« PreviousContinue »
either good or wicked men? If to deprive of existence a mul. titude of imaginary beings to supply their places with real ones, be a sin against orthodoxy ; is not to thrust into hell a third part of those who were once safe in heaven, and to supply their place with beings of a totally different nature and origin, a sin against consistency, reason, and credibility ?
The common notions respecting angels and devils, are then, we find sufficiently open to ridicule : Is it equally ridiculous to affirm that angels and men are of the same family, and that heaven and hell are from the human race ?
What is man? The Scriptures assure us, that he is a being created in the image and likeness of God. This is the proper and intrinsic nature of man, however he may have departed from it: and is it possible to employ any other language that will accurately define the intrinsic nature of an angel ? Is an angel more than an image and likeness of God? This would be saying that angels absolutely are Gods. An image and likeness of God is a being who receives life, love, and wisdom, of a genuine and heavenly nature from God: and is not this the definition both of a man and of an angel? To possess life, love, and wisdom in himself, is the prerogative of God alone : to possess life derivatively, accompanied with a species of love of a merely natural kind, and with instincts supplying the place of wisdom, without a capacity to recede from or alter them, belongs to the brute creation alone : and to possess life derivatively, accompanied with a power of rising from natural love to spiritual, and attaining to the enjoyment of a love and wisdom truly human, imaging the divine love and wisdom from which they are derived, belongs to the only other conceivable order of animated creatures, the only species of being that can exist between the all-perfect, the infinitely wise and good God, and the irrational animal. Such a being is man: and such a man, when he has passed from this natural into the spiritual sphere of existence, is an angel. Did the order which the Divine Being has laid down for the conduct of his own operations admit of the production of angels in a more immediate manner,
that men would ever have been created? Why were we not all created as angels at once, without being exposed to the dangers attendant on our coming into existence in this world of nature, could the same end have been attained without it? If some were called into being at the end of the goal, and created angels immediately, why are we, who, all allow, are eventually to be not at all inferior to angels, placed at such a distance from it here? Why, but because there is no other entrance to the angelic state, and in order that we may be angels, it is necessary that we should be men ? Infinite
who can suppose
Wisdom and Divine Omnipotence never act, we may be assured, but in conformity to the most perfect order; and how satisfactory is the view which teaches, what indeed experience demonstrates, that order requires that there should be distinct degrees of life and existence, intimately connected together and all dependent on each other; that the interior degrees, in order to their permanence, should have an exterior and ultimate one as a basis on which, as it were, they might rest; that in the masterpiece of creation, all the degrees of life, from first to last, should exist together, with a capacity of being successively opened; that the human mind should be formed while it dwells in a natural frame, in order that it
have a termina. tion to give its acquirements a fixed existence; that all multiplication, and, in fact, all actual creation, should take place in the exterior and ultimate sphere of being; and that hence man is produced an inhabitant of the world of nature, in order that he might afterwards lay aside his clay and appear an angel before the throne of God, thus that man is produced that angels might exist, and that God might gratify his love by surrounding himself with a continually increasing multitude of beings, capable, in the highest communicable degree of consciously receiving, and of acknowledging his benefits! Thus also we obtain a view of creation as one coherent whole, yea, we view as one coherent whole the entire chain of being, from the crude globe of earth to the source of all in God: and thus we are enabled to see, that man, the only being created in the image and likeness of God, is not, what the contrary view supposes, a superfluity among the works of his Creator. *
But from reason let us go to Scripture, where we shall find the most explicit testimony to the doctrine that angels are
An opponent would fain reduce our proofs from this source to a single (or rather double) text. 6 The Baron,” says one, “supports this doctrine chiefly, as I understand him, by the following text, 'And I John saw these things, and heard them; and when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship at the fect of the angel which showed me these things. Thon saith he unto me, See thou do it not : for I am thy fellow-servant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book : worship God.' (Rev. xxii. 8, 9; see also Rev. xix. 10.)”+ These words, it is contended, only mean, that angels, as well as men, are servants of the Most High. “This," says the objector, “I am certain is the opinion of the * See the quotation from Swedenborg ab.)", np. 146, 147.
† Anti-Swedenborg, p. 62.
best divines. Whereas the Baron will understand the words, "I am thy fellow-servant and of thy brethren the prophets,' to signify, “I a
am a departed spirit of one of thy brethren, or one of the prophets. But the premises will not warrant the conclusion : and, as far as I can find, the Baron stands alone in his opinion;" &c. This is curious indeed. This text, on which it is wished to have it supposed “the Baron chiefly supports his doctrine,” and “ in his opinion” of the meaning of which he stands alone,” – is never once applied by him to the subject ! Had he done so, however, he would not have stood alone, as may be learned from so well known a book as Doddridge's Family Expositor; in a note of which we read, that " Mr. Fleming understands it [Rev. xix. 10), to mean, I am one of thy brethren, which he thinks intimates that this was the departed spirit of an apostle ; perhaps St. Peter or St. Paul, or his own brother James, though not in a form to be known. And he thinks the person speaking, ch. xxii. 9, might be the spirit of one of the prophets, perhaps Isaiah, Ezekiel, or Daniel.” And was not Watts one of the best divines ?” But he says on the text, “ These words naturally lead one to think, that though he appeared as a messenger from Christ, and in the form of an angel, yet he was really a departed spirit, a brother, a fellow-prophet; perhaps the soul of David, of Ísaiah,
Assuredly, the words do most naturally lead one to think so; whatever they who desire to make angels a different species from men may pretend to the contrary.
But there is abundance of texts which are not at all equivocal. If angels are a different race from men, how is it that they are called, almost wherever their appearance is mentioned, throughout the Scriptures, by the name of men ? Thus of the three angels that appeared to Abraham, it is said that “he looked, and lo, three men, stood by him :”+ and of the two of them that went on to Sodom, the people said, “ Where are the men which came in to thee this night ?"Lot said of them, "Only to these men do nothing :"S and the inspired historian himself repeatedly gives them the same title. ll . When Jacob wrestled with an angel, it is said, that “ there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.”'When Joshua was by Jeričo, “he lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold there stood a man over against him with a drawn sword in his hand,” who declared himself to be “the captain of the host of the Lord."**
Of the angel who appeared to the wife of Manoah, she said, “ A man of God came to me, and his counte. nance was like the countenance of an angel of God;”++ and * Works, vol. ii. p. 401. † Gen. xyiji. 2. | Ch. xix. 5. § Ver. 8. Ver. 10, 12, 16. # Ch. xxxii. 24. ** Josh. . 13, 14. if Juu. xiii. 6.
afterwards she said to her husband, “ behold the man hath appeared unto me that came unto me the other day. And,” it is added, “ Manoah arose, and went after his wife, and came to the man, and said unto him, Art thou the man that spakest unto the woman? And he said, I am."*
man clothed with linen, with a writer's inkhorn by his side," seen by Ezekiel,t was doubtless an angel; as was the " man whose appearance was like the appearance of brass, with a line of flax in his hand, and a measuring reed,” who showed him the vision of the temple, &c. The angel Gabriel, sent to Daniel, is called " the man Gabriel.”'S That prophet afterwards beheld “a certain man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with fine gold of Uphaz.”ll Zechariah saw a man riding upon a red horse," who is presently called “the angel of the Lord.”'IT The women who went to the Lord's sepulchre, on entering in, şaw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment:
:**** and according to Luke, “two men stood by them in shining garments ;"++ who, according to John were “two angels in white." I1 Finally, John the Revelator identifies angels with men, by informing us, that the angel ed the wall” of the New Jerusalem, a hundred and fortyfour cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel.”SS
Here angels are explicitly affirmed to be men; and many olher passages might be adduced, in which to angels are ascribed the attributes of men, and in which they evidently were seen as men by those to whom they appeared ; indeed, it is palpably certain that they never were seen otherwise than as
How is this to be accounted for, if they are in reality a totally different race, of other origin and dissimilar nature? I know the fiction to which expositors have recourse : they tell us that they assumed the human shape, by clothing themselves with a material vehicle for the occasion, and are then called men from their assumed appearance : but what a clumsy inode of explaining the fact is this, and how totally destitute of a shadow of ground in Scripture! Where do we read of an angel's thus creating a human body in which to represent himself before the corporeal eye of men, and dissipating it again at his disappearance? How much less operosely is the case accounted for by supposing, that, man being himself similar in nature to angels as to his interior constitution, on closing his bodily senses and opening the sight of his spirit, he immediately sees an angel, if present, in his own proper form; who again
* Ver, 10, 11, † Ch, ix. 2, 3, 11; x. 2, 3, 6. | Ch. xl. 3, 4, &c. Ś Ch. ix. 21. || Ch. x. 5; xii. 6, 7. Ch. i. 8, 11.
ti Ch. xxiv. 4. If Ch. xx. 12. Dý Ch. xxi. 17.
** Mark xvi. 5.
must necessarily vanish in a moment on the closing of them spiritual sight of the beholder, and the seat of his perception returning again into the body ? If, then, as would hence appear, the human form is the proper form of an angel, how can it be doubted that angels and men are the same beings in different stages of their existence ? What would a naturalist say, were we to present him with an animal possessing the exact form of an ox, but were to tell him that he must not argue from its form to its nature, for this, he might be assured was that of a very superior animal ? When it shall be right not to believe the animal which wears the form of an ox to be one, we may also venture to conclude, that the angels of Scripture, who al. ways wear the form of men, and often are called such, are not what they are called and seem. When we can no longer trust our eyes, and believe, on their testimony, that oxen are oxen, we may refuse to trust the Scriptures, and to believe, on their testimony, that angels are men.
As this is the clear deposition on this subject, of reason and Scripture, it was seen to be so by many in the early times of Christianity, and by some since; though the Jewish fables about angels of different race and their falling from heaven, began too soon to infect the Christian church. Thus, upon the identity as to the nature of angels and men, the celebrated “father," Origen, quotes from another writer, whom he does not name, these striking and well-discriminated remarks.
- Moreover, a certain other writer, using that testimony, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness, affirms, that whatever is made after the image of God, is man: and he brings myriads of examples to prove, that the Scripture uses the terms man and angel indifferently, applying both terms to the same subject; as in the case of three who were entertained by Abraham, and the two who visited Sodom; and so through the whole series of the Scriptures, which sometimes call the same beings angels, and sometimes men. So likewise, he who is of this opinion will say, that as some who are acknowledged to be men are angels too, as John the Baptist, of whom it is written, • Behold I send my angel before thy face;' so the angels of God are called by that name because it belongs to their employment, instead of being called by the name of men which belongs to theii nature.” * In another place, the same father, delivering his own sentiments, thus represents all angels as having once been men: “I conclude it to be evident from hence [the Lord's answer to the Sadducees] that it is not merely by not marrying and being given in marriage that they who are esteemed worthy of the resurrection from the
Cum. in Juli. t. iii.