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thereunto, have supposed that the angeliç spirits were either united to some bodies, or that they assumed them for this purpose; but this is equally absurd, and without any countenance from scripture. Thus concerning the providence of God, as exercised towards the angels that fell. We proceed,
II. To consider providence, as conversant about the rest of the angels, who retained their integrity. Concerning these it is said,
1. That God established them in holiness and happiness. These two privileges are always connected together. It is not said, that they were brought into such a state, or, like man, recovered out of a fallen state, for they are considered, as sinless, or holy angels; nor is it supposed their holiness was increased, since that would be inconsistent with its having been perfect before : That privilege therefore, which providence conferred on them, was the confirming, or establishing them in that state, in which they were created; which bears some resemblance to that privilege, which man would have enjoyed, had he retained his integrity, as he would not only have continued to be holy and happy, so long as he remained innocent; but he would have been so confirmed in it, that his fall would have been prevented : But of this, more in its proper place. The angels, I say, had something like this, which we call the grace of confirmation.
Some have enquired whether this was the result of their yielding perfect obedience for a time, while remaining in a state of probation, pursuant to some covenant, not much unlike that which God made with innocent man; and whether this privilege was the consequence of their fulfilling the condition thereof. But this is to enter too far into things out of our reach ; nor is it much for our edification to determine it, though some have asserted, without proving it, while others have supposed them to have been confirmed, when first created, and that herein there was an instance of discriminating grace among the angels; so that they, who fell, were left to the mutability of their wills, whereas they, who stood, had, at the same time, the grace of confirmation.
I might here have been more particular, in considering what this privilege imports, and how it renders the fall of those who are confirmed impossible, and therefore it is a very considerable addition to their happiness: But since we shall have occasion to speak of the grace of confirmation, which man was given to expect in the first covenant under a following answer, and the privileges that would have attended it, had he stood, we shall add no more on that subject in this place; but proceed to prove, that the angels are established and confirmed in holiness and happiness.
This may, in some measure, be argued, from their being called elect angels, 1. Tim. v. 21. If election, when applied to men, imports the purpose of God, to confer everlasting blessedness on those who are the objects thereof, and so not only implies that they shall be saved, but that their salvation shall be eternal; why may it not, when applied to angels, infer the eternity of their holiness and happiness, and consequently their being established therein ?
Again, this may be also argued, from their coming with Christ, when he shall appear to judge the world ; and the joining the saints and angels together in one assembly in heaven: therefore, if the happiness of the one be eternal, that of the other must be so likewise. It is also said, expressly of the angels, that they always behold the face of God. And, when we read of the destruction of the church's enemies, the angels are represented as observers of God's righteous judgments; and then it is added, that the punishment inflicted on those, who shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, shall be eternal, and this eternal punishment will be in the presence of the holy angels, Rev. xiv. 10, 11. If therefore the duration of the holiness and happiness of the angels, be equal to that of the misery of God's implacable enemies, as both are said to be eternal, this evidently proves that the angels are established in holiness and happiness.
2. It is farther observed, that God employs all the angels, at his pleasure, in the administration of his power, mercy, and justice. This leads us to speak concerning the ministry of angels, which is either extraordinary, or ordinary. Most of the instances which we have thereof, especially in the Old Testament, were performed in an extraordinary manner, and sometimes attended with their appearance in a human form, assumed for that purpose: This may be briefly considered; and then we shall enquire, whether, though their ministry be not visible, or attended with those circumstances, as it formerly was, there are not some other instances, in which the providence of God now employs them for the good of his church. As to the former of these, we read that God has sometimes sent them to supply his servants with necessary food, when destitute thereof, and there was no ordinary way for their procuring it: Thus an angel brought a cake, and a cruse of water, to Elijah, when he was on his journey to Horeb, the mount of God, 1. Kings xix. 5–8. And when Abraham's servant was travelling to Mesopotamia, to bring a wife from thence for Isaac, Abraham tells him, that God would send his angel before him, Gen. xxi. 7. and so make his journey prosp rous.
Again, the angels have sometimes been sent to defend God's people, and to assure them of safety, when exposed to danger: Thus, when Jacob was returning from Laban to his own country, and was apprehensive of the danger that he was exposed to, from the resentment of his brother Esau, it is said, that the angels of God met him; and, when he saw them, he said, This is God's host, Gen. xxxii. 1, 2. And when the prophet Elijah was encompassed about by the Syrian army, sent on purpose to take him, he was defended by an host of angels appearing under the emblem of horses and chariots of fire round about him, 2 Kings vi. 15–17. Others, when persecuted, and, as it were, delivered over to death, have been preserved, by the ministry of angels, as Daniel was, when cast into the lion's den, Dan. vi. 22. Others have been released from their chains, and the prison doors opened by them; as Peter, and the rest of the apostles were, Acts xii. 17. compared with chap. v. 19.
Again, sometimes they have been employed to deliver messages, and give the prophets an extraordinary intimation of future events; as the angel Gabriel did to Daniel, Dan. viii. 16. And an angel was sent to Zacharias, to foretel the birth of his son, John the Baptist, Luke i. 13.
Moreover, the angels of God have sometimes been employed to give a check to his enemies, when they have attempted any thing against his church: Thus the angel met Balaam in the way, when he was riding to seek inchantments against Israel, his way being perverse before God, Numb. xxii. 32. And another angel was sent, as a minister of God's justice, in bringing the pestilence on Israel, for David's numbering the people, who appeared with his hand stretched out upon Yerusalem'to destroy it, 2 Sam. xxiv. 16. and afterwards withdrew his hand, when God told him, It is enough, and that it repented him of the evil. And to this we may add, that the angels shall be employed, at last, in gathering together the elect, from the four winds, that they may appear before Christ's tribunal. These, and many other instances to the like purpose, are mentioned, in scripture, to set forth the extraordinary ministry of angels.
There are also other instances, in which, though miracles are ceased, the angels are employed to perform some works in the hand of providence for God's people: Thus there are some promises, which seem to be applied to the church in all ages, of blessings, which should be conferred by their ministry; as when it is said, 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 aguinst a stone, Psal. xci. 11, 12. which scripture, though it may have a particular reference to their ministry to our Saviour, yet it seems to be applicable also to his people'; and that promise, The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them, Psal. xxxiv. 7. is applicable to them in all ages, as well as that in which it is said, concerning the ministry of angels to infants, that in heaven their angels do always hehold the face of my Father, which is in heaven, Matt. xviii, 10.
Moreover, the ministry of angels to dying saints, who are, according to what our Saviour says in the parable, carried, by them, into Abraham's bosom, Luke xvi. 22. is universally true of all saints. And it is expressly said, with a peculiar application to the gospel-dispensation, that the angels are all ministring spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation, Heb. i. 14. so that though their ministry, as to many circumstances thereof, differ from what it was of old, there being nothing miraculous now attending it, as formerly there was ; yet it remains an undoubted truth, that they are, and have been, in all ages, made use of, by the providence of God, in the administration of his power, mercy, and justice.
I shall conclude this head with a few cautions relating to this matter, as this doctrine is not to be laid down without certain restrictions, or limitations; therefore,
1. We must take heed, notwithstanding what has been said concerning the ministry of angels, that we don't take occasion hereby to set aside the immediate influence, or concern of the providence of God, for his church; for whatever may be ascribed to angels, as second causes, our principal regard must be to him, whose ministers they are; neither are we to entertain the least thought, as though God had committed the government of the world, or the church, to them ; which the apostle expressly denies, when he says, Unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, Heb. ii. 3. therefore,
2. The praise and glory of all their ministry is not to be ascribed to them, but to him, who makes use of them; nor are we to pretend, at all times, to determine, that this or that particular dispensation of providence is by the immediate hand of God, and another by the ministry of angels; since it is enough for us to say, that, though God does not need their assistance, yet he sometimes sets forth the sovereignty of his providence, and evinces his right to employ all his creatures at his pleasure, as well as gives an additional instance of his care of his churches, by employing them in extraordinary services for their good; though we cannot, at all times, distinguish between what is done by the immediate hand of God, and other things performed by their ministry.
3. Whatever we assert, concerning the ministry of angels, we must take heed that we do not regard them as objects of divine worship, or exercise that dependence on, or give that glory to them, which is due to God alone. Nor are we to suppose, that God employs them in those works that are the effects of his supernatural or almighty power, in which he deals with the hearts of his pecple, in a way more immediately conducive to their conversion and salvation.
Quest. XX. What was the providence of God toward man in
the estate wherein he was created ? Answ. The providence of God toward man, in the estate
wherein he was created, was, the placing him in paradise, appointing him to dress it, giving him liberty to eat of the fruit of the earth, putting the creatures under his dominion, and ordaining marriage for his help, affording him communion with himself, instituting the Sabbath, entering into a covenant of life with him, upon condition of personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience; of which, the tree of life was a pledge; and forbidding to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, upon the pain of death. N this answer, we have an account of the providence of
God, as respecting the outward, and the spiritual, concerns of man.
I. As to what respects his outward estate, we have an account,
1. Of God's fixing the place of his abode, which was to be in paradise, a very large and most delightful garden, of God's own planting, an epitome of all the beauties of nature, which, as it were, presented to his view the whole world in miniature; so that herein he might, without travelling many miles, behold the most beautiful land-skip which the world afforded, and partake of all the fruits, with which it was stored. The whole world, indeed, was given him for a possession ; but this was, as it were, a store-house of its choicest fruits, and the peculiar seat of his residence.
We find the word paradise used, in scripture, sometimes to signify a delightful garden, and sometimes it is taken, in a metaphorical sense, to signify heaven, Luke xxii. 43. 2 Cor. xii. 4. Rev. ii. 7. by which application thereof, we may conclude, that this earthly paradise, in which man was placed, was a kind of type of the heavenly blessedness, which, had he retained his integrity, he would have been possessed of, and which they, who are saved by Christ, shall be brought to.
Here we may take notice of the conjectures of some ancient and modern writers concerning it, more especially as to what respects that part of the world wherein it was situate ; and whether it is now in being, or to be found in any part of it, at this day. Many have given great scope to their conception about the situation of paradise, and some conjectures are so absurd, that they hardly deserve to be mentioned. As,
(1.) Some have thought that it was situate in some place, superior to, and remote from this globe of the carth, in which we live ; but they have not the least shadow of reason for this supposition, and nothing can be more contrary to the account we have thereof in scripture.