Sep 28, 2011

Gospel in the Stars XI

The Pierced Eagle

"The second Decan adds still further to the clearness and certainty of the meaning. This is the constellation of Aquila, the pierced, wounded, and falling eagle. It is but another picture of the grain of wheat falling and dying. The principal star in this constellation is of the first magnitude, and is the star by which the position of the moon—also a symbol of the Church—is noted for the computation of longitude at sea. Its name is Al Tair, which in Arabic means the wounded. The name of the second star in the same language means the scarlet-colored—covered with blood. The name of the third means the torn, whilst that of another means the wounded in the heel. It is simply impossible to explain how all these names got into this sign and its Decans, except by intention to denote the great fact of the promised Saviour's death.

The myths explain this eagle in different ways. Some say it is Merops, king of Cos, the husband of Ethemea, who lamented for his condemned wife, and was transformed into an eagle and placed among the stars. Some say it is the form assumed by Jupiter in carrying off Ganymedes, whilst others describe it as the eagle which brought nectar to Jupiter while he lay concealed in the Cretan cave by reason of the fury and wrath of Saturn. In short, pagan wisdom did not know what it meant, though holding it in marked regard. And yet, as Christ loved the Church, and gave himself for it, and reigns in glory for its good—as He humbled himself in obedience to death that He might take to himself a glorious Church to serve the eternal Father in immortal blessedness—as He was really brought down into the cave of death, whence He was revived by heavenly virtues after the exhaustion of the fierce wrath of insulted sovereignty,—we can still see some dim reflections of the original truth and meaning even in these confused and contradictory fables.

The eagle is one of the biblical symbols of Christ. "Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles wings and brought you unto myself" (Ex. 19:4), "As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttered! over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings; so the Lord alone did lead him" (Deut. 32 : 11, 12). The eagle is a royal bird, and the natural enemy of the serpent. It is elevated in its habits, strong, and swift. It is very careful and tender toward its young, and is said to tear itself to nourish them with its own blood when all other means fail. And here is the noble Eagle, the promised Seed of the woman, pierced, torn, and bleeding, that those begotten in His image may be saved from death, sheltered, protected, and made to live for ever.

But, as in the case of the Arrow, so also in this case, the figure will admit the further idea which takes in the proud sinner, pierced by the arrow of the Word and brought down into the humiliation of penitence, even to death and despair as to all his former hopes in himself. And until the high-soaring children of pride are thus brought down by the arrow of God's Word, and fall completely out of the heaven of their dreams, conformably to Christ's death for them, there can come to them no right life. Paul was alive without the law once, and a very high-soaring and bloodthirsty eagle; but when the commandment came, sin revived, and he died—died the death that could alone bring him to right life."

The Dolphin

"The third Decan of this sign is the beautiful cluster of little stars named Delphinus. It is the figure of a vigorous fish leaping upward. Taken in connection with the dying goat, it conveys the idea of springing up again out of death. Our great Sin-bearer not only died for our sins, but He also rose again, thereby becoming "the first-fruits of them that slept." As the Head and Representative of His Church, He is the principal Fish in the congregation of the fishes. Their quickening, life, and spiritual resurrection rest on His coming forth again after having gone down into the waves of death for their sakes. Put to death in the flesh, He was quickened by the Spirit, and in His quickening and resurrection all His people share. Their sins having been buried in His death, their life is by virtue of His resurrection, that "like as He was raised from the dead, so we should walk in newness of life," ever advancing toward a still more complete resurrection to come. The corn of wheat falls into the ground and dies, but from that death there is a springing up again to the intended fruitfulness. Christ dies and rises again, and His people, slain in their old carnal confidence, absolved by His suffering of the penalty due to them, and planting themselves solely upon Him as their Lord and Redeemer, rise with him into the new, spiritual, and eternal life. The picture of the dying goat, with its after-part a living fish, implied this, but the nature of the transition could not be so well expressed in that figure by itself. Hence the additional explanatory figure of an upspringing fish, to show more vividly that the transition is by means of resurrection to a new life of another style. We thus have the vivid symbol of both the resurrection of the slain Saviour as the Head of the Church, and the included new creation of His people, who rise to their new life through His death and resurrection. In ancient mythology the dolphin was the most sacred and honored of fishes, doubtless because of its place among the ancient constellations, though the myths representing it are very different. It was specially sacred to Apollo, and its name was added to his—some say, because he slew the dragon; others say, because in the form of a dolphin he showed the Cretan colonists the way to Delphi, the most celebrated place in the Grecian world and the seat of the most famous of all the oracles. According to some accounts, it was a dolphin which brought about the marriage of the unwilling Amphitrite with the god of the sea, and for this it received place among the stars. The muddy waters reflect something of the original idea. Christ was the true Son of Deity. It was He who broke the Dragon's power by submitting to become the atoning Mediator. "In all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest to make reconciliation for the sins of the people." By His death and resurrection He has opened and shown the way by which His people come to the blessed city of which Jehovah is the light. By His mediation He has brought about a marriage between men in flight from their Lord and Him who loved them with a love that passeth knowledge. And in believing foretoken of all this His sign, as the Head of His people, was thus placed in the heavens, where it stands as another form of the parable of the buried corn of wheat rising in new life, of which all who are His are partakers."

Salvation Through Atonement

"Capricornus is thus the illustrious bearer and witness of the most vital evangelical truths. There is no more central or important doctrine of our holy faith than this, that the pure and sinless Son of God, having assumed our nature for the purpose, did really and truly take the sins of the world upon Him, and bore the agonies of an accursed death as the sacrifice and propitiation for our guilt. Whatever difficulty human reason may have in receiving it, it is the very heart and substance of the Gospel tidings, on which all the hopes of fallen man repose. "Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day, that repentance and remission of sins might be preached in His name" (Luke 24:46, 47) This "first of all" Paul preached, and Christians received and held, "how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures" (i Cor. 15 : 3, 4). "Forasmuch as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also himself likewise took part of the same, that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the Devil, and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Heb. 2 : 14, 15). Hence the highest apostolic song on earth is that led off by the holy seer of Patmos: "Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father; to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever;" whilst the saints in heaven, in devoutest adoration, fall down before the Lamb, and cry, "Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof; for Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood" (Rev. i : 5, 6; 5:9).

And how cheering and confirmatory to our faith to see and know that what Prophets and Apostles have been testifying on earth the heavens themselves have been proclaiming for all these ages! How assuring to know that what we build our hope on now is the same that the holy patriarchs from Adam's time built on as their hope and joy! They believed and expected, and hung their faith and testimony on the stars, that in the fulness of time the Seed of the woman should come, and bow himself in death as the Sin-offering for a guilty world, and rise again in life and frnitfulness of saving virtues, whereby His Church should rise with Him, sharing at once the merit of His atonement and the power of His resurrection, and thus live and reign in inseparable union with himself in life and glory everlasting. Every September (December - SG) midnight of every year for all these centuries has accordingly displayed the sign of it in the middle of the sky, and held it forth to the eyes of mortals as the blessed hope and only refuge of a condemned world, at the same time that it marks the point of change in year and climate, and when the darkness is the greatest opens the southern gateway of the Sun.

Yes, this strange goat-fish, dying in its head, but living in its after-part—falling as an eagle pierced and wounded by the arrow of death, but springing up from the dark waves with the matchless vigor and beauty of the dolphin—sinking under sin's condemnation, but rising again as sin's conqueror—developing new life out of death, and heralding a new spring-time out of December's long drear nights—was framed by no blind chance of man. The story which it tells is the old, old story on which hangs the only availing hope that ever came, or ever can come, to Adam's race. To what it signifies we are for ever shut up as the only saving faith. In that dying Seed of the woman we must see our Sin-bearer and the atonement for our guilt, or die ourselves unpardoned and unsanctified. Through His death and blood-shedding we must find our life, or the true life, which alone is life, we never can have."

The Living Waters of Aquarius

John 7:37: "If any man thirst, let him come untj Me, and drink."

"One of the gladdest things in our world is water. In whatever shape it presents itself, it is full of interest and beauty. Whether trickling down in pearly mist from the fragrant distilleries of Nature, or rippling in merry windings through the grassy dell or shady grove; whether jetting from the rocky precipices of the mountain, or gathered into the rolling plains of ocean; whether sparkling in the ice-gem, or pouring in the cataract; whether coming in silver drops from the bow-spanned heavens, or forcing itself out in glassy purity from the dark veins of the earth; whether in the feathery crystals of the snow-flakes, or grandly moving in the volume of the ample river,—it is everywhere and always beautiful. Next to light, it is God's brightest element; and light itself is as much at home in it as in its own native sky. Sometimes, in some connections, it is the symbol of evil, but even there it is the expression of life and energy. Nor is it much to be wondered that in the hot Orient men were moved to deify fountains and erect votive temples over them, as though they were gracious divinities. The preciousness of bright, fresh waters to parched and needy man is beyond all compare. Where such waters come they bring gladness and rejuvenation, luxuriousness and plenty. Where they pour forth, sinking strength recovers, dying life rekindles, perishing Nature revives, a thousand delights are awakened, and everything rejoices and sings with new-begotten life.

Such an object in Nature could not fail to be seized by the sacred writers to represent the life-giving purity and regenerating power of divine grace and salvation. Accordingly, we find it one of the common and most lively images under which the Scriptures set forth the cleansing, renewing, and saving virtues that come to man in God's redemptive administrations. Thus the Spirit in Baalam's unwilling lips described the goodliness of Israel's tents " as the valleys spread forth, as gardens by the river's side, as the trees of lign-aloes which the Lord hath planted, as cedar trees beside the waters." Thus when the inspired Moses began his song of God's grace to Israel's tribes, he said, " My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass." The good man is " like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season, whose leaf also shall not wither." The joy of Messiah's day is the opening of "a fountain to the house of David, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness." Ezekiel beholds the blessed influences of the sanctuary as issuing waters—waters to the ankles, waters to the knees, waters to the loins, waters to swim in—a river of waters. Jesus himself discoursed to the woman of Samaria of the saving benefits of His grace as "living water"water which slakes all thirst for ever. The people of God are likened to fishes, whose life-element is water. And so in the text the Saviour compares His redeeming virtue and grace to water, and says, " If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink."

In those signs, then, which the primeval patriarchs hung upon the stars as everlasting witnesses of God's gracious purposes to be achieved through the Seed of the woman, we would certainly expect to find some great prominence given to this same significant symbol. And as we would anticipate, so do we really find, especially in the sixth sign of Zodiac, which we now come to consider."

The Sign Of Aquarius

"Here is the figure of a man with a great urn upon his arm, from which he is pouring out from the heavens a stream of water which flows with all the volume of a swollen river. Mythology calls him Ganymedes, the bright, glorified, and happy One — the Phrygian youth so beautiful on earth that the great King and Father of gods carried him away to heaven on eagles' wings to live in glory with immortals. Some say that he came to an untimely death in this world; and the stories in general combine in representing him as the beloved and favorite of the divine Father, exalted to glory and made the chosen cup-bearer of the Deity. Classic art portrays him as a most beautiful young man, sometimes carried by an eagle, jometimes ministering drink to an eagle from a bowl which he bears, and again as the particular companion of the eternal Father. Amid all these earthly varnishes which paganism has daubed over the picture we still may see the sacred image shining through. The true Ganymedes is the beautiful Lord Jesus, "the chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely." Cut off was He in His early manhood, but divinely lifted up again, borne away to heaven on unfailing wings, seated in brightness and glory beside the everlasting Father, loved and approved as God's only-begotten Son, made the sovereign Lord and Dispenser of grace and salvation, and by His merit procuring and pouring out the very "river of water of life." The urn He holds is the exhaustless reservoir of all the fulness of renewing, comforting, and sanctifying power. And the turning of that holy urn for its contents to flow down into the world below is the precise picture of the fulfilment of those old prophetic promises: "I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour out my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring;" "I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions " (Isa. 44 : 3 ; Joel 2 : 28) .

The name of the principal star in this sign —Sa'ad al Melik—means Record of the outpouring. The Coptic, Greek, and Latin names of the sign itself signify The Pourerforth of water, The exalted Waterman, as though specially to designate Him who says, "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink."

Promise Of The Holy Spirit

"When Christ was about to leave the world He said to His followers, "It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you. . . He will guide you into all truth. . . He will show you things to come. . . He shall glorify me: for He shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you" (John 16). That promise included all the divine life-power issuing from the mediation of Christ for the illumination, regeneration, and salvation of men —all the renewing, cleansing, comforting, and energizing grace for the gathering of the elect and the bringing of believers to eternal life and glory. The Holy Ghost was in the world from the beginning, but here was the promise of a new and enlarged grant and endowment, to lift, nourish, and distinguish Christian believers. The same was gloriously fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, when "suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and filled all the house where they were sitting; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." And when the Jews mocked and derided, the sacred explanation was that Jesus, being raised up again from the dead and exalted to the right hand of God, and having so received of the Father, was now the Giver and Shedder-forth of this marvellous power. He is thus presented to our contemplation as the glorified Pourer-forth from heaven of the blessed waters of life and salvation; in other words, the true Aquarius, of whom the picture in the sign was the prophecy and foreshowing. Wherever the Scriptures represent the Spirit and grace of God under the imagery of waters, the idea of unfailing supply and plenteous abundance is also invariably connected with it. Sometimes it is a plentiful rain; sometimes it is a voluminous fountain; sometimes it is a great river flowing with fulness that supplies a thousand life-freighted rivulets. Inspiration tells us that the rock smitten by Moses was the type of the smiting of Christ and the blessings proceeding from Him; but in that case the waters "gushed; they ran in dry places like a river." Isaiah sings: "The glorious Lord will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams." Ezekiel's river was deep and broad, healing even the Dead Sea with the abundance of its flow. Zechariah says these heavenly waters flow out to both seas, and continue without cessation summer and winter alike. God's promise is, "I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water;" which, as John Brentius says, "denotes the great plenteousness of the Word and eternal blessedness flowing from Christ the Fountain." And the same is characteristic of the picture in this sign. From the urn of Aquarius flows a vast, constant, and voluminous river. It flows in a bending stream both to eastward and westward, and enlarges as it flows. The imagery of the Scriptures and the imagery of this sign are exactly of a piece, and the true reason of the coincidence is, that both were meant to record and set forth the same glorious evangelic truths."

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