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The uses of this truth in the comfort of the disciples of Christ, against all fears, despondencies, and other effects of unbelief, with the terror of wicked men, are obvious unto all.
Ver. 14.-The apostle has proved the pre-eminence of the Son as Mediator of the New Testament above all the angels, from those attributions of honour and glory that are made unto him in the Scriptures, the like whereunto are no where made or given unto angels. And now that he may not appear to argue merely negatively from what is not said concerning them, he adds in this last verse such a description of their natures and office, or work and employment, as shews that indeed no such thing can be rightly spoken or affirmed concerning them, as he hath before manifested to be spoken and recorded concerning the Son.
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Tihdonesia dice toys Mid 20170s xangovousty owingar. There is no difference in the reading, nor much about the translation of those words. « Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to minister to (unto a ministry for) them that shall inherit salvation.” This was the common received doctrine of the church concerning angels, suitable unto the Scripture, and to the purpose of the apostle, as manifesting that they had no interest in the glory before ascribed unto the Son.
Sundry things are here expressed concerning angels, which we must briefly pass through the consideration of. As,
1. Their nature. They are aroukata, rinn, Ruchoth, spirits. Spiritual subsistences, not qualities or natural faculties, as the Sadducees imagined ; and which by an homonymy of the name, Maimonides, More Nebuch. p. ii. cap. 3. admits also to be angels, but falsely, and without authority from Scripture or reason. This is their nature, this the Hebrews acknowledge so to be ; they are created spirits, not to be compared with, or equalled unto him that made and created all things.
2. Their office. They are wysypatu Autreyird, ministering spirits, so they are termed, Psal. ciii. 21. “ Praise the Lord all his hosts." Ynown, LXX. detseyou aury, - his ministers doing his will.' Hence in general the Jews call them, oinnun, minis. ters, and among other titles assign this unto God, that he is, oinnin 731', the Creator of ministering spirits or angels.'
,מלאכי דשירותא ,And expressly in the Talmud they are called ,מלאכי ,as more frequently by the Rabbins in the Hebrew dialect
noun angels of ministry,' above whom that the Messiah was to be, we have formerly shewed from themselves.
Now, what kind of office or ministry it is that is ascribed un
to them, the word itself doth in part declare. now, is to minister principally about holy things; nor is it above once applied unto any other ministry. And such a ministry it signifies, as is performed with honour and ease, and is opposed unto 72, which is to minister with labour and burden. So the ministry of the Levites in bearing the burden of the tabernacle, is called 1772V, a ministry with labour,' Numb. viii. 25. When the more easy and honourable employment, which was attended by them who by reason of their age were exempted from bearing of burdens, is called 1770, ver. 26. and Deut. xviii. 7. Such is the ministry of angels. It is in and about holy things, and unto themselves honourable and easy. And this n70, is rendered assT8gyra, which expresseth sometimes such a general ministry as compriseth the whole service and worship of the church, Acts · xiii. 2. asitougy8ITWY QUTWY TW Kupiw, as they ministered unto the Lord ;' that is attended unto the performance of all the duties of the church.
This then in general is the office of the angels; they are 0907 350 or 01777; Tyruliata Asimovgyixa, ministering spi. rits,' that wait on God in and about his holy services for the good of the church; which also in the like manner ministereth unto God in its own state and condition. And hence it is that the church and they do make up one family, Ephes. iv. 15. and that they are all fellow servants in the same family with them that keep the testimony of Jesus, Rev. xxii. 9.
And of this some of the later Jews have retained the tradition. Whence is that of Maimonides, More Nebuch. part ii. cap. 6. which he citeth out of the Talmud. Vu 712p7 7* obyn w uko2 757310 71 727, The holy blessed God doth nothing unless he consult with his superior family. Only not knowing the rise of the word be, nor what, it should signify;
ant part of theast alteration whereas it Ind, that should signi
tongue it signifies an host; whereas it is purely the Latin familia without the least alteration. And the description of this superior part of the family of God is given us, Dan. vii. 10. ^ Thou. sand thousands did minister unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.” In which words Pseudo-Dionysius, Gregory, and Aquinas, with sundry of the schoolmen, have coined a distinction of angels into ministrantes, those that minister unto God, and assistentes, those that stand before him. Whereas the whole intention of the expression is, that all the angels stood ministering before him, as John declares the matter, Rev. v. 11. And therefore the apostle expressly here affirms that they are all ministering spirits, cutting off one member of their distinction. Neither is there more intended in the ministry of that upper part of the family of God than is expressed concerning the lower part of it of old, Deut. xviii. 5.
« God chose the priests and the Levites nous oys, to stand and to minister in the name of the Lord.” The same persons were both assistentes and ministrantes, they stood to minister before the Lord.
Now, because of this standing and ministering of angels, that is their waiting on God in a readiness to do his will, they may be said in some sense to be the throne of God, from whence he executeth justice and judgment; for as he is called D'21727 aun, Psal. lxxx. 1. “ He that dwelleth between the cherubims ;” as also Psal. xcix. 1 ; so the Jews say, that the thrones mentioned Dan. vii. were orhyot o'70, 'the higher princes' or angels, as Abarbinel on the place. This then is their office, they are all ministering spirits. .
3. Their execution of their office in their actual employment, is here also expressed. They are ministering spirits, as draxovien atooted domsvc, sent out unto a ministry;' sent out, that is, they are daily so, continually so, the word denoting the present time, which is always. They stand before the presence of God, and are continually sent out by him, sometimes some, sometimes others, always those that are sufficient for his work.
Now, as we observed before, that neitreyi denotes the whole family service of God, which in general is ascribed unto these children and servants of his, in the upper part thereof, they being sysuPATA 286Tougyolc, ministering spirits;' so here the execution of their work is expressed by two words, which comprise the whole ministry of the church ; αποστολη and διακονια, • apostleship’ and · labouring ministry,' and therein the harmony is still preserved, that is between both parts of the family of God. And as in the service of the church, the ministers thereof do not minister unto men, but unto the Lord, for and in the behalf of men, Acts xiii. 2. so is it with these spirits also, they are sent out to minister for the good of men, but it is the Lord unto whom they minister ; his ministers they are, not ours, Psal. ciii. 21, though in their ministry, belonging unto the same family with believers, they are their fellow servants. As all the servants of a king, though otherwise greatly differenced, agree in this, that they are all servants unto the same person. And these two words express both their honour, that they are immediately sent out from the presence of God, they are his apostles, as also their obedience and diligence, they undertake diaxoybav, a ' ministry,' to be discharged with care and due obsørvance of him by whom they are sent,
4. There is expressed the restriction of their ministry unto the especial object of their work and employment ; it is for them that shall be heirs of salvation ; die Tous kiddortas xangovopesiy owTngrav, « for them,' for their sakes, for their good, in their behalf, who shall inherit salvation.' Elect believers are heirs at pre. sent, and hereafter shall inherit, or actually obtain salvation; by virtue of their heirship. Yet the apostle speaketh not, of them as elect, nor yet absolutely as believers; but as of' heirs, which they obtain by the privilege of adoption. This gives them heirship, and an interest in the family of God. And the ministry of the superior part of the family in behalf of the lower, respects them as such, that is, as adopted, as children, as heirs, as co-heirs with Christ, Rom. viii. 16, 17. This privilege, I say, amongst others innumerable and inexpressible, we have by our adoption, that being admitted into the family of God, those blessed angels, whose special ministry respects that family, have us under their constant care.
It is true, that the ministry of angels is not always absolutely restrained unto the church or family of God: they are employed also in the government of the world. So the angel that was sent unto Daniel affirms, that in the first year of Darius, he stood to confirm and strengthen hiin, Dan. xi. 1. that is, to assist him in the wielding of his new gotten empire. As also, ch. X. 13. 20, 21. he declares how he acted in opposition to the prince of Persia, and stirred up the prince of Grecia ; that is, how he should do so in the appointed time. And so also doubtless are they employed about other affairs in the world, from whence much good redounds unto many who yet belong not to the family of God. But yet two things we may here observe: l'irst, That though this ministry of theirs was not immediately, yet it was ultimately for the church. For their sakes were those mighty empires first raised, and afterwards razed to the ground. And this is that which they consider in their ministry ; see Zech. j. 8--11. And thence it appears that the prince of the kingdom of Persia, who withstood the angel, was not any angel of God, but the king of Persia himself, who laboured to obstruct the work committed to him. Secondly, That the apostle treats in this place of that immediate respect which the ministry of the angels had unto the church, because in that regard alone he carries on his comparison between them and the Son, that only being unto his purpose in hand.
But it may be objected, that this their ministry will not clear. ly evince their inferiority and subordination unto Christ, seeing he himself also was sent, and that for the good of them who shall inherit salvation, and is thence called the apostle of our profession. But the differences between him and them in their being sent, are so great and manifest, that his superiority unto them, and pre-eminence above them, is not in the least thereby impeached. He was sent by his own voluntary previous choice and condescension: they are so, in pursuit of the state and condition of their creation. He was sent to minister in the form of a servant, only for a short season, in the days of his flesh; they continue to be so from the beginning to the end of the world. He was sent unto that great and mighty work of mediation, which none was worthy to undertake, none able to go through withal but himself alone, as being the only begotten Son of God; they are sent about the ordinary concerns of the saints : He as the Son, they as servants : He as the Author of the whole work of the redemption and salvation of the church, they as subordinate assistants in the particular promotion of it. The general agreement then of his and their being sent for the good of the church, hath so many and so great differences in the manner, causes and ends of it, that it no way takes off from the evidence of their subordination and subjection unto him. And with this demonstration the apostle closeth the argument he had so long insisted on
Of the nature of this ministry of angels for the good of them that shall inherit salvation, because it belongs not directly unto the present design of the apostle, and would in the full consideration of it cause a long diversion from the work in hand, I shall not treat, although it be a matter singularly deserving our meditation. For the present it may suffice us to observe, that in the government and protection of his saints here below, both as to the dispensation of grace and providence, God is pleased to make use of the ministry of angels, wherein much of their honour and our safety doth consist. For a close of the whole, we may only observe the way and manner whereby the apostle proposeth this doctrine of the ministry of angels unto the Hebrews; are they not?' saith he, he speaks of it as a matter well known unto them, and acknowledged by them. Their nature, their dignity, their office was declared in the Old Testament. Thence were they instructed, that as to their nature they were spirits; in dignity, thrones, principalities and powers; in office, ministers unto God, sent out for the good of his church. And therefore these things the apostle in sundry places takes for granted, as those that were already known and received in the church of God, Rom. viii. 32. Eph. i. 20, 21.. Col. i. 16. This doctrine then I say, was propagated from the Jews unto the Christians. And from them also came forth much of that curiosity and superstition about angels, which afterwards infected the minds of many in the Christian church. For after they were forsaken of God, and began to give up themselves unto vain speculations, there was not any thing wherein the vanity of their minds did more early manisest ilself, than in their imaginations about angels, wherein they exercise themselves into this day. For to omit their monstrous figments about the original of devils, most of whom they affirm to have been begotten by Adam on Lilith, before God formed Eve, and many to have issued from Adam and Eve se