“And Jacob went, out from Beer-sheba, and wont toward Haran. And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set: and he took of the stones of that place, and put thorn for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed, and, behold, a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and, behold, the angels of God ascending and descending on it. And, behold, the Lord stood above it.” – Genesis xxviii. 10-13.
Jacob went forth of Beer-sheba a wretched fugitive, he fled from the face of Esau his brother, who purposed to kill him. Yes, as a very outcast, an exile from his father’s house, he plods on in his reluctant journey. He makes his escape from the tierce auger of his brother, but how shall he flee from a guilty conscience? The day is past and gone, the evening shades appear, and he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set. He cannot go on in the darkness, he is weary and seeks repose, he lies down, and with the stones of the place for his pillows he falls asleep, and he dreamed. Does he have disquieting dreams! Does he dream that the pit is open to engulf him? Does he have to exclaim with Job, “When I say, My bed shall comfort me, my couch shall case my complaint; then thou scarest me with dreams, and terrifiest me through visions”! – Job vii. 13, 14. Ah no, but he dreamed a gracious dream; the Lord mercifully visited him in his slumberings. (Job xxxiii. 15.) He dreamed, not that the mouth of hell was opened to swallow up the guilty fugitive, but in his vision he beheld the opened gate of heaven, and a glimpse was given him of the covenant welcoming Jehovah. Upon what grounds did the Lord thus graciously deal with sinful Jacob? Was it for his works – his good works, his evil works? It was not because he had done good, or that he had done evil; it was of the absolute sovereign grace of God, it was all the fruit of the eternal purpose of God according to election. (Romans ix. 11.) Though this be ever so abasing to man, it is the truth; though it forever sets at naught the arrogancy of those who vaunt themselves in their imagined abilities, in their supposed sell-determined wills, thus deifying the will of the flesh, this is the revelation of the Scripture that it is only of the good pleasure of God’s will that mercy and salvation are shown to any of the human family. (Eph. i. 5,9, 11.) “For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” – Romans ix. 15. God had compassion on sinful, unworthy Jacob; he found him in a desert land, in a waste howling wilderness; there he lies asleep, and in his sleep is dreaming. “Behold, a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and, behold, the angels of God ascending and descending on it. And, behold, the Lord stood above it.” Then God declared himself to be Jacob’s God, even as he had been the God of Abraham and Isaac, and very graciously promised him blessings of both a temporal’ and spiritual nature. “And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not. And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” This dream had a transforming effect upon Jacob, and he “rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it. And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first. And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God: and this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me, I will surely give the tenth unto thee.”
I have traced the narrative, and now desire to present some glimpses of the spiritual import of this vision. It had a typical, spiritual signification, as the language of Jesus in John i. 49-51, very clearly indicates. For when “Nathaniel answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel. Jesus answered, and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? Thou shalt see greater things than these. Anil he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.” We are then quite safe in looking upon this ladder in Jacob’s dream as being typical of the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, and we shall see as we proceed in our contemplations that in very many aspects Christ may be viewed as that ladder set up on the earth whose top reached to heaven. Our Lord Jesus Christ is God manifest in the flesh; he is the fellow of the Lord of hosts, (Zech. xiii. 7,) and the fellow of mankind. (Psalms xlv. 7.) He is David’s Lord and David’s son, (Matt. xxii. 45,) the root and the offspring of David. (Rev. xxii. 16.) The testimony in the Scriptures of this divine mystery is very clear and satisfying to the faith of God’s elect. Thus we read, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.” “Ami the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” – John i. 14. This is the most wonderful and glorious act of God; it transcends all his works in creation and providence, for in the incarnation of the Son of God all the glories of Jehovah are revealed in their infinite excellence. The glories of the I Lord in creation and his providence are great and marvelous indeed, but in comparison with this, “The Word was made flesh,” they are but the faint dawnings of his glory. This is his glory in all its eternal noontide splendor, and as it concerns the elect of Adam’s race it is of infinite consequence, and to their eternal happiness and exaltation. How preciously the fact that God was manifest in the flesh is told in Phil. ii. 10-11: Christ Jesus “being in the form of God, thought it riot robbery to be equal with God; but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” “Verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.” Who is this “he” that took on him the seed of Abraham! It is none other than the eternal Son of God who is eternally, in his nature, in his essential being, the brightness of the Father’s glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power. (Heb. i. 1-3.) This glorious One gave himself a sacrifice for our sins, and when he had by himself purged them away sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high. The Son of God in the body fitted for him made the atonement for his people. For their sakes he made himself of no reputation, he was tempted, he suffered, he was hungry and wearied, he was buffeted, smitten and spit upon, they plucked the hair from his face. He was crucified, and experienced all the sufferings of death. Yes, that very manhood that was conceived in the womb of the virgin Mary, which verily was of the seed of Abraham, and which was nailed to the cross, and was laid in the tomb and saw no corruption, this very man Christ Jesus was raised again from the dead, and was received up into glory. In the revelation of these momentous facts the faith of God’s elect sees Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor. He is exalted far above all might and dominion and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come. That sacred, incorruptible manhood of the Word made flesh is now glorified and made higher than the heavens, and as our bodies are the members of Christ, bought with his blood, (1 Cor. vi. 15-20,) so in the gospel we are warranted to hope for their redemption. (Rom. viii. 213.) Christ shall raise us up at the last day incorruptible, immortal and glorious; for when Christ shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trump of God, the dead in Christ shall be raised incorruptible and we shall be changed. He shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. We shall bear the image of the heavenly, and being conformed to the image of the Son of God we shall dwell with him in immortal blessedness.
Christ in his manhood is with the man asleep on the earth at the foot of the ladder, and in his Godhead he reacheth up to heaven, and is one with God the Father. Thus in his very person how eligible was the incarnate Son of God to sustain His mediatorial character, which in the gospel is so gloriously and comfortingly revealed. Though the space be infinite between earth and heaven, between a sinful, prostrate man and the high and Holy One that inhabiteth eternity, yet this One, Emmanuel, the man, the Lord from heaven, (1 Cor. xv. 47,) fully and gloriously brings them together. He is the mystical Ladder, and such a Christ became us who is holy, harmless, undented, separate from sinners and made higher than the heavens. The subsistence in the person of the Son of God, of that “holy thing,” that incorruptible human nature, is a glorious and soul-satisfying mystery. His deity was Jesus’ immortal strength, and gave grace and efficacy to all his mediatorial acts.
Jacob in his dream beheld a ladder set up on the earth, and Christ, our antitypical Ladder, was set up in the counsel of Jehovah from everlasting. (Prov. viii. 23.) He verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, (1 Peter i. 20,) and his goings forth, all the steps concerning himself, and his mediatorship, which constitute our ladder from earth to heaven, were all embraced in the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God; for so it is written of him, “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” – Micah v. 2. Pause a moment, muse upon this. What love God hath to us in Christ Jesus. (Romans viii. 39,) what grace is given us in him, (2 Tim. i. 9,) that Christ, the Head of the church, should be set up from eternity in the everlasting covenant ordered in all things and sure. God is love. (1 John iv. 16.) He is gracious. (Exodus xxii. 27.) O that we could shew forth his praises, love and worship him forever. When God created Adam and Eve, and they had fallen by their iniquity, then in the promise given in Eden that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head, Christ was set up, the ladder of hope for sinners; yes, in all the promises of the new covenant, in all the prophecies, in all the types and shadows, Christ was set up to faith’s vision the Ladder from earth to heaven. On earth at the foot there were sufferings revealed, and at the top, in heaven, immortal glory. The prophets of old searched diligently “what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” – 1 Peter i. 11. And “when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” – Gal. iv. 4, 5. Then in the person of Christ the ladder in very fact was manifested and set up on the earth, (and no matter how paradoxical it may appear lo carnal reason) he, our Ladder, was on earth, and the top reached to heaven. This divine fact in our faith is declared in the words, “Xo man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.” – John iii. 13. He was on the earth and in heaven in the selfsame moment, for he is God-man, “The second man is the Lord from heaven.” – 1 Cor. xv. 47. “The man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts.” – Zech. xiii. 7. Emmanuel. (Matt. i. 23.)
In the mediatorial accomplishments of Christ we can very comfortingly contemplate the ladder being set up on the earth, and shall I say, so built up till the top reached to heaven I In the preaching of the gospel Jesus Christ is evidently set forth, and thus testimonially Christ the Ladder is set up on the earth. Then how very blessed when Christ the Ladder is set up in our hearts by faith! O, we may feel to be down, down, down in the earth, but no matter in what deeps we may be, the foot of the ladder is found to have been set up in the lowest parts of the earth, down, down, down Christ descended to reach, to ransom the lowest of his people. O Jesus, thou didst stoop so low to rescue thy fallen, sinful ones; thou madest thyself of no reputation, thou wast the victim, the sacrifice for our sins, our vilenesses, the curse of the law weighed thee down. O thou didst humble thyself unto death, even the death of the cross; but thou didst rise again, thou didst ascend into heaven itself. Thou art our Ladder, by thee we shall ascend from the depths of the earth.
There is but one Ladder, and this God has set up. Christ only is the way, the new and living way from sin to holiness, from death to life, from earth to glory; he is the one and only Mediator between God and men. (1 Tim. ii. 5.) There are many ladder-builders in the world, but none of their ladders reach very high, and though they set them up and as they are ascending them fancy they are attaining to heaven, the time comes when all these ladders set up are upset.
There was once a race of sinful men who imagined to build a tower whose top should reach to heaven, but how fruitless were their labors, the Lord confounded them. (Gen. xi. 4.) All the humanly devised ladders set up upon the earth come infinitely short of reaching heaven; such presumptuous endeavors are only attempting to climb up some other way than by the Ladder that the Lord has set up. Though man-built and devil built ladders rear their heads ever so seemingly high, they cannot rise above the curse of the law. These ladders and ladder-builders will be everlastingly confounded by the high and Holy One that inhabiteth eternity.
Our Lord Jesus Christ is the only One who is eligible in his very person to fulfill the relations of Mediator between God and man. He is that Daysman or Umpire of whom Job speaks, “betwixt us,” that is able to lay his hand upon both God and man. (Job ix. 33.) Christ is one with man in his manhood, the Son of man, and one with the Father in his Godhead, the Son of God, the Word made flesh, Emmanuel. It is very comforting therefore when the Spirit of truth glorifies Christ, showing to us his excellencies. Our meditations of him are ever sweet, (Psalms civ. 34,) for such confidence in his person is begotten in us by the Comforter. In our faith in him we feel all is well between us and God, for our Christ being man, the Lord from heaven, (1 Cor. xv. 47,) the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts. (Zech. xiii. 7,) he is so fitted to be our Mediator. Such a Mediator became us, and his mediatorial accomplishments are so satisfying and glorious that in very truth he is our Ladder, in whom the Lord descends to us and we ascend to God. He is the medium of all intercourse. “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” – John i. 18. He “hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” – Heb. i. 2, 3. Jesus said, “All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.” – Matt. xi. 27.
In the mediatorial work of Christ, behold what a glorious ladder is set up on the earth. The obedience of the Son of God, his sufferings, his blood, his death, resurrection and ascension to glory, reveal the Ladder that joins earth to heaven. When he came into the world to do the will of his Father, and took upon him the seed of Abraham, when he came forth of the womb of the virgin Mary, the Son of God incarnate, he built this ladder till the top reached to heaven. Upward and upward the Mediator of the new covenant went on with his work, and as step upon step he built up the ladder he bare the names of the children of Israel upon his heart. (Exodus xxviii. 29.) Yes, in a divine mystery he carried up in his embrace all his own, his people, his bride. He came down for her, and built this ladder by which she should ascend with him to glory. Up this ladder by faith we ascend, and have a heaven-given boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us through the veil. (Heb. x. 19, 20.)
Look at the scene. There at the foot of the ladder lies the sinner, at the top is the compassionate, sin-pardoning, covenant God. Jacob lies prostrate below, God stands in infinite majesty above. At the foot is man in his weakness, at the top is the Lord God omnipotent who reigneth. Does not Jacob very fitly represent the disconsolate, outcast sinner? He speaks of this time as the time of “my distress,” (Gen. xxxv. 3-9,) when God appeared unto him and answered him. There in the wilderness he is a fugitive, a wretched exile from the home of his father Isaac. But though he is homeless and houseless, in his dream behold a ladder set up on the earth, the top reaching to heaven, and at the top a gate; heaven is open, the house of God is open, open to him, yes, God the Father is standing there, and down the ladder the Father’s voice descends into the heart of Jacob, his dear child, whom he loved, whom he had chosen. (Romans ix. 11-13.) Jacob was one of the number of those whom the Father hath predestinated unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, and surely it is all to the praise of the glory of his grace. (Eph. i. 5.) When God quickened us and called us by his grace, how soon we were in the wilderness, distressed and “ready to perish;” (Deut. xxvi. 5,) we felt we were guilty fugitives from divine justice. If to the heavens we looked they were as brass, all closed to the guilty ones. We were shut out, and wandered as in a dreary, waste howling desert, and our hearts became heavy beneath the righteous condemnation of the law, and though we journeyed through all the earth, and witnessed all the devices of men, there was no help for us in their inventions, we found ourselves at the ends of the earth, and at our wits’ end, (Psalms cvii. 27,) and our soul’s lamentation was that we could discover no way of reconciliation with God. We could see no way for a vile sinner to ascend from the regions of the curse of the law to the purity and blessedness of heaven. No opening heavens around us shine, all is darkness, all is hopeless, unless this ladder be set up on the earth; and when it pleases the Holy Ghost to reveal Christ the crucified One to the contrite heart, then we see the ladder. His person, Emmanuel, and his covenant mediatorship between us and God satisfies all our cravings. O then with eyes of entreaty we look up the ladder and behold our smiling, gracious God in heaven, and peace and love and sweet gratitude are filling our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. At the foot of the ladder poor, wretched, guilty sinners are found, at the top is the God of eternal love and salvation. At the foot lies Jacob mantled with earth’s darkness, and the denser night of guilt is in his bosom, but at the sight of the ladder the day dawns, the shadows of dreadful guilt flee away, for at. the top is immortal day, the shining face of the Lord. O Zion, thy God is thy glory, (Isaiah lx. 19,) and glory streams down the ladder into the soul of the loved and chosen and saved sinner that lies at the foot of the ladder. O comforting vision! O beautiful Ladder! O altogether lovely Emmanuel! In the steps of the faith of God’s elect the quickened sinner mounts up the precious ladder of Christ’s mediatorial, finished work. We ascend in our faith far from earth, darkness, sin and misery, to peace, to light, to blessedness, to God, to behold the beauty of the Lord, our just and gracious sin-pardoning God. Yes, Christ is our Mediator, he is our way, and we are taught, we are continually being taught to mount up with all reliance, with all affection, this ladder. Christ’s life, obedience, priesthood, sacrifice and blood, his resurrection and ascension to glory, is our ladder. This is the heavenward way, the ever new and living way, this is the path of life. “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”
Christ was lifted up, crucified upon the cross between earth and heaven. Without the cross of Christ there would be infinite and eternal separation of us vile sinners from the holy God and the realms of blessedness, but in the cross of Christ we behold the way from sin to holiness, from condemnation to justification, from death to endless life, from pain and sickness and misery to heavenly happiness, from everlasting night to eternal day. O Christ, our Ladder, so pleasant to our sight, in all thine endearing relations thou art so lovely. Thy Godhead, precious Jesus, sheds forth floods of glory over all thine undertakings; all the steps of thy mediation in behalf of thy church are radiant in thy praises and grateful to our trusting souls. Thy glory in very truth is the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. Cause thy face to shine upon us, and we shall be saved.
There were chambers in the temple of the Lord, and they went up with winding stairs into the middle chambers, and out of the middle into the third. (1 Kings vi. 8.) The spouse of Christ says, The King hath brought me into his chambers. (Song of Solomon i. 4.) This is she who is found in the secret places of the stairs. (Song ii. 14.) And Paul, a man in Christ, was caught up to the third heaven, into paradise. (2 Cor. xii. 2-4.) Ezekiel says, “As I was among the captives by the river of Chebar, the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God.” – Ezek. i. 1. The apostle John on the isle of Patmos beheld a door opened in heaven, and a voice said, “Come up hither.” – Rev. iv. 1. In all the varied significations of these Scriptures there is food for sweet meditations. It is only where Christ the ladder is set up that the heaven is opened. The dying thief found this to he so. Looking to the crucified Redeemer he beheld (in the God-given revelation to his sin-stricken heart) the heaven opened, and Christ, the way, the ladder to glory and happiness, and he believed that the now crucified Jesus was the Lord’s Christ, the Mediator, the King of glory, and he cried, “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” – Luke xxiii. 42, 43. Look at the ladder in this aspect. In the revelation of the gospel we have God’s foreknowledge and election of his people. (1 Peter i. 1.) The predestination of the elect unto eternal life and unto the adoption of children, and the predestination of them to be conformed to the image of his Son. (Acts xiii. 48; Eph. i. 5; Romans viii. 29.) Then flowing from this their redemption, (Eph. i. 7,) their justification, (Romans iii. 24,) their sanctification by the Holy Spirit and regeneration, (2 Thess. ii. 1.3; Titus iii. 5,) and glorification, (Romans viii. 30; Col. iii. 4,) and so, in immortality and incorruption, they shall ever be with the Lord. (1 Thess. iv. 17.) This indeed is bringing the many sons unto glory. O beautiful, glorious ladder! all of it is revealed and partaken of in and with Christ Jesus our Lord, who is the Husband and Head of his body, the church.
Let us again look at our ladder in Jacob’s dream. The angels of God ascended and descended upon it. “God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels.” – 1 Tim. iii. 10. When God brought the First Begotten into the world he saith, “Let all the angels of God worship him,” – Heb. i. 6, and truly they worshiped him; he was their admiration. In the incarnation of the Son of God they beheld, not the exaltation of their nature, for he took not on him the nature of angels, but he took hold of the seed of Abraham. (Heb. ii. 10.) They beheld the exaltation of our manhood in him, and hearkening unto the voice of the Lord they worshiped him, and in divine melody they sang the praises of the most high God: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” In the holy child Jesus, God manifest in the flesh, they beheld the ladder set up on the earth.
“Through in his travels hero below
They did his stops attend,
Oft gazed and wondered where at last
The scene of love would end.”
He was seen of angels at his baptism when “the heaven was opened, and the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him; and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.” – Luke iii. 22. And in the wilderness of temptation he was seen, there they ministered unto him, (Mark i. 13,) and when he was transfigured in the holy mount, and his face did shine as the sun (Matt. xvii. 2.) they, with the apostles, were eye witnesses of his majesty. (2 Peter i. 5.) When the hour was come for him to tread the wine-press alone he was seen of them in his unspeakable agony in Gethsemane’s garden, and one of them appeared from heaven strengthening him. (Luke xxii. 43.) And when in the hands of wicked men he was blindfolded and spit upon, when they crowned him with thorns, when the hair was plucked from his dear face, when they smote him with the palms of their hands, when they led him away as a very malefactor, and crucified him on Mount Calvary, he was seen of angels. They heard him cry, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” They saw him bow his head and give up the ghost; they saw the Holy One laid in the tomb; they were witnesses of his resurrection, for the third day, “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,” heralding the glad tidings, “he is not here; for he is risen, as he said. Come see the place where the Lord lay.” – Matt, xxviii. 2-6. They saw him burst the bars of death, and triumph over the grave, and when he ascended on high, and was received up into glory, amidst their acclamations, their welcoming triumphal song he entered into heaven, having obtained eternal redemption for us. (Psalm xxiv. 7-9.) And now our Christ is enthroned, crowned with glory and honor. (Heb. ii. 9.) Yes, our very Jesus who was slain to save us from our sins, is now exalted “far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to conic.” – Eph. i. 21. Angels and authorities and powers being made subject to him, round about his throne they bow their knees, angels and archangels worship him. (1 Peter iii. 22; Phil. ii. 10; Heb. i. 0.) The seraphims veil their faces and to each other cry, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” – Isaiah vi. 3. And when at his coming the Lord shall descend from heaven, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, his mighty angels will be with him. (2Thess. i. 7.) All these things concerning Christ and his people the angels desire to look into, (1 Peter i. 12,) for unto them by the church of Christ is made known the manifold wisdom of God. (Eph. iii. 10.) And though the Sadducees of old, or of the present day, say there is no resurrection, neither angel nor spirit, (Acts xxiii. 8,) let us not mind what they say. What saith the Scriptures! These heavenly intelligences are such as excel in strength, that do the commandments of God, hearkening to the voice of his word. (Psalms ciii. 20.) One of them said, I am Gabriel, and another is called Michael the archangel, (Jude 9,) and our Savior said, “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” – Matt, xxvi. 53. And now that he is set down on his throne to reign as our Mediator and King, (I Cor. xv. 25,) thousand thousands minister unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stand before him, (Dan. vii. 10,) are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister to them who shall be heirs of salvation? (Heb. i. 14.) All their service to the redeemed of God is upon, and in consequence of the mediatorship of Christ Jesus our Lord. The angels of God ascend and descend upon the ladder. There are very many instances given ns in the Scriptures of their ministry, and in how many ways the innumerable company of angels minister to the elect of mankind it is beyond us to determine. Sufficient is this unto us, that the Scriptures teach that these lovely and heavenly intelligencies, Christ’s mighty angels, do his pleasure, they are ever hearkening to the voice of his words, and are sent forth to minister to them who shall he heirs of salvation.
“Thy ministering spirits descend,
To watch while thy saints are asleep;
By day and by night they attend,
The heirs of salvation to keep.
Bright seraphs dispatched from the throne,
Repair to the stations assigned,
And angels elect are sent down
To guard the elect of mankind.”
The ladder uniting earth and heaven is significant of the covenant friendship subsisting between God and his people, for in all the intimacy experienced by the called of God, Christ Jesus is the medium, the channel, the living way of that communion. The vital commencement of this intimacy is when the Holy Spirit quickens our souls, and we are awakened to the knowledge of our perishing condition as vile transgressors of the law. Then we are taught by the Holy Spirit to seek God, we are moved by the operations of his divine power in us to a godly sorrow over our sins, and we are moved also to fervent longings, to cries and supplications for mercy and salvation. Now, we would be no more strangers and enemies, but we much desire that all might be peace and friendship between our souls and God. O that he would turn away his anger, and be compassionate to me, a poor sinner. In such intimacy, even to this day, dear reader, I desire to live with my God. There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth. (Luke xv. 10.) Look at this scene: There is that publican, he is a sinner, but through grace he is lowly and contrite in heart. Ah, he has been as an outcast in Israel, he has been shunned and hated by his fellows, but that is not his burden now, he fears that he is abhorred by the Lord, a castaway from Israel’s God; but he is moved by the Spirit of God, moved by his contrite heart, he is drawn by what he sees of the ’<Lord: loving-kindness to sinners in the types and shadows in the house of God, and so we read he went up into the temple to pray. Another man went up at the same time to pray, a Pharisee. This man had exalted thoughts of himself, and prayed thus with himself: “God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican, [Ah, you have one eye upon yourself and the other upon the publican.] I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.” There, you see his ladder, the topmost step is no higher than his exalted self. Ah, hardened, mourning publican, how will you approach to God? The Pharisee’s faith was in his own works, he was, he thought, rich and increased with goods, and having need of nothing God sent him empty away. How will it faro with the publican? We shall see. “The publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast.” Has he any ladder to reach unto heaven? he appears to he afar off, down, down, down in a low place. Yes, he has. Behold, a ladder set up on the earth, and the top reacheth to heaven. In his faith he was drawn, and went into the temple to pray. There typically the ladder was set up. The Pharisee’s eyes were blinded that he could not see it. God had given to the publican blessed eyes, (Matt. xiii. 16,) eyes to see. (Deut. xxix. 4.) There, in the temple, he saw the priesthood in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people, in the temple there, was the shedding of blood, and the sprinkling of the blood toward the mercy-seat. The way into the holiest was opened to faith’s view, and his prayer mounted up to this mediatorial work so significantly typical of Christ and his mediatorial work. Yes, his prayer ascended and came in unto that within the veil, into heaven itself. How did he pray? “God be merciful to me a sinner.” O, our English word merciful, though so rich, so precious, so full, so suitable, only in part tells us how his prayer came in unto the Lord, into his holy temple. (Jonah ii. 7.) Only in one other place is this word found in the New Testament, (Heb. ii. 17,) and there it is translated “reconciliation,” and here in the publican’s prayer it will read: “God be propitiated to me a sinner.” Propitiated! O this is very mercy! His heart’s prayer was, Let all be reconciliation between thee, O God, and me a poor sinner. His faith was of the operation of God, and by faith he saw the mediatorial work that God in his covenant love had set up in his temple. He beheld the priesthood, the sacrifice, the shedding of blood and the sprinkling of blood toward and upon the mercy-seat. Up, up, up his faith ascended, and at the heights of the typical mediatorial work there was the holiest of all within the veil, (heaven itself in his faith) and his sin-stricken, contrite heart burst forth in prayer, God be merciful, God be propitiated to me a sinner. The Lord was at the top of the ladder. O his prayer was set forth before God as incense, (Psalms cxli. 2,) fragrant with the propitiation of Christ’s blood. Heaven was open, and at the top of the ladder was God, whose reconciling countenance looked down upon him, and he went down to his house justified.
At the foot of the ladder we pour forth, in our varied afflictions, our sighs and moans and tears, which come before God through Christ our Mediator. Those who are born of God are a “holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” – 1 Peter ii. 5. “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to his name.” – Heb. xiii. 15. We have a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, and well it is that we have such an High Priest, for all our prayers and praises, all our worship, need the cleansing of Christ’s precious blood, and thus sanctified all is acceptable, and is as fragrant incense before the Majesty in the heavens, and all the mercies of the new covenant ordered in all things and sure are shed upon us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior.
Yes, all our heart’s anguish, our feeble desires, our despairing and our believing cries, all our heart’s yearnings for forgiveness and salvation, and for succor in our manifold temptations, ascend in Jesus’ name unto our heavenly Father. With eyes of entreaty we look up through Jesus unto him, and by our Savior descends into our hearts the smile, the forgiven strength and blessedness from our almighty and gracious God; and then, ascending by Christ Jesus our gratitude and praises come before our Father God. O Jesus, thou art so needful, so desired, thou art our precious, beautiful Ladder.
“Thy loveliness hath won my heart,
Dear Jesus, let us never part;
I’ll sound thy lovely name abroad,
My altogether lovely Lord.”
Jacob again and again remembered and worshiped God at Bethel. (Gen. xxxv. 39.) Here he found sweet memories, for here God visited and answered him in his distress, here the ladder was set up, and he found the house of God and the gate of heaven.
FREDERICK W. KEENE.
North Berwick, Maine.
Signs Of The Times
Volume 74., No. 17.
SEPTEMBER 1, 1906.