The Bassenthwaite Angel

Inside St Bega’s church at Bassenthwaite, near Keswick, is a gravestone. Upon it is carved an angel’s head, in typically eighteenth-century fashion. It has the very sourest of faces, the kind of look of disapproval a parent might give a child after it has ‘shown them up’ in public. Many a time did I elicit such facial responses. It might be that the mason was instructed to give the angel so censorious a look, in response to something the late Mrs Wane had done before her demise; or maybe he just had not yet perfected the sculpting of smiles. It set me awondering what angels must think of us humans.

Fallen angels clearly hate us; we are made in the image of the God whom they despise. Those which never fell, who are tasked with ministering and sometimes guarding us, must consider us with puzzlement. ‘Angels desire to look into’ the gospel and Christ’s saving work among us. Although they rejoice at our repentance, they must surely wonder what the great God sees in us. He made us lower than them in splendour and power, yet paid so dear a price for our redemption. Even after we yield to His truth and give Him back our lives, we are so often characterised by failure and lukewarmness. I do not believe we have guardian angels (though Acts 12:15 clearly indicates it was a belief found in the early church), yet if it transpires I do have one, I suspect its default facial response to my life will be akin to the picture above. “Why on earth does God love that one?”, it might ask. “Why does He keep restoring him and forgiving him, when he makes even the most basic mistakes?”. “Why not give up on a bad job, and start afresh with someone else?”, it might ponder, with increasing tones of incredulity. These are all fair questions, and ones I sometimes ask myself. Thankfully, neither I nor my hypothetical guardian angel will have the final word, for:

All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. John 6:37

Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6