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      Wednesday, October 10, 2007

      (This is a long post, but it is well worth the read. I'm posting it, in part, because there is so little mentioned about angels on the whole, but mostly because Jesus Christ himself says to beware of the leaven (false teaching) of the legalistic Pharisees AND the Sadducees. [Matt. 16:6] The Sadducees say, of course, that there is no angel, spirt, or resurrection. [Acts 23:8])

      1. Although Isaiah justly charges the worshipers of false gods

      with stupidity, in not learning from the foundations of the earth,
      and the circle of the heavens, who the true God is (Isa. 40: 21;)
      yet so sluggish and grovelling is our intellect, that it was
      necessary he should be more clearly depicted, in order that the
      faithful might not fall away to Gentile fictions. the idea that God
      is the soul of the world, though the most tolerable that
      philosophers have suggested, is absurd; and, therefore, it was of
      importance to furnish us with a more intimate knowledge in order
      that we might not wander to and fro in uncertainty. Hence God was
      pleased that a history of the creation should exist - a history on
      which the faith of the Church might lean without seeking any other
      God than Him whom Moses sets forth as the Creator and Architect of
      the world. First, in that history, the period of time is marked so
      as to enable the faithful to ascend by an unbroken succession of
      years to the first origin of their race and of all things. This
      knowledge is of the highest use not only as an antidote to the
      monstrous fables which anciently prevailed both in Egypt and the
      other regions of the world, but also as a means of giving a clearer
      manifestation of the eternity of God as contrasted with the birth of
      creation, and thereby inspiring us with higher admiration. We must
      not be moved by the profane jeer, that it is strange how it did not
      sooner occur to the Deity to create the heavens and the earth,
      instead of idly allowing an infinite period to pass away, during
      which thousands of generations might have existed, while the present
      world is drawing to a close before it has completed its six
      thousandth year. Why God delayed so long it is neither fit nor
      lawful to inquire. Should the human mind presume to do it, it could
      only fail in the attempt, nor would it be useful for us to know what
      God, as a trial of the modesty of our faith, has been pleased
      purposely to conceal. It was a shrewd saying of a good old man, who
      when some one pertly asked in derision what God did before the world
      was created, answered he made a hell for the inquisitive, (August.
      Confess., lib. 11 c. 12.) This reproof, not less weighty than
      severe, should repress the tickling wantonness which urges many to
      indulge in vicious and hurtful speculation.
      In fine, let us remember that that invisible God, whose wisdom,
      power, and justice, are incomprehensible, is set before us in the
      history of Moses as in a mirror, in which his living image is
      reflected. For as an eye, either dimmed by age or weakened by any
      other cause, sees nothing distinctly without the aid of glasses, so
      (such is our imbecility) if Scripture does not direct us in our
      inquiries after God, we immediately turn vain in our imaginations.
      Those who now indulge their petulance, and refuse to take warning,
      will learn, when too late, how much better it had been reverently to
      regard the secret counsels of God, than to belch forth blasphemies
      which pollute the face of heaven. Justly does Augustine complain
      that God is insulted whenever any higher reason than his will is
      demanded. (Lib. de Gent.) He also in another place wisely reminds us
      that it is just as improper to raise questions about infinite
      periods of time as about infinite space. (De Civit. Dei.) However
      wide the circuit of the heavens may be, it is of some definite
      extent. But should any one expostulate with God that vacant space
      remains exceeding creation by a hundred-fold, must not every pious
      mind detest the presumption? Similar is the madness of those who
      charge God with idleness in not having pleased them by creating the
      world countless ages sooner than he did create it. In their cupidity
      they affect to go beyond the world, as if the ample circumference of
      heaven and earth did not contain objects numerous and resplendent
      enough to absorb all our senses; as if, in the period of six
      thousand years, God had not furnished facts enough to exercise our
      minds in ceaseless meditation. Therefore, let us willingly remain
      hedged in by those boundaries within which God has been pleased to
      confine our persons, and, as it were, enclose our minds, so as to
      prevent them from losing themselves by wandering unrestrained.

      2. With the same view Moses relates that the work of creation

      was accomplished not in one moment, but in six days. By this
      statement we are drawn away from fiction to the one God who thus
      divided his work into six days, that we may have no reluctance to
      devote our whole lives to the contemplation of it. For though our
      eyes, in what direction soever they turn, are forced to behold the
      works of God, we see how fleeting our attention is, and holy quickly
      pious thoughts, if any arise, vanish away. Here, too, objection is
      taken to these progressive steps as inconsistent with the power of
      God, until human reason is subdued to the obedience of faith, and
      learns to welcome the calm quiescence to which the sanctification of
      the seventh day invited us. In the very order of events, we ought
      diligently to ponder on the paternal goodness of God toward the
      human race, in not creating Adam until he had liberally enriched the
      earth with all good things. Had he placed him on an earth barren and
      unfurnished; had he given life before light, he might have seemed to
      pay little regard to his interest. But now that he has arranged the
      motions of the sun and stars for man's use, has replenished the air,
      earth, and water, with living creatures, and produced all kinds of
      fruit in abundance for the supply of food, by performing the office
      of a provident and industrious head of a family, he has shown his
      wondrous goodness toward us. These subjects, which I only briefly
      touch, if more attentively pondered, will make it manifest that
      Moses was a sure witness and herald of the one only Creator. I do
      not repeat what I have already explained, viz., that mention is here
      made not of the bare essence of God, but that his eternal Wisdom and
      Spirit are also set before us, in order that we may not dream of any
      other God than Him who desires to be recognised in that express

      3. But before I begin to treat more fully of the nature of man,

      (chap. 15 and B. 2 c. 1,) it will be proper to say something of
      angels. For although Moses, in accommodation to the ignorance of the
      generality of men, does not in the history of the creation make
      mention of any other works of God than those which meet our eye,
      yet, seeing he afterwards introduces angels as the ministers of God,
      we easily infer that he for whom they do service is their Creator.
      Hence, though Moses, speaking in popular language, did not at the
      very commencement enumerate the angels among the creatures of God,
      nothing prevents us from treating distinctly and explicitly of what
      is delivered by Scripture concerning them in other places. For if we
      desire to know God by his works, we surely cannot overlook this
      noble and illustrious specimen. We may add that this branch of
      doctrine is very necessary for the refutation of numerous errors.
      The minds of many are so struck with the excellence of angelic
      natures, that they would think them insulted in being subjected to
      the authority of God, and so made subordinate. Hence a fancied
      divinity has been assigned them. Manes, too, has arisen with his
      sect, fabricating to himself two principles - God and the devil,
      attributing the origin of good things to God, but assigning all bad
      natures to the devil as their author. Were this delirium to take
      possession of our minds, God would be denied his glory in the
      creation of the world. For, seeing there is nothing more peculiar to
      God than eternity and "autousia", i. e. self-existence, or existence
      of himself, if I may so speak, do not those who attribute it to the
      devil in some degree invest him with the honour of divinity? And
      where is the omnipotence of God, if the devil has the power of
      executing whatever he pleases against the will, and notwithstanding
      of the opposition of God? But the only good ground which the
      Manichees have, viz., that it were impious to ascribe the creation
      of any thing bad to a good God, militates in no degree against the
      orthodox faith, since it is not admitted that there is any thing
      naturally bad throughout the universe; the depravity and wickedness
      whether of man or of the devil, and the sins thence resulting, being
      not from nature, but from the corruption of nature; nor, at first,
      did anything whatever exist that did not exhibit some manifestation
      of the divine wisdom and justice. To obviate such perverse
      imaginations, we must raise our minds higher than our eyes can
      penetrate. It was probably with this view that the Nicene Creed, in
      calling God the creator of all things, makes express mention of
      things invisible. My care, however, must be to keep within the
      bounds which piety prescribes, lest by indulging in speculations
      beyond my reach, I bewilder the reader, and lead him away from the
      simplicity of the faith. And since the Holy Spirit always instructs
      us in what is useful, but altogether omits, or only touches
      cursorily on matters which tend little to edification, of all such
      matters, it certainly is our duty to remain in willing ignorance.

      4. Angels being the ministers appointed to execute the commands

      of God, must, of course, be admitted to be his creatures, but to
      stir up questions concerning the time or order in which they were
      created, (see Lombard, lib. 2 dist. 2, sqq.,) bespeaks more
      perverseness than industry. Moses relates that the heavens and the
      earth were finished, with all their host; what avails it anxiously
      to inquire at what time other more hidden celestial hosts than the
      stars and planets also began to be? Not to dwell on this, let us
      here remember that on the whole subject of religion one rule of
      modesty and soberness is to be observed, and it is this, in obscure
      matters not to speak or think, or even long to know, more than the
      Word of God has delivered. A second rule is, that in reading the
      Scriptures we should constantly direct our inquiries and meditations
      to those things which tend to edification, not indulge in curiosity,
      or in studying things of no use. And since the Lord has been pleased
      to instruct us, not in frivolous questions, but in solid piety, in
      the fear of his name, in true faith, and the duties of holiness, let
      us rest satisfied with such knowledge. Wherefore, if we would be
      duly wise, we must renounce those vain babblings of idle men,
      concerning the nature, ranks, and number of angels, without any
      authority from the Word of God. I know that many fasten on these
      topics more eagerly, and take greater pleasure in them than in those
      relating to daily practice. But if we decline not to be the
      disciples of Christ, let us not decline to follow the method which
      he has prescribed. In this way, being contented with him for our
      master, we will not only refrain from, but even feel averse to,
      superfluous speculations which he discourages. None can deny that
      Dionysus (whoever he may have been) has many shrewd and subtle
      disquisitions in his Celestial Hierarchy, but on looking at them
      more closely, every one must see that they are merely idle talk. The
      duty of a Theologian, however, is not to tickle the ear, but confirm
      the conscience, by teaching what is true, certain, and useful. When
      you read the work of Dionysus, you would think that the man had come
      down from heaven, and was relating, not what he had learned, but
      what he had actually seen. Paul, however, though he was carried to
      the third heaven, so far from delivering any thing of the kind,
      positively declares, that it was not lawful for man to speak the
      secrets which he had seen. Bidding adieu, therefore, to that
      nugatory wisdom, let us endeavour to ascertain from the simple
      doctrine of Scripture what it is the Lord's pleasure that we should
      know concerning angels.

      5. In Scripture, then, we uniformly read that angels are

      heavenly spirits, whose obedience and ministry God employs to
      execute all the purposes which he has decreed, and hence their name
      as being a kind of intermediate messengers to manifest his will to
      men. The names by which several of them are distinguished have
      reference to the same office. They are called hosts, because they
      surround their Prince as his court, - adorn and display his majesty,
      - like soldiers, have their eyes always turned to their leader's
      standard, and are so ready and prompt to execute his orders, that
      the moment he gives the nod, they prepare for, or rather are
      actually at work. In declaring the magnificence of the divine
      throne, similar representations are given by the prophets, and
      especially by Daniel, when he says, that when God stood up to
      judgement, "thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand
      times ten thousand stood before him," (Dan. 7: 10.) As by these
      means the Lord wonderfully exerts and declares the power and might
      of his hand, they are called virtues. Again, as his government of
      the world is exercised and administered by them, they are called at
      one time Principalities, at another Powers, at another Dominions,
      (Col. 1: 16; Eph. 1: 21.) Lastly, as the glory of God in some
      measure dwells in them, they are also termed Thrones; though as to
      this last designation I am unwilling to speak positively, as a
      different interpretation is equally, if not more congruous. To say
      nothing, therefore, of the name of Thrones, the former names are
      often employed by the Holy Spirit in commendation of the dignity of
      angelic service. Nor is it right to pass by unhonoured those
      instruments by whom God specially manifests the presence of his
      power. Nay, they are more than once called Gods, because the Deity
      is in some measure represented to us in their service, as in a
      mirror. I am rather inclined, however, to agree with ancient
      writers, that in those passages wherein it is stated that the angel
      of the Lord appeared to Abraham, Jacob, and Moses, Christ was that
      angel. Still it is true, that when mention is made of all the
      angels, they are frequently so designated. Nor ought this to seem
      strange. For if princes and rulers have this honour given them,
      because in their office they are vicegerents of God, the supreme
      King and Judge, with far greater reason may it be given to angels,
      in whom the brightness of the divine glory is much more
      conspicuously displayed.

      6. But the point on which the Scriptures specially insist is

      that which tends most to our comfort, and to the confirmation of our
      faith, namely, that angels are the ministers and dispensers of the
      divine bounty towards us. Accordingly, we are told how they watch
      for our safety, how they undertake our defence, direct our path, and
      take heed that no evil befall us. There are whole passages which
      relate, in the first instance, to Christ, the Head of the Church,
      and after him to all believers. "He shall give his angels charge
      over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in
      their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone." Again, "The
      angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and
      delivereth them." By these passages the Lord shows that the
      protection of those whom he has undertaken to defend he has
      delegated to his angels. Accordingly, an angel of the Lord consoles
      Hagar in her flight, and bids her be reconciled to her mistress.
      Abraham promises to his servant that an angel will be the guide of
      his journey. Jacob, in blessing Ephraim and Manasseh, prays "The
      angel which redeemed me from all evil bless the lads." So an angel
      was appointed to guard the camp of the Israelites; and as often as
      God was pleased to deliver Israel from the hands of his enemies, he
      stirred up avengers by the ministry of angels. Thus, in fine, (not
      to mention more,) angels ministered to Christ, and were present with
      him in all straits. To the women they announced his resurrection; to
      the disciples they foretold his glorious advent. In discharging the
      office of our protectors, they war against the devil and all our
      enemies, and execute vengeance upon those who afflict us. Thus we
      read that an angel of the Lord, to deliver Jerusalem from siege,
      slew one hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the camp of the
      king of Assyria in a single night.

      7. Whether or not each believer has a single angel assigned to

      him for his defence, I dare not positively affirm. When Daniel
      introduces the angel of the Persian and the angel of the Greeks, he
      undoubtedly intimates that certain angels are appointed as a kind of
      presidents over kingdoms and provinces. Again, when Christ says that
      the angels of children always behold the face of his Father, he
      insinuates that there are certain angels to whom their safety has
      been entrusted. But I know not if it can be inferred from this, that
      each believer has his own angel. This, indeed, I hold for certain,
      that each of us is cared for, not by one angel merely, but that all
      with one consent watch for our safety. For it is said of all the
      angels collectively, that they rejoice "over one sinner that
      repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons which need no
      repentance." It is also said, that the angels (meaning more than
      one) carried the soul of Lazarus into Abraham's bosom. Nor was it to
      no purpose that Elisha showed his servant the many chariots of fire
      which were specially allotted him.
      There is one passage which seems to intimate somewhat more
      clearly that each individual has a separate angel. When Peter, after
      his deliverance from prison, knocked at the door of the house where
      the brethren were assembled, being unable to think it could be
      himself, they said that it was his angel. This idea seems to have
      been suggested to them by a common belief that every believer has a
      single angel assigned to him. Here, however, it may be alleged, that
      there is nothing to prevent us from understanding it of any one of
      the angels to whom the Lord might have given the charge of Peter at
      that particular time, without implying that he was to be his,
      perpetual guardian, according to the vulgar imagination, (see Calvin
      on Mark 5: 9,) that two angels a good and a bad, as a kind of genii,
      are assigned to each individual. After all, it is not worthwhile
      anxiously to investigate a point which does not greatly concern us.
      If any one does not think it enough to know that all the orders of
      the heavenly host are perpetually watching for his safety, I do not
      see what he could gain by knowing that he has one angel as a special
      guardian. Those, again, who limit the care which God takes of each
      of us to a single angel, do great injury to themselves and to all
      the members of the Church, as if there were no value in those
      promises of auxiliary troops, who on every side encircling and
      defending us, embolden us to fight more manfully.

      8. Those who presume to dogmatize on the ranks and numbers of

      angels, would do well to consider on what foundation they rest. As
      to their rank, I admit that Michael is described by David as a
      mighty Prince, and by Jude as an Archangel. Paul also tells us, that
      an archangel will blow the trumpet which is to summon the world to
      judgement. But how is it possible from such passages to ascertain
      the gradations of honour among the angels to determine the insignia,
      and assign the place and station of each? Even the two names,
      Michael and Gabriel, mentioned in Scripture, or a third, if you
      choose to add it from the history of Tobit, seem to intimate by
      their meaning that they are given to angels in accommodation to the
      weakness of our capacity, though I rather choose not to speak
      positively on the point. As to the number of angels, we learn from
      the mouth of our Saviour that there are many legions, and from
      Daniel that there are many myriads. Elisha's servant saw a multitude
      of chariots, and their vast number is declared by the fact, that
      they encamp round about those that fear the Lord. It is certain that
      spirits have no bodily shape, and yet Scripture, in accommodation to
      us, describes them under the form of winged Cherubim and Seraphim;
      not without cause, to assure us that when occasion requires, they
      will hasten to our aid with incredible swiftness, winging their way
      to us with the speed of lightning. Farther than this, in regard both
      to the ranks and numbers of angels, let us class them among those
      mysterious subjects, the full revelation of which is deferred to the
      last day, and accordingly refrain from inquiring too curiously, or
      talking presumptuously.

      9. There is one point, however, which though called into doubt

      by certain restless individuals, we ought to hold for certain viz.,
      that angels are ministering spirits (Heb. 1: 14;) whose service God
      employs for the protection of his people, and by whose means he
      distributes his favours among men, and also executes other works.
      The Sadducees of old maintained, that by angels nothing more was
      meant than the movements which God impresses on men, or
      manifestations which he gives of his own power, (Acts 23: 8.) But
      this dream is contradicted by so many passages of Scriptures that it
      seems strange how such gross ignorance could have had any
      countenance among the Jews. To say nothing of the passages I have
      already quoted, passages which refer to thousands and legions of
      angels, speak of them as rejoicing, as bearing up the faithful in
      their hands, carrying their souls to rest, beholding the face of
      their Father, and so forth: there are other passages which most
      clearly prove that they are real beings possessed of spiritual
      essence. Stephen and Paul say that the Law was enacted in the hands
      of angels. Our Saviour, moreover says that at the resurrection the
      elect will be like angels; that the day of judgement is known not
      even to the angels; that at that time he himself will come with the
      holy angels. However much such passages may be twisted, their
      meaning is plain. In like manner, when Paul beseeches Timothy to
      keep his precepts as before Christ and his elect angels, it is not
      qualities or inspirations without substance that he speaks of, but
      true spirits. And when it is said, in the Epistle to the Hebrews,
      that Christ was made more excellent than the angels, that the world
      was not made subject to them, that Christ assumed not their nature,
      but that of man, it is impossible to give a meaning to the passages
      without understanding that angels are blessed spirits, as to whom
      such comparisons may competently be made. The author of that Epistle
      declares the same thing when he places the souls of believers and
      the holy angels together in the kingdom of heaven. Moreover, in the
      passages we have already quoted, the angels of children are said to
      behold the face of God, to defend us by their protection, to rejoice
      in our salvation, to admire the manifold grace of God in the Church,
      to be under Christ their head. To the same effect is their frequent
      appearance to the holy patriarchs in human form, their speaking, and
      consenting to be hospitably entertained. Christ, too, in consequence
      of the supremacy which he obtains as Mediator, is called the Angel,
      (Mal. 3: 1.) It was thought proper to touch on this subject in
      passing, with the view of putting the simple upon their guard
      against the foolish and absurd imaginations which, suggested by
      Satan many centuries ago, are ever and anon starting up anew

      10. It remains to giv
      e warning against the superstition which
      usually begins to creep in, when it is said that all blessings are
      ministered and dispensed to us by angels. For the human mind is apt
      immediately to think that there is no honour which they ought not to
      receive, and hence the peculiar offices of Christ and God are
      bestowed upon them. In this ways the glory of Christ was for several
      former ages greatly obscured, extravagant eulogiums being pronounced
      on angels without any authority from Scripture. Among the
      corruptions which we now oppose, there is scarcely any one of
      greater antiquity. Even Paul appears to have had a severe contest
      with some who so exalted angels as to make them almost the superiors
      of Christ. Hence he so anxiously urges in his Epistle to the
      Colossians, (Col. 1: 16, 20,) that Christ is not only superior to
      all angels, but that all the endowments which they possess are
      derived from him; thus warning us against forsaking him, by turning
      to those who are not sufficient for themselves, but must draw with
      us at a common fountain. As the refulgence of the Divine glory is
      manifested in them, there is nothing to which we are more prone than
      to prostrate ourselves before them in stupid adoration, and then
      ascribe to them the blessings which we owe to God alone. Even John
      confesses in the Apocalypse, (Rev. 19: 10; 22: 8, 9,) that this was
      his own case, but he immediately adds the answer which was given to
      him, "See thou do it not; I am thy fellow servant: worship God."

      11. This danger we will happily avoid, if we consider why it is

      that Gods instead of acting directly without their agency, is wont
      to employ it in manifesting his power, providing for the safety of
      his people, and imparting the gifts of his beneficence. This he
      certainly does not from necessity, as if he were unable to dispense
      with them. Whenever he pleases, he passes them by, and performs his
      own work by a single nod: so far are they from relieving him of any
      difficulty. Therefore, when he employs them it is as a help to our
      weakness, that nothing may be wanting to elevate our hopes or
      strengthen our confidence. It ought, indeed, to be sufficient for us
      that the Lord declares himself to be our protector. But when we see
      ourselves beset by so many perils, so many injuries, so many kinds
      of enemies, such is our frailty and effeminacy, that we might at
      times be filled with alarm, or driven to despair, did not the Lord
      proclaim his gracious presence by some means in accordance with our
      feeble capacities. For this reason, he not only promises to take
      care of us, but assures us that he has numberless attendants, to
      whom he has committed the charge of our safety, that whatever
      dangers may impend, so long as we are encircled by their protection
      and guardianship, we are placed beyond all hazard of evil. I admit
      that after we have a simple assurance of the divine protection, it
      is improper in us still to look round for help. But since for this
      our weakness the Lord is pleased, in his infinite goodness and
      indulgence, to provide, it would ill become us to overlook the
      favour. Of this we have an example in the servant of Elisha, (2
      Kings 6: 17,) who, seeing the mountain encompassed by the army of
      the Assyrians, and no means of escape, was completely overcome with
      terror, and thought it all over with himself and his master. Then
      Elisha prayed to God to open the eyes of the servant, who forthwith
      beheld the mountain filled with horses and chariots of fire; in
      other words, with a multitude of angels, to whom he and the prophet
      had been given in charge. Confirmed by the vision he received
      courage, and could boldly defy the enemy, whose appearance
      previously filled him with dismay.

      12. Whatever, therefore, is said as to the ministry of angels,

      let us employ for the purpose of removing all distrust, and
      strengthening our confidence in God. Since the Lord has provided us
      with such protection, let us not be terrified at the multitude of
      our enemies as if they could prevail notwithstanding of his aid, but
      let us adopt the sentiment of Elisha, that more are for us than
      against us. How preposterous, therefore, is it to allow ourselves to
      be led away from God by angels who have been appointed for the very
      purpose of assuring us of his more immediate presence to help us?
      But we are so led away, if angels do not conduct us directly to him
      - making us look to him, invoke and celebrate him as our only
      defender - if they are not regarded merely as hands moving to our
      assistance just as he directs - if they do not direct us to Christ
      as the only Mediator on whom we must wholly depend and recline,
      looking towards him, and resting in him. Our minds ought to give
      thorough heed to what Jacob saw in his vision, (Gen. 28: 12,) -
      angels descending to the earth to men, and again mounting up from
      men to heaven, by means of a ladder, at the head of which the Lord
      of Hosts was seated, intimating that it is solely by the
      intercession of Christ that the ministry of angels extends to us, as
      he himself declares, "Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the
      angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man," (John
      1: 51.) Accordingly, the servant of Abraham, though he had been
      commended to the guardianship of an angel, (Gen. 24: 7,) does not
      therefore invoke that angel to be present with him, but trusting to
      the commendation, pours out his prayers before the Lord, and
      entreats him to show mercy to Abraham. As God does not make angels
      the ministers of his power and goodness, that he may share his glory
      with them, so he does not promise his assistance by their
      instrumentality, that we may divide our confidence between him and
      them. Away, then, with that Platonic philosophy of seeking access to
      God by means of angels and courting them with the view of making God
      more propitious, (Plat. in Epinomide et Cratylo,) - a philosophy
      which presumptuous and superstitious men attempted at first to
      introduce into our religion, and which they persist in even to this

      13. The tendency of all that Scripture teaches concerning

      devils is to put us on our guard against their wiles and
      machinations, that we may provide ourselves with weapons strong
      enough to drive away the most formidable foes. For when Satan is
      called the god and ruler of this world, the strong man armed, the
      prince of the power of the air, the roaring lion, the object of all
      these descriptions is to make us more cautious and vigilant, and
      more prepared for the contest. This is sometimes stated in distinct
      terms. For Peter, after describing the devil as a roaring lion going
      about seeking whom he may devour, immediately adds the exhortation,
      "whom resist steadfast in the faith," (1 Pet. 5: 9.) And Paul, after
      reminding us that 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,
      immediately enjoins us to put on armour equal to so great and
      perilous a contest, (Ephes. 6: 12.) Wherefore, let this be the use
      to which we turn all these statements. Being forewarned of the
      constant presence of an enemy the most daring, the most powerful,
      the most crafty, the most indefatigable, the most completely
      equipped with all the engines and the most expert in the science of
      war, let us not allow ourselves to be overtaken by sloth or
      cowardice, but, on the contrary, with minds aroused and ever on the
      alert, let us stand ready to resist; and, knowing that this warfare
      is terminated only by death, let us study to persevere. Above all,
      fully conscious of our weakness and want of skill, let us invoke the
      help of God, and attempt nothing without trusting in him, since it
      is his alone to supply counsel, and strength, and courage, and arms.

      14. That we may feel the more strongly urged to do so, the

      Scripture declares that the enemies who war against us are not one
      or two, or few in number, but a great host. Mary Magdalene is said
      to have been delivered from seven devils by which she was possessed;
      and our Saviour assures us that it is an ordinary circumstance, when
      a devil has been expelled, if access is again given to it, to take
      seven other spirits, more wicked than itself, and resume the vacant
      possession. Nay, one man is said to have been possessed by a whole
      legion. By this, then, we are taught that the number of enemies with
      whom we have to war is almost infinite, that we may not, from a
      contemptuous idea of the fewness of their numbers, be more remiss in
      the contest, or from imagining that an occasional truce is given us,
      indulge in sloth. In one Satan or devil being often mentioned in the
      singular number, the thing denoted is that domination of iniquity
      which is opposed to the reign of righteousness. For, as the Church
      and the communion of saints has Christ for its head, so the faction
      of the wicked and wickedness itself, is portrayed with its prince
      exercising supremacy. Hence the expression, "Depart, ye cursed, into
      everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels," (Matth.
      25: 41.)

      15. One thing which ought to animate us to perpetual contest

      with the devil is, that he is everywhere called both our adversary
      and the adversary of God. For, if the glory of God is dear to us, as
      it ought to be, we ought to struggle with all our might against him
      who aims at the extinction of that glory. If we are animated with
      proper zeal to maintain the Kingdom of Christ, v. e must wage
      irreconcilable war with him who conspires its ruin. Again, if we
      have any anxiety about our own salvation, we ought to make no peace
      nor truce with him who is continually laying schemes for its
      destruction. But such is the character given to Satan in the third
      chapter of Genesis, where he is seen seducing man from his
      allegiance to God, that he may both deprive God of his due honour,
      and plunge man headlong in destruction. Such, too, is the
      description given of him in the Gospels, (Matth. 13: 28,) where he
      is called the enemy, and is said to sow tares in order to corrupt
      the seed of eternal life. In one word, in all his actions we
      experience the truth of our Saviour's description, that he was "a
      murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth," (John 8:
      44.) Truth he assails with lies, light he obscures with darkness.
      The minds of men he involves in error; he stirs up hatred, inflames
      strife and war, and all in order that he may overthrow the kingdom
      of God, and drown men in eternal perdition with himself. Hence it is
      evident that his whole nature is depraved, mischievous, and
      malignant. There must be extreme depravity in a mind bent on
      assailing the glory of God and the salvation of man. This is
      intimated by John in his Epistle, when he says that he "sinneth from
      the beginning," (1 John 3: 8,) implying that he is the author,
      leader, and contriver of all malice and wickedness.

      16. But as the devil was created by God, we must remember that

      this malice which we attribute to his nature is not from creation,
      but from depravation. Every thing damnable in him he brought upon
      himself, by his revolt and fall. Of this Scripture reminds us, lest,
      by believing that he was so created at first, we should ascribe to
      God what is most foreign to his nature. For this reason, Christ
      declares, (John 8: 44,) that Satan, when he lies, "speaketh of his
      own," and states the reason, "because he abode not in the truth." By
      saying that he abode not in the truth, he certainly intimates that
      he once was in the truth, and by calling him the father of lies, he
      puts it out of his power to charge God with the depravity of which
      he was himself the cause. But although the expressions are brief and
      not very explicit, they are amply sufficient to vindicate the
      majesty of God from every calumny. And what more does it concern us
      to know of devils? Some murmur because the Scripture does not in
      various passages give a distinct and regular exposition of Satan's
      fall, its cause, mode, date, and nature. But as these things are of
      no consequence to us, it was better, if not entirely to pass them in
      silence, at least only to touch lightly upon them. The Holy Spirit
      could not deign to feed curiosity with idle, unprofitable histories.
      We see it was the Lord's purpose to deliver nothing in his sacred
      oracles which we might not learn for edification. Therefore, instead
      of dwelling on superfluous matters, let it be sufficient for us
      briefly to hold, with regard to the nature of devils, that at their
      first creation they were the angels of God, but by revolting they
      both ruined themselves, and became the instruments of perdition to
      others. As it was useful to know this much, it is clearly taught by
      Peter and Jude; "God," they say, "spared not the angels that sinned,
      but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of
      darkness to be reserved unto judgement," (2 Pet. 2: 4; Jude ver. 6.)
      And Paul, by speaking of the elect angels, obviously draws a tacit
      contrast between them and reprobate angels.

      17. With regard to the strife and war which Satan is said to

      wage with God, it must be understood with this qualification, that
      Satan cannot possibly do anything against the will and consent of
      God. For we read in the history of Job, that Satan appears in the
      presence of God to receive his commands, and dares not proceed to
      execute any enterprise until he is authorised. In the same way, when
      Ahab was to be deceived, he undertook to be a lying spirit in the
      mouth of all the prophets; and on being commissioned by the Lord,
      proceeds to do so. For this reason, also, the spirit which tormented
      Saul is said to be an evil spirit from the Lord, because he was, as
      it were, the scourge by which the misdeeds of the wicked king were
      punished. In another place it is said that the plagues of Egypt were
      inflicted by God through the instrumentality of wicked angels. In
      conformity with these particular examples, Paul declares generally
      that unbelievers are blinded by God, though he had previously
      described it as the doing of Satan. It is evident, therefore, that
      Satan is under the power of God, and is so ruled by his authority,
      that he must yield obedience to it. Moreover, though we say that
      Satan resists God, and does works at variance with His works, we at
      the same time maintain that this contrariety and opposition depend
      on the permission of God. I now speak not of Satan's will and
      endeavour, but only of the result. For the disposition of the devil
      being wicked, he has no inclination whatever to obey the divine
      will, but, on the contrary, is wholly bent on contumacy and
      rebellion. This much, therefore, he has of himself, and his own
      iniquity, that he eagerly, and of set purpose, opposes God, aiming
      at those things which he deems most contrary to the will of God. But
      as God holds him bound and fettered by the curb of his power, he
      executes those things only for which permission has been given him,
      and thus, however unwilling, obeys his Creator, being forced,
      whenever he is required, to do Him service.

      18. God thus turning the unclean spirits hither and thither at

      his pleasure, employs them in exercising believers by warring
      against them, assailing them with wiles, urging them with
      solicitations, pressing close upon them, disturbing, alarming, and
      occasionally wounding, but never conquering or oppressing them;
      whereas they hold the wicked in thraldom, exercise dominion over
      their minds and bodies, and employ them as bond-slaves in all kinds
      of iniquity. Because believers are disturbed by such enemies, they
      are addressed in such exhortations as these: "Neither give place to
      the devil;" "Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh
      about seeking whom he may devour; whom resist steadfast in the
      faith," (Eph. 4: 27; 1 Pet. 5: 8.) Paul acknowledges that he was not
      exempt from this species of contest when he says, that for the
      purpose of subduing his pride, a messenger of Satan was sent to
      buffet him, (2 Cor. 12: 7.) This trial, therefore, is common to all
      the children of God. But as the promise of bruising Satan's head
      (Gen. 3: 15) applies alike to Christ and to all his members, I deny
      that believers can ever be oppressed or vanquished by him. They are
      often, indeed, thrown into alarm, but never so thoroughly as not to
      recover themselves. They fall by the violence of the blows, but they
      get up again; they are wounded, but not mortally. In fine, they
      labour on through the whole course of their lives, so as ultimately
      to gain the victory, though they meet with occasional defeats. We
      know how David, through the just anger of God, was left for a time
      to Satan, and by his instigation numbered the people, (2 Sam. 24:
      1;) nor without cause does Paul hold out a hope of pardon in case
      any should have become ensnared by the wiles of the devil, (2 Tim.
      2: 26.) Accordingly, he elsewhere shows that the promise above
      quoted commences in this life where the struggle is carried on, and
      that it is completed after the struggle is ended. His words are,
      "The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly," (Rom.
      16: 20.) In our Head, indeed, this victory was always perfect,
      because the prince of the world "had nothing" in him, (John 14: 30;)
      but in us, who are his members, it is now partially obtained, and
      will be perfected when we shall have put off our mortal flesh,
      through which we are liable to infirmity, and shall have been filled
      with the energy of the Holy Spirit. In this way, when the kingdom of
      Christ is raised up and established, that of Satan falls, as our
      Lord himself expresses it, "I beheld Satan as lightning fall from
      heaven," (Luke 10: 18.) By these words, he confirmed the report
      which the apostles gave of the efficacy of their preaching. In like
      manner he says, "When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his
      goods are in peace. But when a stronger than he shall come upon him,
      and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he
      trusted, and divideth his spoils," (Luke 11: 21, 22.) And to this
      end, Christ, by dying, overcame Satan, who had the power of death,
      (Heb. 2: 14,) and triumphed over all his hosts that they might not
      injure the Church, which otherwise would suffer from them every
      moment. For, (such being our weakness, and such his raging fury,)
      how could we withstand his manifold and unintermitted assaults for
      any period, however short, if we did not trust to the victory of our
      leader? God, therefore, does not allow Satan to have dominion over
      the souls of believers, but only gives over to his sway the impious
      and unbelieving, whom he deigns not to number among his flock. For
      the devil is said to have undisputed possession of this world until
      he is dispossessed by Christ. In like manner, he is said to blind
      all who do not believe the Gospel, and to do his own work in the
      children of disobedience. And justly; for all the wicked are vessels
      of wrath, and, accordingly, to whom should they be subjected but to
      the minister of the divine vengeance? In fine, they are said to be
      of their father the devil. For as believers are recognised to be the
      sons of God by bearing his image, so the wicked are properly
      regarded as the children of Satan, from having degenerated into his

      19. Having above refuted that nugatory philosophy concerning

      the holy angels, which teaches that they are nothing but good
      motions or inspirations which God excites in the minds of men, we
      must here likewise refute those who foolishly allege that devils are
      nothing but bad affections or perturbations suggested by our carnal
      nature. The brief refutation is to be found in passages of Scripture
      on this subject, passages neither few nor obscure. First, when they
      are called unclean spirits and apostate angels, (Matth. 12: 43;
      Jude, verse 6,) who have degenerated from their original, the very
      terms sufficiently declare that they are not motions or affections
      of the mind, but truly, as they are called, minds or spirits endued
      with sense and intellect. In like manner, when the children of God
      are contrasted by John, and also by our Saviour, with the children
      of the devil, would not the contrast be absurd if the term devil
      meant nothing more than evil inspirations? And John adds still more
      emphatically, that the devil sinneth from the beginning, (1 John 3:
      8.) In like manner, when Jude introduces the archangel Michael
      contending with the devil, (Jude, verse 9,) he certainly contrasts a
      wicked and rebellious with a good angel. To this corresponds the
      account given in the Book of Job, that Satan appeared in the
      presence of God with the holy angels. But the clearest passages of
      all are those which make mention of the punishment which, from the
      judgement of God, they already begin to feel, and are to feel more
      especially at the resurrection, "What have we to do with thee,
      Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before
      the time?" (Matth. 8: 29;) and again, "Depart, ye cursed, into
      everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels," (Matth.
      25: 41.) Again, "If God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast
      them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness to be
      reserved unto judgement," &c., (2 Pet. 2: 4.) How absurd the
      expressions, that devils are doomed to eternal punishment, that fire
      is prepared for them, that they are even now excruciated and
      tormented by the glory of Christ, if there were truly no devils at
      all? But as all discussion on this subject is superfluous for those
      who give credit to the Word of God, while little is gained by
      quoting Scripture to those empty speculators whom nothing but
      novelty can please, I believe I have already done enough for my
      purpose, which was to put the pious on their guard against the
      delirious dreams with which restless men harass themselves and the
      simple. The subject, however, deserved to be touched upon, lest any,
      by embracing that errors should imagine they have no enemy and
      thereby be more remiss or less cautious in resisting.

      20. Meanwhile, being placed in this most beautiful theatre, let

      us not decline to take a pious delight in the clear and manifest
      works of God. For, as we have elsewhere observed, though not the
      chief, it is, in point of order, the first evidence of faiths to
      remember to which side soever we turn, that all which meets the eye
      is the work of God, and at the same time to meditate with pious care
      on the end which God had in view in creating it. Wherefore, in order
      that we may apprehend with true faith what it is necessary to know
      concerning God, it is of importance to attend to the history of the
      creation, as briefly recorded by Moses and afterwards more copiously
      illustrated by pious writers, more especially by Basil and Ambrose.
      From this history we learn that God, by the power of his Word and
      his Spirit, created the heavens and the earth out of nothing; that
      thereafter he produced things inanimate and animate of every kind,
      arranging an innumerable variety of objects in admirable order,
      giving each kind its proper nature, office, place, and station; at
      the same time, as all things were liable to corruption, providing
      for the perpetuation of each single species, cherishing some by
      secret methods, and, as it were, from time to time instilling new
      vigour into them, and bestowing on others a power of continuing
      their race, so preventing it from perishing at their own death.
      Heaven and earth being thus most richly adorned, and copiously
      supplied with all things, like a large and splendid mansion
      gorgeously constructed and exquisitely furnished, at length man was
      made - man, by the beauty of his person and his many noble
      endowments, the most glorious specimen of the works of God. But, as
      I have no intention to give the history of creation in detail, it is
      sufficient to have again thus briefly touched on it in passing. I
      have already reminded my reader, that the best course for him is to
      derive his knowledge of the subject from Moses and others who have
      carefully and faithfully transmitted an account of the creation.

      21. It is unnecessary to dwell at length on the end that should

      be aimed at in considering the works of God. The subject has been in
      a great measure explained elsewhere, and in so far as required by
      our present work, may now be disposed of in a few words. Undoubtedly
      were one to attempt to speak in due terms of the inestimable wisdom,
      power, justice, and goodness of God, in the formation of the world,
      no grace or splendour of diction could equal the greatness of the
      subject. Still there can be no doubt that the Lord would have us
      constantly occupied with such holy meditation, in order that, while
      we contemplate the immense treasures of wisdom and goodness
      exhibited in the creatures as in so many mirrors, we may not only
      run our eye over them with a hasty, and, as it were, evanescent
      glance, but dwell long upon them, seriously and faithfully turn them
      in our minds, and every now and then bring them to recollection. But
      as the present work is of a didactic nature, we cannot fittingly
      enter on topics which require lengthened discourse. Therefore, in
      order to be compendious, let the reader understand that he has a
      genuine apprehension of the character of God as the Creator of the
      world; first, if he attends to the general rule, never thoughtlessly
      or obliviously to overlook the glorious perfections which God
      displays in his creatures; and, secondly, if he makes a self
      application of what he sees, so as to fix it deeply on his heart.
      The former is exemplified when we consider how great the Architect
      must be who framed and ordered the multitude of the starry host so
      admirably, that it is impossible to imagine a more glorious sight,
      so stationing some, and fixing them to particular spots that they
      cannot move; giving a freer course to others yet setting limits to
      their wanderings; so tempering the movement of the whole as to
      measure out day and night, months, years, and seasons, and at the
      same time so regulating the inequality of days as to prevent every
      thing like confusion. The former course is, moreover, exemplified
      when we attend to his power in sustaining the vast mass, and guiding
      the swift revolutions of the heavenly bodies, &c. These few examples
      sufficiently explain what is meant by recognising the divine
      perfections in the creation of the world. Were we to attempt to go
      over the whole subject we should never come to a conclusion, there
      being as many miracles of divine power, as many striking evidences
      of wisdom and goodness, as there are classes of objects, nay, as
      there are individual objects, great or small, throughout the

      22. The other course which has a closer relation to faith
      remains to be considered, viz., that while we observe how God has
      destined all things for our good and salvation, we at the same time
      feel his power and grace, both in ourselves and in the great
      blessings which he has bestowed upon us; thence stirring up
      ourselves to confidence in him, to invocation, praise, and love.
      Moreover, as I lately observed, the Lord himself, by the very order
      of creation, has demonstrated that he created all things for the
      sake of man. Nor is it unimportant to observe, that he divided the
      formation of the world into six days, though it had been in no
      respect more difficult to complete the whole work, in all its parts,
      in one moment than by a gradual progression. But he was pleased to
      display his providence and paternal care towards us in this, that
      before he formed man, he provided whatever he foresaw would be
      useful and salutary to him. How ungrateful, then, were it to doubt
      whether we are cared for by this most excellent Parent, who we see
      cared for us even before we were born! How impious were it to
      tremble in distrust, lest we should one day be abandoned in our
      necessity by that kindness which, antecedent to our existence,
      displayed itself in a complete supply of all good things! Moreover,
      Moses tells us that everything which the world contains is liberally
      placed at our disposal. This God certainly did not that he might
      delude us with an empty form of donation. Nothing, therefore, which
      concerns our safety will ever be wanting. To conclude, in one word;
      as often as we call God the Creator of heaven and earth, let us
      remember that the distribution of all the things which he created
      are in his hand and power, but that we are his sons, whom he has
      undertaken to nourish and bring up in allegiance to him, that we may
      expect the substance of all good from him alone, and have full hope
      that he will never suffer us to be in want of things necessary to
      salvation, so as to leave us dependent on some other source; that in
      everything we desire we may address our prayers to him, and, in
      every benefit we receive, acknowledge his hand, and give him thanks;
      that thus allured by his great goodness and beneficence, we may
      study with our whole heart to love and serve him.

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