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lect go hand in hand. To love is to know, and knowl-
edge is the form of love, and both are embodied in use,
in life ; and thus the whole nature, from centre to circum-
ference, is filled with ever-increasing delight.

Swedenborg says it was granted to him to see little
children most charmingly attired, having garlands of
flowers resplendent with beautiful and heavenly colors
twined about their breasts and tender arms. * * And
once," he says, "to see them, with those who have
charge of them, in company with maidens, in a paradisal
garden most beautifully adorned, not so much with trees
as with arbors and covered walks of laurel, and with
paths leading inward. And when the little children en-
M 23


tered, dressed as I have described, the flowers over the
entrance shone forth most joyously. From this it may
be manifest," he adds, ''what dehghts they have, and
also that by these pleasant and delightful things they are
introduced into the goods of innocence and charity, which
are thus continually instilled into them by the Lord."

What a beautiful sight must such a company of chil-
dren be in the spiritual world ! Surrounded by all things
of a loveliness and beauty corresponding to their own
beautiful natures ; without a weakness or a pain or a
single cloud of sorrow to overshadow their sunny hearts,
rosy with perfect health, elastic, graceful, and vigorous in
the harmonious development of every organ and power ;
innocent, lovely, and loving in all their intercourse, their
faces shining with heavenly affections and delights, their
voices soft and sweet with celestial harmonies, and their
whole forms glowing with the Divine life and becoming
the actual embodiment of it ; no clouds above them, no
inharmonious and unsightly objects around them, no fear
of coming evil, no regrets, no tears, and not a jar in the
harmony of their natures ; clothed in heavenly garments
of a beauty corresponding to their intelligence, they are
beauty, joy, innocence, peace, purity, not only personi-
fied, but actually embodied in form.

Would you who have children in these heavenly nur-
series call them back into this world, imprison them in
the material body, shut them up in our dark dwellings,
expose them to the contagion of corrupt examples, and
subject them to our imperfect guidance and instruction ?
Much as you desire to have them bodily and visibly with
you, you could not do it. No. It is well with them.


" Take heed that ye despise ?iot one of these little ones ; for I
say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the
face of my Father which is in heaven.^' — Matthew xviii. lo.

T^HE relations we sustain to angels and departed spirits
are frequently referred to in the Sacred Scriptures.
Their presence with men and their influence in human
affairs is described as intimate and powerful. Many in-
stances are given in the Old and in the New Testament
of the appearance of angels to men and of the services
they rendered to them. They gave them instruction on
occasions of great difficulty and danger. They came as
messengers from the Lord to make known His will and
to announce the coming of great events. They protected
men from impending danger ; they delivered them from
bondage and led them into the promised land ; they
showed their deep interest in human affairs on many oc-
casions and in many ways during the whole of human
history as recorded in the Sacred Scriptures.

But the prevailing belief in the Christian world has
been and still is, that these are exceptional instances ;
that the homes of the angels are remote from this world,
and that they come to us only in some great exigency to
bring an important message, or render a service that re-
quires supernatural wisdom and power, and that when
that service is rendered they leave us, put ofl* the human



form which they assumed for the occasion, and return to
their bright homes in heaven.

But the Sacred Scriptures reveal a different and much
more comforting doctrine. They declare that the Lord
gives His angels charge over us to keep us in all our
ways. In full accordance with what the Lord reveals to
us in His Word, the doctrines of the New Church teach
us that angels and spirits, who are regenerated men and
women and children born upon the earth, are always
with us ; that they are far more closely connected with
us than our most intimate friends who are still with us
in the flesh, and that they are always on the alert to pro-
tect us from danger and to render us any service we will
receive at their hands. Being spirits, they cannot mani-
fest themselves to our natural senses, and never did in
olden times. The veil of the senses was drawn aside, and
the spiritual sight of prophets and apostles was opened
to see the angels in their own permanent forms. The
coming and going of these heavenly messengers was an
appearance due to changes wrought in men. Spirit can
only reveal itself consciously to spirit. Innumerable
forces are constantly acting upon us and rendering us
the most important services, of which we have no direct
consciousness. We cannot see them or hear their voice
or touch their substance. The force we call gravity is
constantly drawing us to the earth, but we cannot see
it or touch it, and it utters no sound. One medium
reveals itself to the eye in the form of light, but can
awake no consciousness in the ear or touch. Another
fills the ear with harmonies, but is powerless to gain any
recognition from the eye. We live and move in the


midst of an ocean of the most subtile forces which sweep
through us and have a most potent influence upon us,
which are indeed essential to our existence, but of which
we have no sensible knowledge. It is, therefore, per-
fectly in accordance with the Divine methods of creating
human beings and developing their affections and intel-
lectual faculties that the most powerful influences may
operate upon us without revealing themselves to the

We cannot communicate any knowledge to our little
ones in the first stages of existence by word or deed.
We can render them the most important service, but
they do not know it. The mother is related to the new-
born child much as the angels are. The Httle one lies
unconscious between them. The mother reaches it and
ministers to it from the material side, the angels from the
spiritual side of its nature. Gradually the natural con-
sciousness is opened. The infant begins to recognize
natural objects, to be consciously affected by natural
forces. Its natural faculties develop and gain power. It
recognizes those who minister to it. The mother's smile
awakes an answering smile. The mother's features grow
famiHar and the faces and voices of friends can be distin-
guished from those of strangers. But it will be many
years before it will recognize the voice and the glorious
beauty of its angels who have watched over it with more
tenderness and assiduity and a purer affection than the
mother's. The veil of flesh must first be removed.

Two classes of beings bend over every cradle, each
to render their own special service. The mother gives
natural sustenance, protects from natural danger, to win




into power and conscious action the natural faculties ; the
angels keep watch and ward to protect the little one from
spiritual dangers, to cherish and wake into action by their
brooding love the tender germs of spiritual and heavenly
affections which they have assiduously planted, and to
impress upon them the innocence, the order, the beauty,
and the harmony of heaven. This is a service essential to
the child's regeneration. By this means are formed the
germs of the heavenly nature and of all the spiritual fac-
ulties. These germs become the vessels for the recep-
tion of life from the Lord. The angels who plant them,
guard them and assiduously cultivate them and use all
their heavenly skill and patience and tenderness and
power to give them conscious existence and a controlhng
influence in the conduct of life. They do not despise or
neglect one of these little ones. The mother may grow
weary, but they never tire ; the mother may be selfish
and worldly and ignorant and neglect the little ones, but
their angels regard them with unselfish and unchanging
affection. They possess a wisdom born of Divine love,
and they know how to touch the most hidden and
delicate springs of the children's nature ; to bend, to
cherish, to mould their tender forms into the Divine
image and likeness with a skill beyond our conception.
Through their instrumentality the Lord photographs
His image upon the purest substances of their being,
substances that are exquisitely sensitive to all heavenly
impressions and adamant to retain them. These forms
are the Divine patterns after which the whole nature is to
be moulded ; they are the heavenly ideals which go ever
before us, become our inspiration arid our hope, and


lead us ever onward and upward towards the Lord. As
there are in the germ of every seed the pattern of the
plant which grows from it, and some shaping power
which infallibly moulds every form of branch, leaf, blos-
som, and fruit into its own likeness and qualities, so the
heavenly principles inseminated by the angels contain
within them the promise and potency of every heavenly
good. Like the germ of the plant in the seed, they may
never be brought into actual and conscious existence.
They may be neglected and left to lie dormant. By the
development of selfish and worldly affections stumbling-
blocks may be put in their way and obstructions to their
development may be formed, which render their birth
and growth impossible. They may be despised, as they
often are from ignorance of their nature or unbelief in
their existence. But the fact remains a fact of such mo-
mentous importance that we who, nominally at least,
believe in the constant presence of these pure and
glorious beings who stand ready to co-operate with us in
every effort for our children's happiness, ought to give
heed to the warning of our Lord contained in our text.

I know with what incredulity men regard the assertion
of the constant presence of the angels. To aid our
dull and doubting minds, let us consider for a moment
the plain and legitimate meaning of our Lord's words.

* ' Their angels. ' ' Whose angels ? Theirs, the angels
of the little ones. A little boy was sitting in the midst
of the disciples as a representative of all the little ones :
our Lord referred to his angels. Is this a random or an
idle phrase? What can it mean, if children have not
angels suited to their genius, who wait upon them and



are ready at all times to render them every possible ser-
vice ? Can we give any other meaning to the words ?
Look at the logical force of the declaration. The Lord
had placed a little child in the midst of the disciples
and declared it to be the type of true greatness. Then
He warned them against offending or placing any hin-
derance in the way towards heaven of one of these little
ones. He declared that it is profitable to cut off the
right hand or pluck out the right eye and cast them
away if they cause us to offend one of these little ones,
or stand in the way of their spiritual growth. Then He
gave the warning, ' ' Take heed that ye despise not one
of these Httle ones ; for I say unto you, That in heaven
their angels do always behold the face of my Father
which is in heaven." If the angels who stand nearest
the Lord, the purest, the loveliest, and the wisest created
beings,, are constantly devoted to the service of the little
ones, can we despise them ? The Lord presents it as a
reason why we should not despise them, that their angels
do always or through everything behold the face of His
Father who is in heaven. Let us consider the force of
this reason. But to see its full weight we must under-
stand what is meant by their angels always beholding
the face of the Father.

The face is the clearest and fullest index of the mind.
It is the theatre on which the fears and hopes, the joys
and sorrows, the desires and passions, and all the
thoughts and affections act their parts and reveal them-
selves to others. It is formed by the spirit for this pur-
pose, and every feature has a distinct part to perform
in the great drama of life. Its organs are few, and yet


singly or in combination they express with miraculous
precision the intelligence and ever-changing emotions of
the soul. Sorrow casts a shadow over the face like a
cloud, joy lights it up like a burst of sunshine, intelli-
gence shines in the eye, love beams from every feature,
shame crimsons the cheek, suspicion lurks in the eye,
pity trembles in the lips, anger knits the brow, passion
inflames every feature. Every shade of intelligence and
every degree of feeling shifts the scenes to a correspond-
ing form to suit its purpose. It is the office of the face
to represent the soul. This is acknowledged by common
consent, and is instinctively expressed in human speech.
To turn away the face denotes aversion of affection ; to
hide or cover the face, concealment of purpose or with-
holding favor ; to face a difficulty is to meet it firmly and
with composure ; to turn the face to one, to lift up the
face, is to regard with favor.

From this office of the face it is used in the Sacred
Scriptures to express the disposition of the Lord towards
men. He is said to hide His face, — " Hide not thy face
from thy servant, ' ' prays the Psalmist ; to turn away His
face, to set His face against the wicked, to lift up His
face, to cause His face to shine upon His servant. Men
are exhorted to seek His face and to come before His
face. Many similar expressions are used to express the
feelings with which the Lord regards men. His relations
to them. His attitude towards them. The face of the
Lord stands as the symbol and representative of His love
and wisdom, as a man's face is the representative of the
love and wisdom and various attributes of his character.

Now we may be able to see what must be the charac-


ter of the angels to whom are committed the Uttle ones,
and all the spiritual principles in the human mind which
the little ones represent. The translation of the words
which our Lord used does not express the meaning of
the original quite clearly. ' ' Behold' ' should be, look
at ; and ' ' always' ' should be, through everything. The
passage would then read, * ' Take heed that ye despise
not one of these little ones ; for I say unto you, That in
heaven their angels through everything look at the face
of my Father which is in heaven ;" that is, through
everything and in everything they see the love and wis-
dom of the Lord. They are themselves so innocent, so
wise, so pure, so filled with the Divine love, and every
thought, desire, affection, and purpose is so conformed to
the Divine image and likeness that every motion of their
souls is in harmony with the Lord. They look to Him
and regard Him in everything. They are wise with His
wisdom, they are strong with His strength, they are kind
with His kindness, they are patient with His patience, they
are skilful to touch the secret springs of human life and
to evolve heavenly faculties from their first germs with
His skill. As in a mirror they see His face in the begin-
nings of the human soul; they see some reflection of His
image in every instrumentality employed for its develop-
ment, and with some gift of His wisdom know how to
use it. They have a keen perception of the bearing of
every influence, of the varying changes of every state
upon the character. Nor is their ministry an occasional
and fitful one. They do not come on special occasions
and go when the exigency is passed. They never weary,
they are constant in their service ; they come as near as


possible to every one, and render every service in their
power. They regard the highest ends in all their watch-
ing and waiting and humble service. They look at the
face of the Lord ; they watch its growing or fading image
in the soul. They seek with angelic affection and wis-
dom to bring it out in clearer lines, to develop it into
more distinct and substantial form. With what infinite
skill and tenderness and patience they do their work !
They engage in it from no mercenary motives ; they are
not hired servants. They minister with patient assiduity
from love to the Lord and the little ones who have just
commenced their endless journey, from a heavenly desire
to aid the father and mother in this heavenly service.

Think of it ! Try to bring it home to yourselves as a
reality ! Two parties in two worlds separated only by
the thin veil of flesh are engaged in the care and nurture
of your child. As the mother does her work the angels
do theirs. The mother cares for the body, the angels
for the soul. The mother seeks to awaken the slumber-
ing natural faculties into conscious and vigorous action ;
the angels, to call into existence the germs of the spirit-
ual faculties which in due time will introduce the child
into a new world, and give him capacities to receive the
Divine life in higher and richer forms. So the wise and
faithful mother and the wiser and more faithful angels
walk side by side invisible to each other, but regarding
the same object, and with affections directed to the same
end. Each one is helping the other ; each one is doing
a work essential to the natural and spiritual growth of
the little, helpless pilgrim just landed upon the shores of
life. Is it not a beautiful and comforting thought that


every mother has such devoted heavenly servants to
co-operate with her ? When you look at the little one
lying helpless in your arms, is it not encouraging to
know that it is nurtured and strengthened with forces
ministered by unseen but skilful hands without which it
would fade and vanish away ? Your ears are too dull to
hear the music of their speech ; your sight is too dim to
see the heavenly beauty of their faces. But when the
little one smiles it is not only in answer to your love,
but to theirs. The opening faculties which are watched
with so much interest and delight are awakened by the
angels, who cherish the children in their own bosoms,
and give of their own life to them. The little ones have
no power in themselves to live and grow. Parents can-
not give them this power. It comes from within ; it
has its constant origin in the Lord, but in one direction
it comes through the angels. It flows from them as a
sphere of love which is life.

But the infant is itself a symbol and beautiful exponent
of the beginnings of a multitude of distinctly spiritual
faculties in every mind, which are inseminated by the
Lord as mere possibilities, which have their immutable
laws and essential means of growth, which require the
skilful, constant watchfulness and the tender nurture of
angelic wisdom. Every one who gains eternal life must
be born from above. As the perverted natural mind is
first developed, these little ones from heaven are born in
the midst of enemies ; they are like lambs among wolves ;
they are like infants hated, rejected, and left to perish by
cruel parents. If there were no help from within, there
would be no hope of safety. If there were no truths


planted in the natural mind to serve as a basis and means
of support, as ground in which heavenly principles can
take root ; if no gentle and innocent affections, no holy
and heavenly states, were treasured up in the will in the
beginning of life, there would be no possibility of regen-
eration. Birth from above would be as impossible as the
growth of a seed whose naked germ was planted in the
frozen ground. By calling into action good, innocent,
natural affections in our children, we are giving motion
to the natural faculties that are in harmony with the
spiritual faculties hereafter to be born ; we are giving
them the key-note to heavenly harmonies. And as no
impression upon any mind is ever obliterated, as no
motion is ever effected, no state awakened, which may
not be called up again into conscious action however
long it may have remained quiescent, there is a pos-
sibility that heavenly light may penetrate the natural
darkness, that heavenly affections may find some wel-
come in the hostile natural mind, that heavenly har-
monies may awaken the memory of some corresponding
affection planted by the angels in infancy, to vibrate in
unison with it. In this way and by these means the
spiritual gets a foothold in the natural, and extends its
power until every false and evil affection is subdued, the
enemies are driven out of the holy land of the soul, and
the heavenly inhabitants gain peaceful and everlasting

Such is the immeasurable importance of early impres-
sions. Such is the work which the angels to whose care
the souls of our children are committed are in the con-
stant effort to accomplish. Is not the thought of this



heavenly help encouraging in our efforts to correct the
evils which are constantly appearing in our children ? Is
it not a comfort and a hope when we grow weary, that
we have such faithful, wise, and powerful assistants ?
Will you not find it an additional motive to be faithful
to the trust committed to you, and to appreciate more
highly the value of every step you take for these little
ones ? When you see their smiling faces, think of the
Lord's words, "Take heed that ye despise not one of
these little ones." Why? Because so great is their
worth that they are objects of special interest to the
angels. They are not alone ; you are not alone. Their
angels who through everything look at the face of the
Lord, are present and ready to work with you in every
effort for their spiritual and eternal good.

But these words of warning and hope are not limited
in their application to parents ; they apply with equal
directness and force to every one who is trying to over-
come evil and live a heavenly life. There are germs of
heavenly principles in every mind that are struggling for
existence. They come to our notice only occasionally.
They seem to be remote from our life ; their voice may be
feeble and only faintly heard in the din of worldly affairs ;
they appear to be of but little importance compared
with the natural interests that clamor for our attention.
We do not appreciate their importance, and too often
despise them. They have many obstacles to overcome ;
we put many stumbling-blocks in their way. But they
are of more precious value than any other possession.
They are not only greater than any or all natural posses-
sions, but they are the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.


Our angels dwell in them ; they operate upon us by-
means of them. Their love flows into them, and by them
they seek to lead us to heaven.

By means of these little ones they lift us up from sen-
sual and natural things ; with gentle but constant attrac-
tion they draw us away from the love of self and the
world, and seek to turn us to the Lord. They see in all
these germs of heavenly life the face of our Heavenly
Father, and they seek to bring it out into greater dis-
tinctness and into permanent forms. They fight our
battles for us ; they bring us sustenance when we are
famished and faint by the way ; they give us strength in
our weakness, comfort in our sorrow, and hope in our

Is it not a comfort to know that we have such kind,
patient, powerful, wise servants to help us in the most
difficult and important work of life, and that they are not
far away in some remote region of the universe? They
are here to-day. They stand close to us, separated only
by the thin veil of flesh. They dwell with us in our
homes ; they walk with us by the way ; they go with us
to our business and our pleasure ; they watch over us
when we sleep, and stand ready to serve us when we
wake. The bond of conjunction with us is these germs
of heavenly character which it is the mission and joy of
the angels to assist in becoming angels like themselves.
In view of these considerations, we can see how momen-
tous is the Lord' s warning, ' ' Take heed that ye despise

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Online LibraryChauncey GilesProgress in spiritual knowledge → online text (page 19 of 26)