Every one had four faces apiece, and every one four wings; and the likeness of the hands of a man was under their wings.
In two places in Ezekiel we are told there were hands under the wings: human hands; hands like ours. If this world is ever brought to God, it will be by appreciation of the fact that supernatural and human agencies are to go together; that which soars, and that which practically works; that which ascends the heavens, and that which reaches forth to earth: the joining of the terrestrial and the celestial, "the hand and the wing."
1. We see this union in the construction of the Bible. The wing of inspiration is in every chapter. What realms of the ransomed earth did Isaiah fly over! Over what battlefields for righteousness; what coronations; what dominations of gladness; what rainbows around the throne did St. John hover! But in every book of the Bible you just as certainly see the human hand that wrote it. Moses, the lawyer, showing the hand in the Ten Commandments, the foundation of all good legislation; Amos, the herdsman, showing the hand in similes drawn from fields and flocks: the fishermen Apostles, showing the hand when writing about Gospel nets; Luke, the physician, showing the hand by giving especial attention to diseases cured; Paul showing the scholarly hand by quoting from heathen poets, and making arguments about the Resurrection that stand as firmly as on the day he wrote them; and St. John shows the hand by taking his imagery from the appearance of the bright waters spread round the island of Patmos at the hour of sunset, when he speaks of the sea of glass mingled with fire; scores of hands writing the parables, the miracles, the promises, the hosannas, the raptures, the consolations, the woes of ages.
2. Behold this combination of my text in all successful Christian work. We stand or kneel offering prayer. Now, if anything has wings, it is prayer. Prayer flies not only across continents, but across centuries. If prayer had only feet, it might run here and there and do wonders. But it has wings, and they are as radiant of plume, and as swift to rise, or swoop, or dart, or circle, as the cherubim's wings which swept through Ezekiel's visions. But, oh, the prayer must have the hand under the wing, or it may amount to nothing. Stop singing, "Fly abroad, thou mighty Gospel," unless you are willing to give something of your own means to make it fly. Have you been praying for the salvation of a young man's soul? That is right; but also extend the hand of invitation to come to a religious meeting. From the very structure of the hand we might make up our mind as to some of the things it was made for: to hold fast, to lift, to push, to pull, to help, and to rescue. And endowed with two hands, we might take the broad hint that for others as well as for ourselves we were to hold fast, to lift, to push, to pull, to help, to rescue.
3. This idea is combined in Christ. When He rose from Mount Olivet He took wing. All up and down His life you see the uplifting Divinity. But He was also very human. It was the hand under the wing that touched the woes of the world, and took hold of the sympathies of the centuries.
4. There is a kind of religion in. our day that my text rebukes. There are men and women spending their time in delectation over their saved state, going about from prayer meeting to prayer meeting, and from church to church, telling how happy they are. But show them a subscription paper, or ask them to go and visit the sick, or tell them to reclaim a wanderer, or speak out for some unpopular Christian enterprise, and they have bronchitis, or stitch in the side, or sudden attack of grippe. Their religion is all wing and no hand. They can fly heavenward, but they cannot reach out earthward. There was much sense in that which the robust boatman said when three were in a boat off the coast in a sudden storm that threatened to sink the boat, and one suggested that they all kneel down in the boat to pray, and the robust man took hold of the oar and began to pull, saying: "Let you, the strong, stout fellow, lay hold of the other oar, and let the weak one who banner pull give himself up to prayer." Pray by all means; but at the same time pull with all your might for the world's rescue.
5. There is also in my subject the suggestion of rewarded work for God and righteousness. When the wing went the hand went. When the wing ascended the hand ascended; and for every useful and Christian hand there will be elevation celestial and eternal. Expect no human gratitude, for it will not come. That was a wise thing Fenelon wrote to his friend: "I am very glad, my dear, good friend, that you are pleased with one of my letters which has been shown to you. You are right in saying and believing that I ask little of men in general. I try to do much for them and to expect nothing in return. I find a decided advantage in these terms. On these terms I defy them to disappoint me." But the day cometh when your work, which perhaps no one has noticed, or rewarded, or honoured, will rise to heavenly recognition. While I have been telling you that the hand was under the wing of the cherubim, I want you to realise that the wing was over the hand. Perhaps reward may not come to you at once. But I promise you victory further on and higher up; if not in this world, then in the next. Roll on that everlasting rest for all the toiling and misunderstood and suffering and weary children of God, and know right well that to join your hand, at last emancipated from the struggle, will be the soft hand, the gentle hand, the triumphant hand of Him who wipeth away all tears from all faces. That will be the Palace of the King of which the poet sang in somewhat Scotch dialect: —
"It's a bonnie, bonnie warl' that we're livin' in the noo,
And sunny is the lan' we often traivel thro';
But in vain we look for something to which oor hearts can cling,
For its beauty is as naething to the Palace o' the King.
We see oor friends await us ower yonder at His gate:
Then let us a' be ready, for ye ken it's gettin' late;
Let oor lamps be brichtly burnin'; let's raise our voice an' sing:
Soon we'll meet, to part nae mair, i' the Palace o' the King."
(T. De Witt Talmage.).
Parallel VersesKJV: Every one had four faces apiece, and every one four wings; and the likeness of the hands of a man was under their wings.