Imatges de pÓgina

minds. We have no more reason to look for this, than for their appearing in a visible shape. Without this, they can, in a thousand ways, apply to our understanding. They may assist us in our search after truth, remove many doubts and difficulties, throw light on what was before dark and obscure, and confirm us in the truth that is after godliness. They may warn us of evil in disguise; and place what is good in a clear, strong light. They may gently move our will, to embrace what is good, and fly from that which is evil. They may, many times, quicken our dull affections, increase our holy hope or filial fear, and assist us more ardently to love Him, who has first loved us. Yea, they may be sent of God to answer that whole prayer, put into our mouths by pious bishop Kenn:

"Oh may thy angels while I sleep,
Around my bed their vigils keep;
Their love angelical instil;
Stop every avenue of ill.
May they celestial joys rehearse,
And thought to thought with me converse!"

Although the manner of this we shall not be able to explain while we dwell in the body.

3. May they not minister also to us, with respect to our bodies, in a thousand ways which we do not now understand? They may prevent our falling into many dangers, which we are not sensible of; and may deliver us out of many others, though we know not whence our deliverance comes. How many times have we been strangely and unaccountably preserved, in sudden and dangerous falls! And it is well if we did not impute that preservation to chance, or to our own wisdom or strength. Not so: it was God gave his angels charge over us, and in their hands they bore us up. Indeed, men of the world will always impute such deliverances to accident or second causes. To these, possibly, some of them might have imputed Daniel's preservation in the lions' den. But himself ascribes it to the true cause: "My God has sent his angel, and shut the mouths of the lions," Dan. vi, 22.

4. When a violent disease, supposed incurable, is totally and suddenly removed, it is by no means improbable, that this is effected by the ministry of an angel. And perhaps it is owing to the same cause, that a remedy is unaccountably suggested either to the sick person, or some attending upon him, by which he is entirely cured.

5. It seems, what are usually called divine dreams, may be frequently ascribed to angels. We have a remarkable instance of this kind related by one, that will hardly be thought an enthusiast; for he was a heathen, a philosopher, and an emperor: I mean Marcus Antoninus. "In his meditations, he solemnly thanks God for revealing to him, when he was at Cajeta, in a dream, what totally cured the bloody flux; which none of his physicians were able to heal." And why may we not suppose, that God gave him this notice by the ministry of an angel?

6. And how often does God deliver us from evil men, by the ministry of his angels! Overturning whatever their rage, or malice, or subtlety, had plotted against us. These are about their bed, and about their path, and privy to all their dark designs; and many of them, undoubtedly, they brought to nought, by means that we think not of. Sometimes they blast their favourite schemes in the beginning; sometimes, when they are just ripe for execution. And this they can do by a thou

sand means that we are not aware of. They can check them in their mid career, by bereaving them of courage or strength; by striking faintness through their loins, or turning their wisdom into foolishness. Sometimes they bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and show us the traps that are laid for our feet. In these and various other ways, they hew the snares of the ungodly in pieces.

7. Another grand branch of their ministry is, to counterwork cvil angels; who are continually going about, not only as roaring lions, seeking whom they may devour; but more dangerously still, as angels of light, seeking whom they may deceive. And how great is the number of these! Are they not as the stars of heaven for multitude? How great is their subtlety! matured by the experience of above six thousand years. How great is their strength! Only inferior to that of the angels of God. The strongest of the sons of men are but as grasshoppers before them. And what an advantage have they over us by that single circumstance, that they are invisible! As we have not strength to repel their force, so we have not skill to decline it. But the merciful Lord hath not given us up to the will of our enemies: "His eyes," that is, his holy angels, "run to and fro over all the earth." And if our eyes were opened, we should see, "they are more that are for us, than they that are against us." We should see,

"A convoy attends,
A ministering host of invisible friends."

And whenever those assault us in soul or in body, these are able, willing, ready, to defend us; who are at least equally strong, equally wise, and equally vigilant. And who can hurt us, while we have armies of angels, and the God of angels, on our side?

8. And we may make one general observation: whatever assistance God gives to men by men, the same, and frequently in a higher degree, he gives to them by angels. Does he administer to us by men, light, when we are in darkness; joy, when we are in heaviness; deliverance, when we are in danger; ease and health, when we are sick or in pain? It cannot be doubted but he frequently conveys the same blessings by the ministry of angels: not so sensibly indeed, but full as effectually; though the messengers are not seen. Does he frequently deliver us by means of men, from the violence and subtlety of our enemies? Many times he works the same deliverance by those invisible agents. These shut the mouths of the human lions, so that they have no power to hurt us. And frequently they join with our human friends, (although neither they nor we are sensible of it,) giving them wisdom, courage, or strength, without which all their labour for us would be unsuccessful. Thus do they secretly minister, in numberless instances, to the heirs of salvation; while we hear only the voices of men, and see none but men round about us.

9. But does not the Scripture teach, "The help which is done upon earth, God doeth it himself?" Most certainly he does. And he is able to do it by his own immediate power. He has no need of using any instruments at all, either in heaven or earth. He wants not either angels or men, to fulfil the whole counsel of his will. But it is not his pleasure so to work. He never did; and we may reasonably suppose he never will. He has always wrought by such instruments as he pleases: but still it is God himself that doeth the work. Whatever help, therefore, we have

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 "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." 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.

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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 succour 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 ignorance; that we may know how to wrestle against them effectually. For 66 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 doctrine 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 powers;" 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, 66 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
All its original brightness, nor appear'd
Less than archangel ruin'd, and the excess
Of glory obscured."

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.

He is

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