Take the angel to be Christ, and then His ascension is intended. But as this angel is the ministry of the gospel, God gave it a glorious ascent in the primitive Church, when as this sun ascended quickly beyond the reach of heretics and persecutors. Now to give way to this ascent of this angel in thyself, make the way smooth, find thou a growth of the gospel in thy faith, and let us find it in thy life. If thou find it not ascending it descends. If thou live not by it nothing can redeem thee, thou diest by it. "Of the living God." The gods of the nations are all dead gods: either such gods as never had life — stones, and gold and silver — or such gods at best as were never gods until they were dead, for men that had benefited the world in any general invention, or otherwise, were made gods after their deaths, which was a miserable deification. If we seek this seal in the great Angel, the Angel of the Covenant, Christ Jesus: it is true He hath it, for "the Father hath committed all judgment to the Son." Christ, as the Son of Man, executes a judgment, and hath a power, which He hath not but by gift, by commission, by virtue of this seal, from His Father. The servants of God being sealed in their foreheads in the sacrament of baptism, when they are received into the care of the Church, all those means which God hath provided for His servants, in His Church, to resist afflictions and temptations, are intended to be conferred upon them in that seal. This sealing of them is a communicating to them all those assistances of the Christian Church. Then they have a way of prevention of sin, by hearing; a way to absolution, by confession; a way to reconciliation, by a worthy receiving the body and blood of Christ Jesus. And these helps of the Christian Church thus conferred in baptism, keep open still, if these be rightly used, that other seal, the seal of the Spirit (Ephesians 1:13; 2 Corinthians 1:22).
(John Donne, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree.