Page images

bring their objections against them; but it may be doubted, whether this be the sense of those scriptures or no. And as for the Psalmist, in the other scripture, it is plain, that he expresses the weakness of his own faith, which was sometimes almost overset; but, at other times, God condescends to resolve his doubts, and bring him into a better frame, as appears by some following verses. But, that we may give a more particular reply to this objection, let it be considered,

1. That the unequal distribution of things is so far from being a disparagement to any government, that it eminently sets forth the beauty, wisdom, and excellency thereof, and is, in some respects necessary:

As it is not fit that every subject should be advanced to the same honour, or that the favour of a prince should be dispensed alike to all; so it sets forth the beauty of providence, as God is the Governor of the world, that some should more eminently appear to be the objects of his favour than others.

2. The wicked, whose condition is supposed, by those who bring this objection, to be more happy than that of the righteous, will not appear, if things were duly weighed, to be so happy, as they are pretended to be, if we consider the evils that they are exposed to at present, some of which are the immediate result and consequence of sin, whereby they are, as it were, tortured and distracted with contrary lusts and passions, which militate against the dictates of human nature, and render the pleasures

of sin less desirable in themselves : But, when we consider those tormenting reflections, which they sometimes have, after the commission thereof, these are altogether inconsistent with peace or happiness, much more if we consider the end thereof, as it leads to everlasting destruction : thus it is said, Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end of that mirth is heaviness. The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways, Proy. xiv. 13, 14. Therefore, the good man would not change conditions with him, how destitute soever he may be of those riches, honours, or sensual pleasures, which the other reckons his portion; A little that a righteous man hath, is better than the riches of many wicked, Psal. xxxvii. 26.

3. As for the good man, who is supposed to be in an afflict-, ed condition in this life, we are not, from thence, to conclude him, in all respects, unhappy, for we are to judge of his state by the end thereof. He that looks upon Lazarus, as full of sores, and destitute of many of the conveniences of life, may reckon him unhappy at present, when compared with the condition of the rich man, who is represented in the parable, as clothed with purple and fine linen, and faring sumptuously every day: but if we consider him, when leaving the world, as carried by angels, into Abraham's bosom, and the other plungeel YOL. II.


into an abyss of misery ; no one will see reason to charge the providence of God with any neglect of him, or conclude him to be really miserable, because of his condition in this present life.

Moreover, if we consider the righteous in his most disadvantageous circumstances, as to what respects his outward condition; we must, notwithstanding, regard him, as an object of divine love, and made partaker of those graces, and inward comforts, which are more than a balance for all his outward troubles; and therefore we may say of him, as the apostle does of himself, though he be unknown, that is obscure, and, as it were, disowned by the world, yet he is well known, that is, approved and beloved of God; does he live an afflicted and dying life? yet he has a better life, that is maintained by him : Is he chastened? yet he is not killed : Is he sorrowful? yet he always rejoiceth: Is he poor? yet he maketh many rich; has he nothing, as to outward things ? yet he possesseth all things, as he is an heir of eternal life, 2 Cor. vi. 9, 10.

Quest. XIX. What is God's providence towards the angels ? Answ. God, by his providence, permitted some of the angels,

wilfully and irrecoverably, to fall into sin and damnation, limiting and ordering that, and all their sins to his own glory, and established the rest in holiness and happiness ; employing them all at his pleasure, in the administration of his power, mercy, and justice. T was observed, in a foregoing answer, that God created all

I ,

fallen, while the rest retained their first integrity. And the providence of God is considered, as conversant about this matter, in different respects. Accordingly it is said,

I. That God, by his providence, permitted some of the angels to fall. This appears, by the event, because there are some wicked and impure spirits, sunk down into the depths of misery, from that state in which they were created, as the consequence of their rebellion against God.

And inasmuch as it is observed, that it was only a part of the angels that fell, we may infer from thence ; that the dispensation of providence, towards the angels, was different from that which mankind was subject to, when first created, in that one of them was not constituted the head and representative of the rest, in whom they were all to stand or fall; but the happiness or misery of every one of them was to be the result of his own personal conduct. As their persisting in obedience to God was necessary to their establishment in holiness and happiness, so the least instance of rebellion against him, would bring inevitable ruin, upon them. Now that which is observed concerning a part of them, is, that they fell into sin and damnation : thus the apostle says, in 2 Pet. ii. 4. God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell.

Their sin, or fall, was wilful; they commenced an open war against their Creator. Herein that enmity to God, and goodness, took its first rise, which has, ever since, been expressed by them, in various instances. Their sin appears to have been wilful, inasmuch as it was committed against the greatest degree of light, for all the angels are described as excelling in knowledge ; and that subtility, which is knowledge abused, and depraved with sin, that discovers itself in the fallen angels, argues, that their knowledge, before they fell, was very great, and therefore their rebellion was aggravated in proportion therer unto.

Moreover, they sinned without a tempter, especially those who first took up arms against God. Whether others, by their instigation, might not be induced to sin, we know not *: But this is certain, that this rebellion was begun without a tempter ; for there were no fallen creatures to present a temptation, nor any corruption in their natures that internally drew them aside from God; and therefore their sin might well be styled wilfula

And it may be observed, that the consequence hereof was their irrecoverable ruin. This respects the event of their fall ; or that God designed, for ever, to leave them in that sinful and miserable state into which they hereby brought themselves. He might, indeed, have recovered them, as well as sinful man, had he pleased; but he has provided no modiator, no surety, to give satisfaction for them. The blessed Jesus is expressly said, not to have taken their nature upon him, thereby to signify that their condition was irretrievable, and their misery to be eternal.

Now it is farther observed, that the providence of God was conversant about their sin and fall, in the same sense in which as it has been before observed, it is conversant about sin in general; which is consistent with his holiness, as well as other perfections, namely, in permitting, limiting, and ordering it, and all their other sins, to his own glory.

1. He permitted it. To permit, is not to prevent a sin ; and to say that God did not prevent their fall, is to assert a truth which none ever denied, or thought necessary to be proved.

2. It is farther observed, that the providence of God sets bounds and limits to their sin ; as it does to the waves of the sea, when he says, Hitherto shall ye go, and no farther. How destructive to mankind would the malice of fallen angels be,

* Some think, that those expressions, which we find in scripture, that speak of the devil, and his angels, and the prince of devils, import as much; but this we pretend not to determine.

were it not restrained? What would not Satan attempt against us, had he an unlimited power? We have a remarkable instance of this in the case of Job. Satan first accused him as a timeserving hypocrite ; a mercenary professor, one that did not fear God for nought, in chap. i. 9. and how desirous was he that providence would give him up to his will, and take away the ħedge of its safe protection ? But God would not do this ; nevertheless, so far as Satan was suffered, he poured in a confiuence of evils upon him, but could proceed no farther. First, he was suffered to plunder him of his substance, and take away his children, by a violent death ; but was so restrained, that, upon himself, he was not to put forth his hand, in ver. 12. Afterwards, he was permitted to touch his person; and then we read of his smiting him with sore boils, from the sole of his foot unto his crown, in chap. ii. 7. But yet he was not suffered to take away his life. And, after this the devil's malice still growing stronger against him, he endeavours to weaken his faith, to drive him into despair, and to rob him of that inward peace, which might have given some allay to his other troubles; but yet he is not suffered to destroy his graces, or hurry him into a total apostacy from God. What would not fallen angels attempt against mankind, were not their sin limited by the providence of God!

3. God's providence ordered, or over-ruled, the fall of angels, and all other sins consequent hereupon, to his own glory. Their power, indeed, is great, though limited, as appears by the inhumerable instances of those who have been not only tempted, but overthrown, and ruined by them. It may truly be said of them, that they have cast down many wounded; yea many strong men have been slain by them. Nevertheless, God over-rules this for his own glory ; for from hence he takes occasion to try his people's graces, to give them an humbling sense of the corruption of their nature, and of their inability, to stand in the hour of temptation, without his immediate assistance, and puts them upon imploring help from him, with great importunity ; as the apostle Paul did, 2 Cor. xii. 7-9. when the messenger of Satan was suffered to buffet him, and God took occasion, at the same time, to display that grace, which was sufficient for him, and that strength, that was made perfect in weakness, and, in the end, to bruise Satan under his feet, and to make him more than a conqueror over him.

Having thus considered some of the angels, as sinning and falling, it might farther be enquired; whether these all fell at once? And here I cannot but take notice of a very absurd and groundless conjecture of some of the fathers, and others, who of late, have been too much inclined to give into it, 'namely, that though some of them sinned from the beginning, and these were the occasion of the sin of our first parents, as all al. low ; yet, after this, others, who were appointed to minister to men, were unfaithful in the discharge of their office, and be. came partners with them in sin ; accordingly they understand that scripture, in which it is said, The sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were fair ; and they took them wives of all which they chose, Gen. vi. 2. as though it were meant of angels ;* whereas nothing is intended thereby but some of the posterity of Seth, who were, before this, professors of the true religion.

There are, indeed, some, of late, who have given into this notion, and strain the sense of that text, in Jude, ver. 6, 7. in which it is said, that the angels, which kept not their first estate, &c. even as Sodom and Gomorrah, giving themselves over to fornication, are set forth, for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire; the meaning of which they suppose to be this; that, even as the Sodomites were guilty of fornication, and were destroyed, by fire from heaven, for it, so some of the angels were sent down to hell for the same sin: But it is plain the apostle does not here compare the angels and the Sodomites together, as guilty of the same kind of sin, but as both are condemned to suffer the vengeance of eternal fire, and are set forth as warnings to presumptuous sinners. Therefore nothing more need be added under this head; it is enough to say, that this opinion is contrary to the spirituality of the nature of angels ; though there are some ancient writers, who, to give countenance

This was the opinion of most of the fathers, in the three first centuries of the church, namely, Justin Martyr, Origen, Tertullian, Clemens, Alexandrinus, Lactantius, Irenæus, Cyprian, and others. Some of them appeared to have taken the hint thereof from some MS. of the LXX translation, which rendered the words in Gen. vi. 2. instead of the sons of God, the angels saw the daughters of men, &c. This translation being used by them, instead of the Hebrew text, which they did not well understand; though others took it from a spurious and fabulous writing, which they had in their hands, called Enoch, or, the prophecy of Enoch, or rather, Liber, Tepe sypog opas, de Egregoris, a barbarous Greek word, useil to signify angels, anı taken from the character given them of watchers, in Daniel. Of this book, we have some fragments now remaining, in which there is such a ridiculous and fabulous account of this matter, as very much, herein exceeds the apocryphal history of Tobit. It gives an account of a conspiracy among the angels, relating to this matter; the manner of their entering into it, their names, the year of the world, and place in which this wickedness was committed, and other things, that are unworthy of a grave historian; and, the reckoning it among those writings, that are supposed to have a di. vine sanction, is little other than profaneness and blasphemy. Some of the fathers, who refer to this book, pretend it to be no other than apocryphal, and, had they counted it otherwise, all would have reckoned it a burlesque upon scripture ; therefore Origen, who, on other occasions, seems to pay too great a deference to it, when Celsus takes notice of it, as containing a banter on the Christian religion, he is, on that occusion, obliged to reply to him, that book was not in great reputation in the church, Vid. Orig. contra Celsum, Lib. V. And Jerom reckons it among the apocryphal writings, Vid. Hieronym. in Catal. Script. Eccles. cap. 4. And Augustin calls it not only apocryphal, but, as it deserves, fabulous. Vid. ejusd. de Civ. Dei. Lib. XV. tap 3,

« PreviousContinue »