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4. By this ministry of angels, doth God in particular preserve us from the sudden and violent incursions of Satan. Satan in the Scripture is called a serpent, from his subtlety and lying in wait to do mischief; and a lion, from his rage, and fury, and spoiling, from bis Jurking-places. And as the one, and the other, he continually seeks the harm, mischief, and ruin of the whole man ; not only of our souls in sin and desert of punishment, but of our bodies in our lives, health and welture. Hence we find so many in the gospel troubled with bodily infirauties, from the assaults and impressions of Satan. And what he prevails to do against any one, that he is continually attempting against all the seed of Abraham. Hereunto also belong all those hurtful terrors, affrightments and surprisals, which he endeavoureth by himself and his agents to cast upon us. Had he his liberty, he would make our whole lives to be filled with disappointments, horrors, vain fear and perplexities, if he could proceed no farther. Now in all these designs, it is more probable that he is prevented by the ministry of angels. We find in the first of Job, that in all the devil's walks in the earth for the executing of his malice, the angels still observe him, and are ready to answer him when he comes with his accusations against the saints into the presence of the Lord. And hereon depends the safety and security of our lives, without which Satan would by all means continually attempt to fill them with terrors, vexations, losses and troubles. Not one of us should escape him any better than Job did, when God for a season suspended his protection over his relations, possessions, and enjoyments.
5. They are in their ministry appointed to be witnesses of the obedience, sufferings, and worship of the disciples of Christ, that they may give testimony unto them before God, and in the great assembly of the last day, so glorifying God for the grace bestowed upon them, and the assistance afforded unto them. Thus Paul tells us, that the apostles, in their preaching and sufferings, were made a spectacle unto angels, 1 Cor. iv. 9. The holy angels of God looked on, rejoicing to behold how gloriously they acquitted themselves in the work and ministry committed unto them. And to this end doth he charge Timothy before the elect angels, to look unto and discharge aright the work of an evangelist, 1 Tim. v. 21. because they were appointed of God to be witnesses of his faithfulness and diligence therein. And it is not improbable but he hath respect unto the presence of angels in the assemblies of the saints for the worship of God, when he enjoins modesty and sobriety unto women in them, on their account, 1 Cor. xi: 10. And from that particular instance, a general rule may be drawn, for the observance of comeliness and order in all our assemblies; namely, from the presence of
these holy witnesses at all our solemn worship. For church assemblies are the court, the dwelling place, the throne of Jesus Christ, and therefore in them he is in an especial manner at. tended by these glorious ministers of his presence. And therefore, although a holy regard unto God and our Lord Jesus Christ himself, be the first and principal motive unto a right and holy acquitment of ourselves in all our obedience, sufferings and worship ; yet in subordination thereto, we may have also respect unto the angels, as those who are enployed by him to be witnesses of our ways and carriage. Such a respect I mean, as may administer occasion to them to glorify God in Christ on our behalf, that so all the honour may tinally redound to him alone.
6. God useth the ministry of angels, to avenge his elect of their enemies and persecutors, to render unto them a recompence and vengeance even in this world, in the clue and appointed season. Thus by an angel he destroyed the army of Sennacherib, when he intended and threatened the destruction of Jerusalem. And by an angel, he smote llerod in the midst of bis pride and persecution, Acts xii. 23. And this ministry of theirs is in a special manner pointed to in several places of the Revelation, where the judgments of God are foretold to be executed for the persecutions of the world. And this work they wait for in a holy admiration of the patience of God towards many a provoking generation; and are in a continual readiness to discharge it unto the utteripost, when they shall receive their commission so to do, Dan. vii.
7. They carry the souls departed into Abraham's bosom, Luke xvi. 22.
8. Lastly, The ministry of angels respects the general resurrection and day of judgment. The Lord Christ is every where described coming to judgment at the last day, attended with all his holy and glorious angels, Matt. xxiv. 31. chap. xxv. 31. 2 Thess. i. 7, 8. Jude 14, 15. And great shall be their work towards the elect in that day, when the Lord Christ shall be admired even by them, in all those that do believe. For although the work of the resurrection, like that of the creation, is to be eflected by the immediate operation of almighty power, without the intervention of any secondary finite agents, limited in their power and operation ; yet many things preparatory thereto, and consequents thereof, shall be committed unto the ministry of angels. By them are the signs and tokens of it to be proclaimed unto the world ; to them is the sounding of the last trumpet, and general summons given out unto all flesh to appear before Jesus Christ, committed ; with all the glorious solemnity of the judgment itself. And as they bear and accompany the departing souls of the saints into the receptacles of
their rest in heaven, so doubtless also shall they accompany them in their joyful return unto their beloved old habitations. By them also will the Lord Christ gather them together from all parts wherein their redeemed bodies have been reduced into dust; and so also at length by them bring all the heirs of salvation triumphantly into the full possession of their inheritance.
And thus much may suffice to have spoken about the ministry of angels here mentioned by the apostle: by all which it farther appears, that neither in their nature, nor their office they are any way to be compared with the Son of God in his ministry towards the church. Some deductions also for our especial use and instruction may here be added from what hath been spoken. As,
1. That we ought to be very careful to use sobriety in our speculations and meditations about this matter. Herein doth the caution of the apostle take place in an especial manner, that we should be wise unto sobriety, Rom. xii. 3. and not to think ourselves wise above that which is written. This some neglecting of old, and endeavouring to intrude themselves into the things which they had not seen, Col. ii. 18. that is, boasting of the knowledge and acquaintance with angels, which they had no ground for, nor any safe instruction in, fell into pride, curiosity, superstition and idolatry, as the apostle in that place declareth. And almost in all ages of the church, men have failed on this account. The curiosity of the Jews we did in some measure before manifest. To them in their imaginations succeeded the Gnostics, whose portentous Æones and genealogies of inferior deities, recounted by Irenæus, Origen, Tertullian, Epiphanius, and others of the ancients, were nothing but wicked and foolish imaginations about angels. Unto them succeeded those about the beginning of the fourth century, who flatly worshipped angels, and had conventicles, or private meetings for that purpose, who are expressly condemned in the thirty-fifth canon of the council of Laodicea, An. 364. in these words, 'Oto x du Xerotoνες εγκαταλείπειν την εκκλησίαν τε Θες, και απιεναι, και αγγελες ονομαζειν και συναξεις ποιείν ; άπερ απαγορευεται" ει τις εν ευρεθη ταυτη τη κεκρυμμενη ειδωλολατρεια σχολαζων εστω αναθεμα, ότι εγκατέλιπε τον Κύριον ημών Ιησεν Xerrtoy tov voor 78 Ot8 xao siowionate ice agoonase ; wherein they plainly adjudge that practice to be idolatry and apostasy from Jesus Christ. After these, about the end of the fourth, or beginning of the fifth century, he vented his curious speculations about their hierarchy, orders and operations, who personated Dionysius the Areopagite, of whom we spake before. From them all, did that sink of idolatry, superstition and heresies, the church of Rome, derive her present speculations, adoration, worship and invocation of angels. But as these things are all of them
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· without, besides, and against the word in general, so they are
in particular expressly prejudged and condemned, by the apostle in the place to the Colossians before mentioned. And of such kind of needless, useless, unprofitable, dangerous speculations we are to beware; and many of them I could in particular recite, but that I would not teach them unto any, by condemning them before all; but yet,
2. Danger should not deter us from duty.-Because some have miscarried in this matter, we ought not therefore wholly to neglect it, there being so great à concern of the glory of God, and our own good enwrapped therein. Had others erred or wandered indeed, because they had neither way to walk in, nor guide to attend to, it had been sufficient to restrain us from attempting any thing in this matter ; but whereas it is evident, that they wilfully neglected the way, or pressed farther than the paths of it led them, and despised their guide, following their own imagination instead thereof, shall others be discouraged in the duty, whereas they may avoid their miscarriages ? Wary indeed this may and ought to make us in our inquiries, but not neglective of our duties. We have the word of God for our way and guide: if we go not besides it, if we go not beyond it, we are as safe when we treat of angels, as if we treated of worms. We have seen in part of what signal use their ministry is as unto our good, and the glory of Jesus Christ. And it is pride to the height, not to inquire after what may be known, because there are many things that we may not know nor comprehend. If that take place, it will debar us from all search into the mysteries of the gospel. For upon our utmost attainments, we know but in part. God's revelation is the object of our knowledge. So far as that is made and given, so far we may inquire and learn. Besides, it is the height of ingratitude not to search after what may be known of this great privilege and mercy, whereof we are made partakers in the ministry of angels. God hath neither appointed nor revealed it for nothing. He expects a revenue of praise and glory for it; and how can we bless him for it, when we know nothing of it ? This ministry then of angels, is that which with sobriety we are in a way of duty to inquire into.
3. Let us on this account glorify God and be thankful. Great is the privilege, manifold are the blessings and benefits that we are made partakers of by this ministry of angels. Some of them have been before recounted. What shall we render for them, and to whom? Shall we go and bow ourselves down to the angels themselves, and pay our homage of obedience to them ? they all cry out with one accord, See you do it not, we are your fellow-servants. What shall we then do? Why, say they, worship God. Glorify and praise him, who is the God of
all angels ; who sends them, who employs them, unto whom they minister in all that they do for us. Let us bless God, I say, for the ministry of angels.
Moreover, these words atford us other instructions, which I shall only name, and put a close unto our discourses on this chapter : as,
II. The Socratical fancy of one single guardian angel attending every one ; as it is, if admitted, a real impeachment of the consolation of believers, so it is a great inducement to superstition and idolatry.-The farther evidencing of this truth, I remit unto what hath been already delivered about the ministry of angels in general.
IV. Believers obtain heaven by inheritance, and free gift of their Father, and not by any merit of their own.--Heirs among men claim their inheritance jure nascendi, because they are born unto it, not because they deserve it better than others. Believers look for theirs jure adopiionis, by right of adoption, whereby they become sons, heirs of God, and co-heirs with Jesus Christ.