I looked and saw a whirlwind coming from the north, a great cloud with fire flashing back and forth and brilliant light all around it. In the center of the fire was a glow like amber,
I. THE GLORY OF THE ETERNAL IS SEEN IN NATURAL FORCES. It was in these, as in a setting, that the more specific forms discerned by the prophet were enshrined. The stormy wind from the north, the great cloud with its flashing fire, the amber brightness gleaming about it, - all these are manifestations of an unseen but mighty power, recognized by the spirit as Divine. This is certainly a stroke of the true artist, first to portray the material, the vehicle, and then to proceed to paint in the more defined symbolic figures. The modern doctrine of the correlation and convertibility of forces points us to the unity which is at the heart of all things, and convinces us that we are in a universe, a cosmos, which, if it is to be explained by any rational and spiritual power behind it, must be explained by a power which is undivided and single. Poets and prophets alike find scope for their imagination in connecting all the phenomena and the forces of nature with the creative Spirit conceived as revealed by their means.
II. THE GLORY OF THE ETERNAL IS SEEN IN LIVING CREATURES. There is, of course, no intention to picture any actually existing animals under the imagery of the vers. 5-14. But we have a symbolic representation of life. Every observer is conscious that, in passing from mechanical and chemical forces to consider the manifold forms of life, he is climbing, so to speak, to a higher platform. Living beings, in all their wonderful and admirable variety of structure and of formation, are witnesses to the wisdom and the power of the Creator. Let Science tell us of the order and of the process of their appearing; the fact of their appearing, in whatever manner, is a welcome taken of the Divine interest in this earth and its population. If the poet delights to trace God's splendour in "the light of setting suns," the physicist may with equal justice investigate in organic nature the handiwork of the All-wise. Late is the work of the living God, in whom all creatures "live, and move, and have their being." A lifeless planet would lack, not only the interest with which our earth must be regarded, but something of the evidence which tells us God is here, and is ever carrying out his glorious plans.
III. THE GLORY OF THE ETERNAL IS SEEN IN HUMAN ATTRIBUTES. Each living one in the prophet's vision possessed a fourfold aspect or countenance; the combination being intended to enrich our conceptions of the handiwork of God, and the witness of that handiwork to him. Interpretations differ; but it is not uncommon to recognize in the ox the sacrificial, in the lion the powerful and regal, in the eagle the aspiring, elements, added to the true humanity, and combining with it to complete the representation. The four Gospels have been generally regarded as exhibiting severally these four characteristics; and accordingly the symbol of Matthew is the man, of Mark the lion, of Luke the ox, of John the eagle.
IV. THE GLORY OF THE ETERNAL IS SEEN ESPECIALLY IN INTELLIGENCE. The wheels had their rings or felloes "full of eyes round about." This is symbolical of understanding, because sight is the most intellectual of the senses, the eye being the medium of the greater part of our most valuable knowledge of the world without. Conscious intelligence can only arise through participation in the Divine nature; it is the subject, not the object, of knowledge. In an especial manner the intellect witnesses to the glory of God, for by it we have insight into the Divine reason. In the exercise of the prerogative of knowledge and judgment, in insight and intuition, we are putting forth powers which are in themselves among the most splendid and convincing testimonies to "the Father of lights."
V. THE GLORY OF THE ETERNAL IS SEEN ESPECIALLY IN UTTERANCE. The prophet in his vision heard the noise of the wings of the living ones, and the voice above the firmament - appealing to the sense, not of sight, but of hearing. It is perhaps not fanciful to discern here a conscious, voluntary witness to God borne by his creation, and especially by those endowed with the human prerogative of speech, as the utterance and expression of thought and reason. The music of the spheres, the voice of the stars, "the melody of woods and winds and waters," all testify to God. The poet represents the heavenly bodies as
"Forever singing as they shine, VI. THE GLORY OF THE ETERNAL IS SEEN IN THE COMMUNITY AND HARMONY APPOINTED BETWEEN HEAVEN AND EARTH. The living creatures had wings by which they soared into the sky; they reposed and ran, however, upon wheels, by which they maintained their connection with the solid ground. This remarkable combination of wings and wheels seems to point to the twofold aspect of all creation. All things have an earthly and a heavenly side. If wheels alone were provided, earth would seem cut off from heaven; if wings alone, the terrestrial element would be lacking, which would be a contradiction to obvious fact. Man has a body, and bodily needs and occupations, which link him to the earth; but he has also a spiritual nature and life which witness his relation to the ever-living God - the Spirit who seeketh such to worship him as worship in spirit and in truth. Yet his whole nature is created by God, and redeemed by Christ; and his service and sacrifice, in order to being acceptable, must be undivided and complete. Whether we regard the nature of the individual man, or regard the Church which is the body of Christ, we are constrained to acknowledge that all parts of the living nature - body, soul, and spirit - are summoned to unite in revealing to the universe the incomparable majesty and glory of God. - T.
VI. THE GLORY OF THE ETERNAL IS SEEN IN THE COMMUNITY AND HARMONY APPOINTED BETWEEN HEAVEN AND EARTH. The living creatures had wings by which they soared into the sky; they reposed and ran, however, upon wheels, by which they maintained their connection with the solid ground. This remarkable combination of wings and wheels seems to point to the twofold aspect of all creation. All things have an earthly and a heavenly side. If wheels alone were provided, earth would seem cut off from heaven; if wings alone, the terrestrial element would be lacking, which would be a contradiction to obvious fact. Man has a body, and bodily needs and occupations, which link him to the earth; but he has also a spiritual nature and life which witness his relation to the ever-living God - the Spirit who seeketh such to worship him as worship in spirit and in truth. Yet his whole nature is created by God, and redeemed by Christ; and his service and sacrifice, in order to being acceptable, must be undivided and complete. Whether we regard the nature of the individual man, or regard the Church which is the body of Christ, we are constrained to acknowledge that all parts of the living nature - body, soul, and spirit - are summoned to unite in revealing to the universe the incomparable majesty and glory of God. - T.
A whirlwind came out of the north.
1. The idea of mobility is the foremost which the image involves. The vision of Ezekiel provokes a comparison with the vision of Isaiah. Isaiah saw the Lord enthroned on high, there above the mercy seat, there between the cherubim, there in the same local sanctuary, where for centuries He had received the adoration of an elect and special people. The awe of the vision is enhanced by its localisation. But with Ezekiel this is changed. The vision is in a heathen land. The throne is a chariot now. It is placed on wheels arranged transversely, so that it can move easily to all the four quarters of the heavens. Its motion is direct, immediate, rapid, darting like the lightning flash, whithersoever it is sped. Not, indeed, that the element of fixity is lost. Though a chariot, it remains still a throne. It is supported by the four living creatures whose wings as they beat fill the air with their whirring, but whose feet are planted straight and firm. They have four faces looking four ways, but these are immovable. "They turned not when they went." However we may interpret them, they are the firm supports of the chariot, moving rapidly, yet never turning, unchangeable in themselves, yet. capable of infinite adaptation in their processes.
2. The counterpart to the mobility in the larger dispensation of the future thus implied in the vision is its spirituality. It is mobile just because it is spiritual. The letter is fixed; the form is rigid and motionless as death. The spirit only is instinct with life. "Whither the spirit was to go they went." Everywhere the presence of the Spirit is emphasised; and this emphatic reiteration is the more remarkable because it is found in the midst of accurate dates, precise measurements, topographical descriptions, minute external details of all kinds.
3. But lastly, if spirituality characterises the motive power, if mobility is the leading feature in the intermediate energies and processes, universality is the final result. The chariot of God moves freely to all the four quarters of the heavens. The prophet sees it first in the plains of Babylonia. He is then carried in his vision to the Temple at Jerusalem. There he beholds the glory filling the holy place, the throne of God supported on the cherubim: and there, too — an unwonted surprise — are the four faces, the wings, the hands, the wheels full of eyes, just the same forms and the same motions which he had seen in the land of his exile. Ay, he understands it now. The living creatures of Babylonia are none other than the sacred cherubim of the sanctuary. Three times, as if he would assure himself or convince others by reiteration, he repeats the words, "The same which I saw by the river Chebar." So, then, God works with power, God is enthroned in glory, not less in that far-off heathen land than in His own cherished sanctuary among His own elect people. The vision of Ezekiel is not a dead or dying story, which has served its turn and now may pass out of mind. It lives still as the very charter of the Church of the future. If in this nineteenth century we Englishmen would do any work for Christ's Church, which shall be real, shall be solid, shall be lasting, we must follow in the lines here marked out for us. Mobility, spirituality, universality, these three ideas must inspire our efforts. Other methods may seem more efficacious for the moment, but this only will resist the stress of time. Not to cling obstinately to the decayed anachronisms of the past, not to linger wistfully over the death-stricken forms of the past, not to narrow our intellectual horizon, not to stunt our moral sympathies; but to adapt and to enlarge, to absorb new truths, to gather new ideas, to develop new institutions, to follow always the teaching of the Spirit — the Spirit, which will not be bound and imprisoned — the Spirit, which is like the breath of wind, and whose very name speaks of elasticity and expansion, passing through every crevice, filling every interstice, conforming itself to every modification of size and shape; this is our duty as Christians, as Churchmen, as Anglicans, remembering meanwhile that there is one fixed centre from which all our thoughts must radiate, and to which all our hopes must converge — Jesus Christ, the same yesterday and today and forever.
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