EXPLAINED AND DEFENDED
SERIES OF SERMONS;
TIMOTHY DWIGHT, S. T. D. LL. D.
LATE PRESIDENT OF YALE COLLEGE.
THE LIFE OF THE AUTHOR.
IN FOUR VOLUMES
PRINTED AND PUBLISHED BY S. CONVERSE,
STEREOTYPED BY A. CHANDLER.
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DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT, ss.
BE it remembered, that on the fifth day of January, in the forty second year of the Independence of the United States of America, Timothy Dwight, and William T. Dwight, both of said District; Administrators of the Rev. Timothy Dwight, now deceased, and late of the said District, have deposited in this office the title of a book, the right whereof they claim as Administrators as aforesaid, and Proprietors, in the words following, to wit:
Theology; explained and defended, in a Series of Sermons; by Timothy Dwight, T. D., LL. D. late President of Yale college. With a Memoir of the Life the Author,. in five Volumes. Vol 1.’’
In conformity to the Act of the Congress of the United States, entitled, " An Act for the encouragement of learning, by securing the copies of Maps, Charts, and Books, to the authors arid proprietors of such copies, during the times therein mentioned."
Clerk of the District of Connecticut.
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Clerk of the District of Connecticut.
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Colossians i. 16.—For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be Thrones, or Dominions, or Principalities, or Powers: all things were created by him and for him.
IN the preceding discourse, I began a consideration of the nature and circumstances of angels. After examining these things generally, as imported by the several names, given to these illustrious beings in the Scriptures, I proposed to mention whatever was necessary to my design under the following heads:
I. Their rank or Station;
II. Their attributes; and
III. Their Employments.
The two first of these subjects I then considered at some length. Under the second head I observed that they are possessed,
1St. Of Wonderful Power;
2dly. Of Wonderful Activity;
3dly. Of Immortal Youth;
4thly. Of the noblest Intellectual faculties, and of Knowledge, superior to that of any other created beings; and
5thly. Of consummate Holiness.
I shall now proceed to a further consideration of this branch of the general subject; and observe,
6thly. That Angels are possessed of distinguished Loveliness of Character.
In the view of passion, and taste, beings are lovely, when possessed of external beauty of form, and gracefulness of deportment. A complexion finely coloured and blended, a figure finely fashioned, features happily turned and adjusted, and a demeanour elegantly exhibited, are to our fancy, and our passions, so engaging and lovely, as not unfrequently to engross the affections of the mind. Yet even me are sensible that these are very imperfect objects of our attachment. Accordingly, we speak of them in customary language, as things of mere fancy; unsolid; unenduring; of little value; and, therefore, incapable of claiming, or receiving, the sincere approbation of the judgment, the full testimony of unbiassed Reason, on account of any inherent, or essential excellence.
But there are objects of a nobler kind, claiming, in a far higher degree, both our affections and our esteem. All the diversities of virtue, or holiness, are in their nature pre-eminently lovely. Virtue is the beauty of the mind; and as superior to that of the form, as the soul is superior to the tenement, in which it dwells. On this
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delightful object, the understanding, in spite of every human prejudice, fixes its eye with unqualified approbation ; and the heart, if not wholly destitute of candour, with sincere delight. Virtue is the beauty of the heavenly world; and, while it engrosses the attachment, and the homage, of Angels themselves, is regarded with entire complacency by its divine Author.
In exact accordance with the supreme value of this inestimable object, mankind customarily speak of it under its various names, as more excellent, more noble, more solid, more desirable, and as demanding in a higher degree than any other attribute, the regard and complacency of every Intelligent being. In this manner we show, that, partial as we are, we still prefer worth to external beauty and grace.
There is, then, even in our view, a higher and nobler loveliness, than that which engages our fancy, or our taste; a foundation in the nature of things for more rational, more pure, and more enduring attachment. hi what does this loveliness consist? In something, plainly, which is not found in external form, complexion, or gracefulness; something, which belongs to mind, and not to person. It does not consist in intelligence. Men of the greatest understanding, and information, are often odious, injurious, and deformed with all the turpitude, ever found in the human character. The fallen angels, also, are unquestionably possessed of intelligence, in degrees far superior to our comprehension; and are, notwithstanding, the most hateful of all beings.
In the disposition, then, the only remaining characteristical faculty of the mind, must its amiableness reside. But the disposition is lovely, either as it is sinful, or virtuous ; either as it hates, or loves, God, and other Intelligent beings. To determine in which of these cases the mind is lovely, demands not even a question.
In virtue, then, according to the decision of mankind, sinful as they are, is found the true loveliness of Intelligent beings; that which unbiassed Reason approves; which is always excellent; which is uniformly the object of delight; which will never change; and which will never cease to be desired.
Of this loveliness, Angels are above all created beings supremely possessed. Angels are sincere, gentle, meek, kind, compassionate, and perfectly conformed to that great moral principle, communicated in the words of the Lord Jesus, which he said, It is more blessed to give, than to receive. This sublime excellence, incomparably more precious than gold which perisheth, has in them been, from the beginning, debased with no alloy, tarnished with no spot, impaired by no length of years, and changed by no weakness or imperfection. Free from every defect, and every mixture, it has varied with length of years merely towards higher and higher perfection, and shone, not only with undiminished, but with increased beauty and lustre. There is no good, which it is proper for Angels to do, which they are not habitually prepared to do. There is no
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kindness, capable of being suitably exercised by them, which they do not in fact exercise. The more their faculties are enlarged; the more their knowledge is increased; the more their means of usefulness are multiplied; the more exalted is their excellence, the more disinterested and noble their disposition, the more intense their benevolence, and the more lovely and beautiful their character. The good, which they have already done, has only prepared them to do more and greater good; and the disposition, with which it was done, has only become stronger by every preceding exertion.
Let me pause, here, with a momentary digression; and persuade you to call to mind how delightful an intimate connexion must be with even a single rational being, who always spoke that which was true, and always did that which was just and kind; in whom confidence could be reposed without a fear, and from whom every kind office might be expected, without even a suspicion of disappointment. If the friendship of one such being would be a rich possession; how inestimable must be the privilege of living for ever in a world of such friends!
7thly. Angels are invested with high personal Dignity and Glory. Dignity originally denoted the same with worth; but is now generally used to signify that kind of worth, which is elevated and great ; which inspires reverence and admiration; rather than that, which is more gentle and familiar; as well as the manifestations of it in the conduct, and the honours, with which it is considered as suitably rewarded. The spirit and character, formed by the magnanimous and sublimer virtues, are here intended by personal dignity; and all the honour, with which God has invested this character in angels, is intended by personal glory. In these respects, Angels are totally distinguished from all other created beings.
This truth cannot but be evident from the account, already summarily given, of the attributes, both natural and moral, of these exalted Intelligences. Their minds, it has been shown, were originally formed with vast capacities, and with an unmingled and intense love of truth. Truth is an account of the character and works of God; subjects elevated above all height, and extended above all limits; possessed of inherent grandeur and sublimity literally infinite; fitted to awaken in every mind, formed with an understanding to perceive, and a taste to relish them, great ideas, and exalted conceptions; and calculated to inspire habits of thinking and feeling, of the most dignified nature. To these subjects, Angels have already devoted themselves, throughout a vast period of time, with supreme intenseness and fervour. Their views have been all formed without error, decay, or weariness; and their relish for the objects of their knowledge has only been strengthened by indulgence. Of course, their progress in understanding has been rapid, and their attainments have been very great. Of course, also, their minds have been continually expanded, and ennobled, by all the
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conceptions, which they have entertained concerning these wonderful subjects.
In the mean time, the conscious exercise of such vast power and activity, and the possession of ever-vigorous, ever-blooming youth, destined to survive, and triumph, over time and labour, must carry with them a sense of personal importance, which, tempered and refined by perfect humility, cannot but be elevated in a manner to which there is no parallel. To this character, their stations, their residence, and their employments, all powerfully contribute. Highly favoured, exalted, and happy, in these great particulars, Angels have the nearest access to their Creator, for understanding the mysteries, and contemplating the greatness, of his dispensations, and for learning from them his infinitely majestic and glorious character. Heaven is the centre, and the seat, of all that is great and wonderful, all that is refined and exquisite, all that is splendid and glorious. To Angels, these magnificent things are habitually familiar; and by them their taste is formed, and their character established. Their exertions, also, are of a kind wonderfully sublime. The being, who can bind the four winds of Heaven, imprison the prince of the power of the air, or wing his flight in a moment to a distant world, possesses an inherent importance, to which our imaginations cannot extend; a sublimity of character, elevated beyond the utmost stretch of human sight.
Exactly accordant with these views of the subject are the splendour and majesty of appearance, frequently assumed by Angels in their visits to this lower world. I shall not detail the facts, of which this splendour has been composed; nor repeat the unrivalled descriptions of it, given to us in the Word of God. It will be sufficient for my present purpose to observe, that in their presence mankind have trembled, shrunk, and fallen; and, scarcely able to survive their impressions, have felt themselves to be nothing, and less than nothing.
How abashed, how amazed, how dumb, should we be in the presence of Gabriel, known by us to be an inhabitant of the heavenly world; to stand in the presence of God; to be exalted above all human weakness, error, and sin; and to be wise, and great, and good, in the sight of God himself! How great must he seem to us; how dignified; how glorious! How little, on the contrary, should we appear to him; how unworthy! Would not our pride wither in a moment, and our vanity flee away? Should we not, like Peter, and his companions, in the presence of Moses and Elias, be instantly lost and bewildered; and utter, if we spoke at all, that which we did not understand?
Of all these attributes, it is to be remembered further, that they are eternal. Angels live for ever; and are hence termed, by way of distinction, Living. Ones, or Living Creatures. With their being, their excellencies are all co-extended; and are in the same manner immortal. Nor are they merely immortal; but are perpetually
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improving. Every day, they study, and understand, more and more, the wonders of creation and Providence, and the character of their great Author. With their knowledge, their love to God is continually enlarged, and enraptured; their benevolence to their and creatures, their amiable conduct, their sweetness, loveliness, dignity of character, are all enhanced and refined. Great, wise, noble, and excellent, at first, they have regularly advanced in this divine progress of improvement to the present time.
How excellent did Paul become in the short period of his life, which elapsed after his conversion! How much more excellent and glorious have angels become; who, never stained with sin, weakened by prejudice, nor wearied by labour, have, with enlarged understanding, intense love of truth, and unmingled holiness of disposition, regularly and rapidly advanced in the attainment of. all that is great and good through a period of six thousand years! How superlatively and universally excellent will they then become hereafter! To what a height of glory will they rise in the exercise of these faculties, in the pursuit of these objects, and in the indulgence of this disposition, throughout endless ages!
III. Angels hold the first Employments, and Offices, in the Universe.
In every government there must be, of course, public offices. These offices must also increase in number and importance, as the government becomes more extensive. In a town, they will naturally be few; in a province, more numerous; and in a kingdom, far more numerous still. In such an empire as Rome or China, a vast multitude of concerns continually exist; all of which must be the immediate business of persons, devoted to them only. Were this world under a single administration of government, the public offices would become numerous, important, and dignified, proportionally to the number, greatness, and complication, of its mighty interests. The kingdom of God, if I mistake not, is plainly exhibited both in his Word and Works, as a kingdom of means. Under his universal government, secondary causes, and subordinate agents, are employed with a real instrumentality, and efficacy, in accomplishing his pleasure. In such an empire, the concerns are necessarily immense, both in their number and their importance. Of these, some, however, are greater, and others less: while all are, in their respective places, proper and useful. These concerns, according to this scheme, are, to an extent undefinable, committed to such of his Intelligent creatures, as he has formed to conduct them under his own superintendency: and the offices, which they of course sustain, must, to our view, be, in a vast multitude of instances, invested with a greatness, dignity, and importance, incomprehensible.
The Intelligent beings, to whom the greatest and noblest of these concerns are entrusted, and by whom the most illustrious of all these offices are sustained, are undoubtedly the Angels of God.
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Whatever demands the employment of created power, activity, knowledge, and virtue, of high distinction; whatever is in an eminent degree complicated, vast, or sublime; can with propriety be committed only to beings, eminently invested with these illustrious attributes. In the amazing extent of creation, in the eternal progress of providence, fields, sufficiently ample, are furnished for the employment of immense numbers of these glorious beings in business of high import, and inestimable dignity. To this scheme of things, accord, not only their attributes, but their numbers; as they are exhibited in the Scriptures: for we are there told, that thousand thousands minister unto God, and ten thousand times ten thousand stand before him.
That Angels are actually thus employed? can scarcely be doubted by any man, who remembers the illustrious attributes, of which they are possessed; and who believes, that these attributes were not given in vain. Should he, however, doubt, he may he furnished with proofs from the Scriptures, which cannot rationally be questioned.
1st. Their Names clearly indicate their high employments.
They are styled Angels; that is, the immediate messengers of God. They are styled Thrones, Dominions, Authorities, Principalities or Governments, and Powers; to denote, that they sit upon thrones, exercise dominion, hold authority, preside in government, and are invested with the power, necessary for these great purposes.
They are called chief Princes; to indicate, that they are the first order of rulers in the Universe, under him, who has prepared his throne in the heavens, and whose kingdom ruleth over all. They are called Sons of God; to teach us, that they are beings nearly related to God in character, favour, place, and authority. They are called Morning Stars, to teach us the splendour and glory, with which they outshine all other Intelligent creatures. They are named Cherubim, and Seraphim; to inform us, that they are beings, furnished with superior knowledge to discern, and with superior holiness to pursue, whatever is good and right, honourable to the Creator, and useful to his creatures.
All these names are descriptive either of the nature and attributes of these exalted beings, or of the stations and employments, for which, by this nature, they are qualified.
2dly. The Scriptures, in many instances, exhibit them as thus employed.
(1st.) Angels are in the Scriptures declared to be extensively engaged in the immediate business of glorifying God and celebrating his praise.
At the Creation, the Morning Stars, in the dawn of their being, surrounded their Maker during the progress of that great work; and, when it was finished, in the celebration of that peculiarly divine Sabbath, observed, consecrated, and blessed, by God himself,
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as an infinitely solemn and authoritative example to mankind, sang together, and shouted for joy.
When the Lord Jesus Christ descended on Mount Sinai, to publish, amid thunders and lightnings, and aflame of devouring fire, his most holy law, to the children of men, the chariots of God, even thousands of Angels* attended him at this awful solemnity, and glorified him by their ministry in this sublime dispensation.
When the same divine Person became incarnate, Gabriel announced his birth to Zachariah and to Mary. An Angel, also, proclaimed, these glad tidings of great joy to the shepherds of Bethlehem: and a multitude of the heavenly host praised God on the same occasion, in the noblest hymn ever heard in this lower world; and sang, Glory to God in the highest! and on earth, peace: good will towards men!
When he ascended on high, and led captivity captive, having finished the work of Redemption, and triumphed over all his enemies; the same exalted beings, with renewed transport and adoration, surrounded him with the same magnificent attendance as at Sinai, singing, as he approached the heaven of heavens, Lift up your heads, 0 ye gates! and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors! and the King of Glory shall come in. †
At the end of this earthly system, when he shall come to judge the quick and the dead, and blot out from under heaven this world of iniquity and rebellion; an Archangel, preceding him, will call the dead out of their graves while the multitude of the heavenly host will shout to the Universe the awful wonders of the final day, and subjoin, to all its amazing transactions, their solemn Amen.
In the Heaven of Heavens, the four Living Ones rest not, day and night, saying, Holy, Holy, holy, Lord God Almighty! who was, and who is, and who is to come.
And I beheld, says St. John, and I heard the voice of many Angels round about the throne, and the Living Ones, and the Elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power, and wisdom, and riches, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.
(2dly.) Angels are employed in studying the works of God, and in learning from them his
Who created all things, says St. Paul, by Jesus Christ; to the intent, that now unto the Principalities, and Powers, in heavenly places, might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God.
Which things, says St. Peter, the Angels desire to look into; or more literally, Into which things, Angels earnestly desire to look with the deepest attention. The original word; denotes the action of stooping down to inspect minutely, and pry critically into, an object of investigation.
*Psalm lxviii. 17, 18.
†Psalm lxviii. 17, 18, compared with Ephes. iv. 8, See also Psalm xxiv.
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In the former of these passages, we are presented with one great end of the Creation of all things; viz, the disclosure of the manifold wisdom of God, in his dispensations to his Church, unto Principalities and Powers in heavenly places. As this disclosure was one great end of the Creation of all things; so it is evident, that Angels were created with the especial design, that they should attain the knowledge, which it conveys. In the second of these passages, we are taught, that the disposition of Angels is perfectly accordant with this design; and that they earnestly desire to investigate, and are, therefore, unceasingly employed in investigating, those things, for the knowledge of which they were especially created.
For this great purpose, these glorious beings are in the most eminent manner fitted by all their other employments, their wonderful attributes, and their exalted station. Particularly, in their employment as Messengers of God, in which they visit, not only this world, but the Oupavia of the Scriptures; the innumerable regions of the heavens; they are furnished with the most ample and perfect opportunities of understanding the endless multitude, and the astonishing nature, of the works of Creation and Providence. Throughout these incomprehensible tracts, there is every reason to believe, that the same unceasing diversity is continually pursued in
all the divine works, which prevail so perfectly in this world. The nature, attributes, and real importance, of all things, are learned, not by inspection only, but also, in an extensive degree, by comparison. The relations, which they bear to each other, can, be known in no other manner: and the knowledge of these is a most extensive and important part of all that is known. From the advantage, furnished him, of beholding many objects, and making numerous and accurate comparisons between them, a rational traveller, who has visited many countries, is universally acknowledged, not only to possess a more enlarged knowledge of the world than other men, but also to be a more sound and thorough judge of the things, with which he is acquainted. Angels visit distant worlds, probably with more ease and expedition than men, the towns in their neighbourhood; and compare systems with more perfect comprehension and accuracy, than we, states and kingdoms. At the same time, their strong and unmingled relish for all the objects of their contemplation, the unwearied and undiminished vigour of their minds, and the length of years, through which they have been employed in this illustrious pursuit, have, on the one hand, given it the peculiar power of habit; and, on the other, increase, beyond calculation, the pleasure which it originally and naturally yields. Man, by the limited nature of his powers, is almost of course obliged, whenever he studies, to confine himself to study; and, whenever he acts, to action. Angels, by their superior energy, seem fitted to pursue both courses at once; and to be able to study, and act, without hindrance, confusion, or any other disadvantage.
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(3dly.) Angels are employed in executing the judgments of God upon this world.
The first judgment upon Man, which was excluding him from Paradise, appears to have been committed to the execution of these ministering spirits. In the same manner, they were the immediate instruments of inflicting the vengeance of God on the Israelites; on the army of Sennacherib; on Nebuchadnezzar; and on Herod. In the same manner also, they are exhibited in the Revelation of St. John, as pouring out the vials of divine wrath upon the nations of this guilty world , and especially upon the Antichristian Hierarchy, as the peculiar ministers of the justice of God. To us, with our limited views, and strong partialities, this office may seem undesirable, and a diminution of that perfect felicity, which I have attributed to this distinguished order of beings. The decision, however, will easily appear to be unfounded, if we remember, that they possess an entire and unchangeable confidence in God, and in the perfect rectitude of all his dispensations; and, in innumerable instances, a clear comprehension of the nature, and import, of the dispensations themselves; the wisdom and goodness, with which they are brought to pass; and the valuable and glorious ends, which they are intended to accomplish. In exact accordance with this view of the subject, is sung in heaven the song of Moses and the Lamb. Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are thy ways, thou King of Saints! Who shall not fear thee, 0 Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.
(4thly.) Angels are also employed in ministering Blessings to the children of God in this world.
Are they not all ministering spirits, says St. Paul, sent forth to minister for them, who shall be heirs of salvation? In this passage, we are plainly taught, that ministering to the saints, is a standing employment of Angels, throughout the ages of Time. Accordingly, they are exhibited in Jacob’s vision of the ladder, as ascending, and descending, from Heaven to earth, and from earth to Heaven, continually, in the discharge of this great duty. According to this declaration, also, we are furnished by the Scriptures with numerous examples of their actual ministry to the children of God. Thus Angels delivered Lot from Sodom; Jacob from Esau; Daniel from the lions; his three companions from the fiery furnace; Peter from Herod, and the Jewish Sanhedrin; and the nation of the Israelites, successively, from the Egyptians, Canaanites, and Assyrians. Thus they conducted Lot, Abraham, and the Israelites, in seasons of great difficulty and danger, to places, and circumstances, of safety and peace. Thus they conducted Gideon to the destruction of the Midianites, Joseph and Mary to Egypt, Philip to the Eunuch, and Cornelius to Peter, to the knowledge of the Gospel through him and to the salvation of himself,
his family, and his friends. Thus
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Angels instructed Abraham, Joshua, Gideon, David, Elijah, Daniel, Zechariah the prophet, Zachariah the father of John the B5ptist, the Virgin Mary, the Apostles, and their fellow disciples. Thus they comforted Jacob at the approach of Esau; Daniel in his peculiar sorrows and dangers; Zachariah in the sufferings of his nation; Joseph and Mary in their perplexities; CHRIST in his agony; the Apostles and their companions after his resurrection; Paul immediately before his shipwreck; and the Church, universally, by the testimony and instruction, given in the Revelation of St. John.
Generally, the Scriptures inform us, especially in the visions of Ezekiel, Daniel, and John, that they are employed in executing various, great, and wonderful purposes of divine Providence. Here we behold them controlling evil spirits; wielding the elements of this world; producing, directing, and terminattng, the great con,ulsions of time; conveying the souls of the just to the Paradise of God; serving the wicked from the good at the day of Judgment; and performing the duties of other dignified and glorious missions. All these are instances, either of wonderful power and skill, or of singular benevolence and excellency of character; both eminently honourable to them, and eminently important to the Universe. By these facts, we cannot fail to be convinced, that their employments are wholly noble and magnificent, and wholly suited to their dignified stations and exalted titles; as well as to the attributes of power, knowledge, and goodness, of which, they are so transcendently possessed. Nor can we rationally doubt, that they visit every other habitable world, with messages and designs of the same sublime import; execute the great purposes of God in all the parts of his vast kingdom; and thus become, in an extensive sense, illustrious benefactors of the Intelligent Creation.
1st. These considerations furnish us with a strong presumptive argument, that the Scriptures are a divine Revelation.
In the Scriptures we find an Order, or rather a Kind, of beings described, which were never known, nor imagined, by any person, who did not derive his acquaintance with them from that book. They are beings, who have a character, as appropriate as that of man, and differing from that of man as far, as finite Intelligences can be supposed to differ from each other. Yet the character is complete, entire, and of a piece with itself. Every attribute is suited to every other: all are angelic: all are heavenly. A station is also assigned to them, of dignity and importance perfectly fitted to their character, and worthy of being filled by such beings. Employments are also marked out for them, altogether becoming both the station and the character; angelic employments; suited to the Sons of God, the Morning Stars of Heaven. Can it be reasonably supposed, that these things were devised by human
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imagination? Have similar things been ever thus devised ? The fancy of man has, in all nations and ages, delighted itself with the employment of fashioning imaginary beings, of a nature superior to ours. What have been its productions? The Gods, demons, and Genii, of ancient; and the elves, sylphs, and fairies, of more modern, times. But how do all these shrink from a comparison with Angels ? They are little, base, trifling, sordid, and sinful, enough to have been copied, with a few easy additions, from the depraved characteristics of men. But where does this world furnish materials for the composition of an angelic character? What originals has it presented, from which the portrait could be drawn ?
A multitude of writers in the Scriptures, fifteen at least, have described these glorious beings with the most perfect harmony, and without a single discordant idea. In the mean time, their descriptions are extensively various, comprising many particulars, and wholly independent of each other. All the writers are in this respect, as well as others, originals. Not one is a copier ; not one a plagiary: yet their representations are universally noble, sublime, dignified, beautiful, and lovely, beyond any thing, found in the most perfect writings of uninspired men.
How came these things to pass? Whence did these writers, in so distant ages, and differing so widely in education, genius, characters, interests, and views, unite with, such perfect harmony in so difficult an object of conception; while writing for so diverse purposes, and on so diverse occasions ? Whence is it, that not an individual of them has made a single slip; that not a thought is uttered, not a fact asserted, nor a doctrine declared, but such as is perfectly free from fault, impurity, littleness, and defect; such as is entirely noble, refined, and becoming so exalted and spotless a character? All heathen writers have stained even their Gods with great defects, and deformed them with gross crimes ; and, wherever they have exhibited their Gods as acting, have filled up their history with weakness and depravity. The Angels of the Scriptures, on the contrary, are every where, by every writer, and in every attribute and act alike, pure and perfect. The only answer, which can be given, is, God directed the one class of writers, and human reason and imagination the other.
2dly. How wonderful, and how amiable, do these considerations exhibit the humility of angels!
In the observations, which have been made, we have seen their character to be great and glorious without a parallel ; their station exalted above that of all other created beings ; and their employments the first in the kingdom of God. Yet they do not disdain, nor grudge, to minister to the wants and relief, to the instruction and the comfort, of men ; who, compared with them, are only worms of the dust.
A single fact will set this subject in a stronger light, than any train of general observations, call up to your view, then, a choir
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of these illustrious beings, cheerfully leaving the glory of Heaven, and directing their flight to this forlorn and sinful earth, to accompany the departing spirit of poor, despised, forgotten Lazarus, to the world of happiness; to point the way to that distant and delightful region; and to aid his trembling wing to the house and presence of his Father and his God. What monarch, what noble, what gentleman, what plain man, would, willingly, have even attended his funeral? Who would have received him, when alive, into his house; powerfully as his sufferings pleaded for charitable relief? Who, much more, would have consented to become his companion? Who, still more, would have acknowledged himself his friend ? Yet all this, Angels did not disdain.
Let us take to ourselves shame and confusion of face, at the remembrance of our pride and haughtiness of heart. How often do we despise, neglect, insult and trample under foot, those who, in the sight of Cod, are far better than ourselves! For what do we despise them? Because, perhaps, their houses, their persons, their dress, their wealth, or their talents, are inferior to our own. We might, indeed, sometimes pity them for these reasons, and be justified. But where shall we find an excuse for despising them?
Nor is the meekness of Angels less contrasted to our wrath and revenge. They do not even bring railing accusations. Much less do they, like ourselves, indulge furious resentment, and seek insatiable revenge. There is not a single reason to believe, that they ever exercised, even in one instance, personal resentment against the basest and most guilty child of Adam; or a revengeful thought against the most depraved inhabitant of hell. No provocation is able to disturb the serenity of their minds. No cloud ever overcasts their smiles, or intercepts the clear sunshine of their benevolence.
3dly. How are the meek and humble virtues dignified by his great example!
These virtues are the constant character, the essential attributes, the peculiar glory, of Thrones, Dominions, Principalities, and Powers. But these virtues, and those in whom they are found on earth, man, who, is a worm, and the son of man, who is but a worm, regards with contempt. Men glory in being proud, in being wrathful, in being revengeful; in, being tyrants and oppressors, in being heroes and butchers. To men of these characters, statues are erected; nay, temples have been built, and altars smoked with victims. To them, the page of the historian and the harp of the poet are consecrated. To their praise, the sculptor bids the marble breathe, and the painter teaches his canvass to glow. They live in palaces, and are entombed in mausoleums. Shouts and hosannas follow them through life; and, at their death, nations re-echo the cries of lamentation, and kingdoms are covered with sackcloth and ashes. How strange is all this to the eye of Reason! Dives arrayed in purple and fine linen, and faring sumptuously
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every day: while Lazarus lies at his gate, under the naked heavens, coveting only to be fed with the crumbs, which fall from his table! Nay, Pilate and Herod on the seat of judgment, and Christ on the cross!
In the invisible world, these things are wonderfully inverted. Dives expires; but no Angels convey him to Abraham's bosom. There the meek and lowly virtues claim the esteem and love, and engross the kind offices, of beings, possessed of the highest wisdom and excellence; and obtain the everlasting favour of the infinite God. On these virtues, Angels smile with complacency; while fools and sinners regard them with hatred and scorn. But, if we would be like Angels ; if we would secure their good-will; if we would be admitted to their glorious company; if we would share in their immortal blessings; if we would dwell in the house of their Father and our Father, of their God and our God; we must esteem the things which they esteem; love the things which they love; and do the things which they do. We must renounce the haughty, angry, revengeful character, which we are so pleased to assume,; become meek and lowly of heart, like the divine Redeemer; and in the midst of provocations, hovever great, must be ready cheerfully to say, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!
4thly. What exalted views does this subject present to us of the future state of the Righteous!
In the Resurrection, says our SAVIOUR to the Sadducees, the children of God shall be equal to the Angels; or, perhaps more properly, they shall be like the Angels in attributes, station, and employments. Like the Angels, they will possess endless youth, activity, power, knowledge, and holiness; enjoy the same immortal happiness, dignity, and divine favour; be lovely, beautiful, and glorious, in the sight of God; and shine forth as the Sun in the kingdom of their Father. Like the Angels, shall they be sons, and kings, and priests, to God; and live and reign, with him for ever and ever.
What a change must this be from the present weakness and guilt of man; from sluggishness and ignorance, decay and death, sin and misery! What a wonderful display of the boundless compassion of God, to raise us from such a depth to such a height! Can we hesitate to exclaim, " This is love passing all understanding?" Who would not, for these divine blessings, renounce the pleasures of sin; and cheerfully bid adieu to all that avarice,, and ambition, and sensuality can boast? Who would not, with all the wise and good, cease at once from the sordid pursuits of sinners, and direct every view, desire, and effort, towards the state and character of Angels, and the attainment of the same residence, employments, happiness, and glory?
5thly. What sublime views does this subject furnish us of the greatness of Christ!
By him, says the text, were all these illustrious beings created,
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together with all their attributes, importance, and dignity. The character of every workman is seen, of course, in the nature of the work, which he has made. If thus be insignificant and worthless; it exhibits nothing but the insignificance and worthlessness of the maker. If curious and excellent, if sublime and wonderful it unfolds strongly, and certainly, his greatness, wisdom, and glory. Of what faculties are Angels the subjects! Of what intelligence, purity, power, loveliness, and elevation of mind! What then must be the perfections of Him, who contrived and formed Angels; who with a word called them into being; who preserves, informs, directs, controls, and blesses them forever? Great and excellent as they are, they are exhibited as unclean in his sight, and as charged with folly before him. How amazing, then, must be the perfection of his character! how great; how wise; how good!