« FöregåendeFortsätt »
either by angels or men, is as much the work of God, as if he were to put forth his almighty arm, and work without any means at all. But he has used them from the beginning of the world: in all ages he has used the ministry both of men and angels. And hereby, especially, is seen "the manifold wisdom of God in the church." Meantime the same glory redounds to him, as if he used no instruments at all.
10. The grand reason why God is pleased to assist men by men, rather than immediately by himself, is, undoubtedly, to endear us to each other, by these mutual good offices; in order to increase our happiness, both in time and eternity. And is it not for the same reason, that God is pleased to give his angels charge over us? Namely, that he may endear us and them to each other; that by the increase of our love and gratitude to them, we may find a proportionable increase of happiness, when we meet in our Father's kingdom. In the mean time, though we may not worship them, (worship is due only to our common Creator,) yet we may "esteem them very highly in love for their works' sake." And we may imitate them in all holiness; suiting our lives to the prayer our Lord himself has taught us; labouring to do his will on earth, as angels do it in heaven.
I cannot conclude this discourse better than in that admirable collect of our church :-
"Oh everlasting God, who hast ordained and constituted the services of angels and men in a wonderful manner; grant that as thy holy angels always do thee service in heaven, so by thy appointment they may suc cour and defend us on earth, through Jesus Christ our Lord."
SERMON LXXVII.—Of Evil Angels.
"We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places," Eph. vi, 12.
1. It has been frequently observed, that there are no gaps or chasms in the creation of God, but that all the parts of it are admirably connected together, to make up one universal whole. Accordingly there is one chain of beings, from the lowest to the highest point, from an unorga nized particle of earth or water, to Michael the archangel. And the scale of creatures does not advance per saltum, by leaps, but by smooth and gentle degrees; although it is true these are frequently imperceptible to our imperfect faculties. We cannot, accurately, trace many of the intermediate links of this amazing chain, which are abundantly too fine to be discerned either by our senses or understanding.
2. We can only observe, in a gross and general manner, rising one above another; first, inorganical earth; then minerals and vegetables, in their several orders; afterwards, insects, reptiles, fishes, beasts, men, and angels. Of angels indeed, we know nothing with any certainty but by revelation. The accounts which are left by the wisest of the ancients, or given by the modern heathens, being no better than silly, self-inconsistent fables, too gross to be imposed even upon children. But by divine revelation we are informed, that they were all created holy and happy; yet they did not all continue as they were created: some
kept, but some left their first estate. The former of these are now good angels; the latter, evil angels. Of the former, I have spoke in the preceding discourse: I purpose now to speak of the latter. And highly necessary it is, that we should well understand what God has revealed concerning them, that they may gain no advantage over us by our igrarance; that we may know how to wrestle against them effectually. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against wicked spirits in heavenly places."
3. This single passage seems to contain the whole scriptural doctrinc concerning evil angels. I apprehend the plain meaning of it, literally translated, is this: "our wrestling;" the wrestling of real Christians; "is not" only, or chiefly, "against flesh and blood;" weak men, or fleshly appetites and passions; "but against principalities, against pow ers;" the mighty princes of all the infernal regions, with their combined forces and great is their power, as is also the power of the legions they command: "against the rulers of the world:" (this is the literal meaning of the word.) Perhaps these principalities and powers remain chiefly in the citadel of their kingdom. But there are other evil spirits that range abroad, to whom the provinces of the world are committed:-" of the darkness;" chiefly the spiritual darkness; "of this age;" which prevails during the present state of things; "against wicked spirits;" eminently such; who mortally hate, and continually oppose holiness, and labour to infuse unbelief, pride, evil desire, malice, anger, hatred, envy, or revenge; "in heavenly places;" which were once their abode, and which they still aspire after.
In prosecuting this important subject, I will endeavour to explain, I. The nature and properties of evil angels: and,
II. Their employment.
I. 1. With regard to the first, we cannot doubt, but all the angels of God were originally of the same nature. Unquestionably they were the highest order of created beings. They were spirits, pure, ethereal creatures, simple and incorruptible; if not wholly immaterial, yet certainly not incumbered with gross, earthly flesh and blood. As spirits, they were endued with understanding, with affections, and with liberty, or a power of self determination; so that it lay in themselves, either to continue in their allegiance to God, or to rebel against him.
2. And their original properties were, doubtless, the same with those of the holy angels. There is no absurdity in supposing Satan their chief, otherwise styled, "Lucifer, son of the morning," to have been, at least, "one of the first, if not the first archangel." Like the other sons of. the morning, they had a height and depth of understanding quite incomprehensible to us. In consequence of this, they had such knowledge and wisdom, that the wisest of the children of men (had men then existed) would have been mere idiots in comparison of them. Their strength was equal to their knowledge; such as it cannot enter into our heart to conceive: neither can we conceive to how wide a sphere of action, either their strength or their knowledge extended. Their number God alone can tell doubtless it was only less than infinite. And a third part of these stars of heaven the arch rebel drew after him.
3. We do not exactly know, (because it is not revealed in the oracles of God,) either what was the occasion of their apostasy, or what
effect it immediately produced upon them. Some have, not improbably, supposed, that when God published "the decree," (mentioned Psalm ii, 6, 7,) concerning the kingdom of his only begotten Son, to be over all creatures; these first born of creatures gave place to pride, comparing themselves to him: (possibly intimated by the very name of Satan, Lucifer, or Michael, which means, who is like God?) It may be, Satan then first giving way to temptation, said in his heart, "I too will have my throne. I will sit upon the sides of the north! I will be like the Most High." But how did the mighty then fall! What an amazing loss did they sustain! If we allow of them all, what our poet supposes concern ing their chief in particular:
"His form had not yet lost
If we suppose their outward form was not entirely changed; (though it must have been in a great degree; because the evil disposition of the mind must dim the lustre of the visage ;) yet what an astonishing change was wrought within, when angels became devils! When the holiest of all the creatures of God became the most unholy!
4. From the time that they shook off their allegiance to God, they shook off all goodness, and contracted all those tempers which are most hateful to him, and most opposite to his nature. And ever since they are full of pride, arrogance, haughtiness, exalting themselves above measure; and although so deeply depraved through their inmost frame, yet admiring their own perfections. They are full of envy, if not against God himself; (and even that is not impossible, seeing they formerly aspired after his throne;) yet against all their fellow creatures; against the angels of God, who now enjoy the heaven from which they fell; and much more against those worms of the earth, who are now called to "inherit the kingdom." They are full of cruelty, of rage against all the children of men, whom they long to inspire with the same wickedness with themselves, and to involve in the same misery.
5. In the prosecution of this infernal design, they are diligent in the highest degree. To find out the most effectual means of putting it into execution, they apply to this end, the whole force of their angelical understanding; and they second it with their whole strength, so far as God is pleased to permit. But it is well for mankind, that God hath set them their bounds which they cannot pass. He hath said to the fiercest and strongest of the apostate spirits, "Hitherto shalt thou come, and no farther." Otherwise how easily and how quickly might one of them overturn the whole frame of nature! How soon would they involve all in one common ruin, or, at least, destroy man from the face of the earth! And they are indefatigable in their bad work: they never are faint or weary. Indeed it seems, no spirits are capable of weariness but those that inhabit flesh and blood.
6. One circumstance more we may learn from the Scripture concerning the evil angels: they do not wander at large, but are all united under one common head. It is he that is styled by our blessed Lord, "The prince of this world:" yea, the apostle does not scruple to call him, "The god of this world." He is frequently styled Satan, the adversary; being the great adversary both of God and man.
termed, "The devil," by way of eminence ;-" Apollyon," or the destroyer;"The old serpent;" from his beguiling Eve under that form; and, "The angel of the bottomless pit." We have reason to believe that the other evil angels are under his command; that they are ranged by him according to their several orders; that they are appointed to their several stations, and have, from time to time, their several works and offices assigned them. And, undoubtedly, they are connected (though we know not how; certainly not by love) both to him and to each other.
II. But what is the employment of evil angels? This is the second point to be considered.
1. They are (remember! so far as God permits) Kooμoxpaτopes ;governors of the world! So that there may be more ground than we are apt to imagine, for that strange expression of Satan, Matt. iv, 8, 9, when he showed our Lord "all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;"" all these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me." It is a little more particularly expressed in the fourth chapter of St. Luke; "The devil showed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time." (Such an astonishing measure of power is still left in the prince of darkness!) "And the devil said, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will, I give it," ver. 5, 6. They are "the rulers of the darkness of this age;" (so the words are literally translated ;) of the present state of things, during which "the whole world lieth in the wicked one.' 99 He is the element of the children of men; only those who fear God being excepted. He and his angels, in connection with, and in subordination to him, dispose all the ignorance, all the error, all the folly, and particularly all the wickedness of men, in such a manner as may most hinder the kingdom of God, and most advance the kingdom of darkness.
2. "But has every man a particular evil angel, as well as a good one, attending him?" This has been an exceeding ancient opinion, both among the Christians, and the Jews before them: but it is much doubted, whether it can be sufficiently proved from Scripture. Indeed it would not be improbable, that there is a particular evil angel with every man, if we were assured there is a good one. But this cannot be inferred from those words of our Lord concerning little children: "In heaven their angels do continually see the face of their Father which is in heaven." This only proves, that there arc angels who are appointed to take care of little children: it does not prove, that a particular angel is allotted to every child. Neither is it proved by the words of Rhoda, who, hearing the voice of Peter, said, "It is his angel." We cannot infer any more from this, even suppose his angel, means his guardian angel, than that Rhoda believed the doctrine of guardian angels; which was then common among the Jews. But still it will remain a disputable point, (seeing revelation determines nothing concerning it,) whether every man is attended either by a particular good, or a particular evil angel.
3. But whether or no particular men are attended by particular evil spirits, we know that Satan and all his angels are continually warring against us, and watching over every child of man. They are everwatching to see whose outward or inward circumstances, whose pros
perity or adversity, whose health or sickness, whose friends or enemies, whose youth or age, whose knowledge or ignorance, whose blindness or idleness, whose joy or sorrow, may lay them open to temptation. And they are perpetually ready to make the utmost advantage of every circumstance. These skilful wrestlers espy the smallest slip we make, and avail themselves of it immediately; as they also are "about our bed, and about our path, and spy out all our ways." Indeed each of them "walketh about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour;" or whom he may "beguile through his subtlety, as the serpent beguiled Eve." Yea, and in order to do this the more effectually, they transform themselves into angels of light. Thus,
"With rage that never ends,
4. It is by these instruments chiefly that the "foolish hearts" of those that know not God "are darkened:" yea, they frequently darken, in a measure, the hearts of them that do know God. The "god of this world" knows how to blind our hearts, to spread a cloud over our understanding, and to obscure the light of those truths, which, at other times, shine as bright as the noon day sun. By this means he assaults our faith, our evidence of things unseen. He endeavours to weaken that hope full of immortality, to which God had begotten us; and thereby to lessen, if he cannot destroy, our joy in God our Saviour. But, above all, he strives to damp our love of God, as he knows this is the spring of all our religion; and that, as this rises or falls, the work of God flourishes or decays in the soul.
5. Next to the love of God, there is nothing which Satan so cor dially abhors as the love of our neighbour. He uses, therefore, every possible means to prevent or destroy this; to excite either private or public suspicions, animosities, resentment, quarrels; to destroy the peace of families, or of nations; and to banish unity and concord from the earth. And this, indeed, is the triumph of his art; to embitter the poor, miserable children of men against each other; and, at length, urge them to do his own work; to plunge one another into the pit of destruction.
6. This enemy of all righteousness is equally diligent to hinder every good word and work. If he cannot prevail upon us to do evil, he will, if possible, prevent our doing good. He is peculiarly diligent to hinder the work of God from spreading in the hearts of men. What pains does he take, to prevent or obstruct the general work of God! And how many are his devices to stop its progress in particular souls! To hinder their continuing or growing in grace, in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ! To lessen, if not destroy, that love, joy, peace; that long suffering, gentleness, goodness; that fidelity, meekness, and temperance; which our Lord works by his loving Spirit in them that believe, and wherein the very essence of religion consists.
7. To effect these ends, he is continually labouring with all his skill and power, to infuse evil thoughts of every kind into the hearts of men. And certainly it is as easy for a spirit to speak to our heart, as for a man to speak to our ears. But sometimes it is exceeding difficult to distinguish these from our own thoughts; those which he injects so