And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth…
And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, etc. The subject of these verses is the Divine management of the world, and they suggest two facts concerning it.
I. THAT GOD EMPLOYS THE HIGHEST ORDER OF CELESTIAL INTELLIGENCES IN THE CONDUCT OF HIS GOVERNMENT. "After these things [after this] I saw four angels standing on [at] the four corners of the earth." The existence of intelligences in the universe, varying in capacity and degree, but all loyal to Heaven and transcending immeasurably man's attributes of wisdom, power, and speed, is suggested by analogy and abundantly taught in the Scriptures, both the Old and the New. Now, these creatures are here represented as occupying all parts of nature, "standing on the four corners of the earth," and thus controlling the winds of the world - the east, the west, the south, and the north. They are endowed with power to turn the winds to any point of the compass, and to regulate them to any degree of power or temperature, raising them to a fury that will shake the earth, and reducing them to a calmness hushing the world to sleep. Is there anything absurd in this? Assuredly not. It is natural, rational, and consistent with every part of nature. Everywhere through the universe God acts by mediation. Nowhere throughout immensity does be appear to act directly, matter on matter, and mind on all. The principle is enunciated in the Old Testament. "It shall come to pass in that day, I will hear, saith the Lord, I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth; and the earth shall hear the corn, and the wine, and the oil; and they shall hear Jezreel" (Hosea 2:21, 22). The mere scientist accounts for the various objects and phenomena of the material world by what he calls blind forces or natural laws; I prefer ascribing all under God to the "angels standing on the four corners of the earth, and holding the four winds." A wonderful view of the universe, truly, we have here. True, a telescope opens to my vision world upon world and system upon system, until imagination reels at the prospect, and my spirit seems crushed with a sense of its own insignificance; but in these words I have a telescope by which I see the wide fields of the air, the rolling planets, the minute and the vast, the proximate and the remote, peopled and working, reaching in regular gradation from my little being up to the ineffable throne, and all under God.
II. THAT GOD, IN EMPLOYING THESE AGENCIES, ENJOINS ON THEM A SPECIAL REGARD FOR THE INTERESTS OF REDEEMED MEN IN THE WORLD. "And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God," etc. Why not "hurt the earth"? Why not reduce all nature to a wreck? There is a grand, benevolent reason: "till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads." "Of the tribe of Judah were sealed," etc. (vers. 5-8). The Jewish mind regarded Israel as especially the elect of God, and all the tribes in their esteem were specially Divine. This, of course, was a fiction of national vanity. But take them here as a symbolical representation of all the truly good men upon the earth, and we have the idea that God requires all his intelligent ministries to regard the interests of such. The seal must be regarded as implying security. Here is an angel rising as it were from "the door of the dawn," from the east, with a seal in order to effect the security of the good. Angels, we are taught, are "ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to those who shall be the heirs of salvation." Numerous are the instances recorded in the Bible in which we see them render assistance to man. They rescued Lot from Sodom, and guarded Daniel in the lion's den; they directed Joseph and Mary into Egypt, and liberated the apostles from prison; they directed Cornelius to Peter, and wafted the spirit of Lazarus to the skies. They rejoice over the conversion of sinners; they have a charge over the righteous, they encamp round about them, they bear them up in their hands. Their ministry implies:
1. That there is some method by which they can aid man.
2. That man's salvation is of paramount importance.
3. That service to the lowest is consonant with the highest greatness.
4. That man's obligation is to seek the spiritual good of his fellows. - D.T.
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.