Book I: Chapter 9
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THE general government of Providence has been hitherto the subject of consideration. The special governnent is that which embraces with peculiar regard angels and men, as beings far superior to the rest of the creation.
Angels are either good or evil, Luke ix. 26. viii. 2. for it appears that many of them revolted from God of their own accord before the fall of man. John viii. 44. 'he abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him: when he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own, for he is a liar, and the father of it.' 2 Pet. ii. 4. 'God spared not the angels that sinned.' Jude 6. 'the angels which kept not their first estate.' 1 John iii. 8. 'the devil sinneth from the beginning.' Psal. cvi. 37. 'they sacrificed unto devils.'
Some are of opinion that the good angels are now upheld, not so much by their own strength, as by the grace of God. 1 Tim. v. 21. 'the elect angels,' that is, who have not revolted. Eph. i. 10. 'thathe might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth.' Job iv. 18. 'his angels he charged with folly.' See also xv. 15. Hence arises, in their opinion, the delighted interest which the angels take in the mystery of man's salvation; 1 Pet. i. 12. 'which things the angels desire to look into.' Eph. iii. 10. 'that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.' Luke ii. 13, 14. 'a multitude of the heavenly host praising God,' namely, on account of the birth of Christ, xv. 10. 'there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.' They assign the same reason for their worshipping Christ. Heb. i. 6. 'let all the angels of God worship him.' Matt. iv. 11. 'angels came and ministered unto him.' Philipp. ii. 10. 'at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven-.' 2 Thess. i. 7. 'the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels.' 1 Pet. iii. 22. 'angels being made subject unto him.' Rev. v. 11, 12, 'worthy is the Lamb that was slain.' It seems, however, more agreeable to reason, to suppose that the good angels are upheld by their own strength no less than man himself was before his fall; —that they are called elect, in the sense of beloved or excellent; —that it is not from any interest of their own, but from their love to mankind, that they desire to look into the mystery of our salvation; —that they are not comprehended in the covenant of reconciliation; —that, finally, they are included under Christ as their head, not as their Redeemer.
For the rest, they are represented as standing dispersed around the throne of God in the capacity of ministering agents. Deut. xxxiii. 2. 'he came with ten thousands of saints.' 1 Kings xxii. 19. 'I saw Jehovah sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left.' Job i. 6. 'there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before Jehovah.' See also ii. 1.Dan. vii. 10. 'ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.' Matt, xviii. 10. 'their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.' Luke i. 19. 'I am Gabriel who stand in the presence of God.'
Praising God. Job xxxviii. 7. 'all the sons of God shouted for joy.' Psal. cxlviii. 2. 'praise ye him, all his angels.' Neh. ix. 6. 'the host of heaven worshippeth thee.' Isai. vi. 3. 'one cried unto another and said, Holy, holy, holy.' See also Rev. iv. 8. vii. 11. 'the angels fall before the throne on their faces.'
They are obedient to God in all respects. Gen. xxviii. 12. 'behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.' Psal. ciii. 20. 'his angels..... that do his commandments.' Zech. i. 10. 'these are theywhom Jehovah hath sent to walk to and fro through the earth.'
Their ministry relates especially to believers. Heb. i. 14. 'are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?' Psal. xxxiv. 7. 'the angel of Jehovah encampeth round about them that fear him.' xci. 11. 'he shall give his angels charge over thee,' Isai. lxiii. 9. 'the angel of his presence saved them.' Matt. xviii. 10. 'their angels do always behold the face of my Father.' xiii. 41. 'the Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend.' xxiv. 31. 'they shall gather together his elect from the four winds' Acts xii. 15. 'it is his angel.' 1 Cor. xi. 10. 'for this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels,' namely, as some think, (and numerous examples in confirmation of their opinion are not wanting) those angels whose office it was to be present at the religious assemblies of believers.<289>
Seven of these, in particular, are described as traversing the earth in the execution of their ministry. Zech. iv. 10. 'those seven are the eyes of Jehovah which run to and fro through the whole earth.' Rev. v. 6, 'which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.' See also i. 4. and iv. 5.
It appears also probable that there are certain angels appointed to preside over nations, kingdoms, and particular districts. Dan. iv. 13, 17. 'this matter is by the decree of the watchers.' xii. 1. 'Michael..... the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people.' x. 13. 'I remained there with the kings of Persia.' 2 Pet. ii. 11. 'whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord.' Gen. iii. 24. 'to keep the way of the tree of life.'
They are sometimes sent from heaven as messengers of the divine vengeance, to punish the sins of men. They destroy cities and nations. Gen. xix. 13. 2 Sam. xxiv. 16. 1 Chron. xxi. 16. 'David saw the angel of Jehovah..... having a drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem.' They lay waste whole armies with unexpected destruction. 2 Kings xix. 35. Compare also other passages to thesame effect. Hence they are frequently represented as making their appearance in the shape of an armed host. Gen. xxxii. 1, 2. 'this is God's host.' Josh. v. 15. 'the captain of the host of Jehovah.' 2 Kings vi. 17. 'the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire.' Psal. lxviii. 17. 'the chariots of God are twenty thousand.' Luke ii. 13. 'a multitude of the heavenly host.'
Angels are also described Isai. vi. Hos. i. 7. Matt. xxviii. 2, 3. Rev. x. 1.
There appears to be one who presides over the rest of the good angels, to whom the name of Michael is often given. Josh. vi. 14. 'as captain of the host of Jehovah am I come.' Dan. xi. 13. 'Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me.' xii. 1. 'Michael shall stand up, the great prince.' Rev. xii. 7, 8. 'Michael and his angels fought against the dragon.' It is generally thought that Michael is Christ. But Christ vanquished the devil, and trampled him under foot singly; Michael, the leader of the angels, is introduced in the capacity of a hostile commander waging war with the prince of the devils, the armies on both sides being drawn out in battle array, and separating after a doubtful conflict, Rev. xii. 7, 8. Jude also says of the same angel, when contending withthe devil he disputed about the body of Moses, he durst not bring against him a railing accusation,' —which would be an improper expression to use with reference to Christ, especially if he be God. 1 Thess. iv. 16. 'the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with the voice of the archangel.'Besides, it seems strange that an apostle of Christ, in revealing things till then so new and unheard-of concerning his master, should express himself thus obscurely, and should even shadow the person of Christ under a difference of name.
The good angels do not look into all the secret things of God, as the Papists pretend; some things indeed they know by revelation, and others by means of the excellent intelligence with which they are gifted; there is much, however, of which they are ignorant. An angel is introduced inquiring Dan. viii. 13. 'how long shall be the vision?' xii. 6. 'how long shall it be to the end of these wonders?' Matt. xxiv. 36. 'of that day knoweth no man, no, not even the angels in heaven.' Eph. iii. 10. 'to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.' Rev. v. 3. 'no man in heaven was able to open the book.'
The evil angels are reserved for punishment. Matt. viii. 29. 'art thou come hither to torment us before the time?' 2 Pet. ii. 4. 'God cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgement.' Jude 6. 'he hath reserved them in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgement of the great day.' 1 Cor. vi. 3. 'know ye not that we shall judge angels?' Matt. xxv. 41.'everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.' Rev. xx. 10. 'they shall be tormented for ever and ever.'
They are sometimes, however, permitted to wander throughout the whole earth, the air, and heaven itself, to execute the judgements of God. Job i. 7. 'from going to and fro in the earth.' 1 Sam. xvi. 15. 'the Spirit of Jehovah departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from Jehovah troubled him.' 1 Pet. v. 8. 'the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about.' John xii. 31. 'the prince of this world.' 2 Cor. iv. 4. 'the god of this world.' Matt. xii. 43. 'he walketh through dry places.' Eph. ii. 2. 'according to the prince of the power of the air.' vi. 12. 'against spiritual wickedness in high places.' They are even admitted into the presence of God. Job i. 6. ii. 1. 1 Kings xxii. 21. 'there came forth a spirit, and stood before Jehovah.' Zech. iii 1. 'he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of Jehovah, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him.' Luke x. 18. 'I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.' Rev. xii. 12. 'woe to the inhabiters of the earth, for the devil is come down unto you.' Their proper place, however, is the bottomless pit, from which they cannot escape withoutpermission. Luke viii. 31. 'they besought him that he would not command them to go out into the deep.' Matt. xii. 43. 'he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none.' Mark v. 10. 'he besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country.' Rev. xx. 3. 'and cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up.' Nor can they do anything without the command of God. Job i. 12. 'Jehovah said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power.' Matt. viii. 31. 'suffer us to go away into the herd of swine.' Rev. xx. 2. 'he laid hold on the dragon..... and bound him a thousand years.'
Their knowledge is great, but such as tends rather to aggravate than diminish their misery; so that they utterly despair of their salvation. Matt. viii. 29. 'what have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before thelime?' See also Luke iv. 34. James ii. 19. 'the devils believe and tremble,' knowing that they are reserved for punishment, as has been shown.
The devils also have their prince. Matt, xii 24. 'Beelzebub, the prince of the devils.' See also Luke xi. 15. Matt, xxv 41. 'the devil and his angels.' Rev. xii. 9. 'the great dragon was cast out..... and his angels.' They retain likewise their respective ranks. Col. ii. 15. 'having spoiled principalities and powers.' Eph. vi. 12. 'against principalities, against powers.' Their leader is the author of all wickedness, and the opponent of all good. Job i. and ii. Zech. iii. 1. 'Satan.' John viii, 44. 'the father of lies.' 1 Thess. ii. 18. 'Satan hindered us.' Acts v. 3. 'Satan hath filled thine heart.' Rev. xx. 3, 8. 'that he should deceive the nations no more.' Eph. ii. 2. 'the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.' Hence he has obtained many names corresponding to his actions. He is frequently called Satan, that is, an enemy or adversary, Job i. 6. 1 Chron. xxi. 1. 'the great dragon, that old serpent, the devil,' that is, the false accuser. Rev. xii. 9. 'the accuser of the brethren,' v. 10. 'the uncleanspirit.' Matt. xii. 43. 'the tempter,' iv. 3. 'Abaddon..... Apollyon,' that is, the destroyer, Rev. ix. 11. 'a great red dragon,' xii. 3.
Milton employs the word elect in opposition to the apostate angels, in the description of the first battle in heaven:
..... but those elect
Angels, contented with their fame in Heav'n,
Seek not the praise of men: the other sort,
In might though wond'rous, —&c. Paradise Lost, VI. 374.
Nor less think we in heav'n of thee on earth
Than of our fellow servant, and enquire
Gladly into the ways of God with man.
Paradise Lost, VIII. 224.
When the great ensign of Messiah blaz'd,
..... Michael soon reduc'd
His army, circumfus'd on either wing,
Under their head embodied all in one. VI. 775.
Ye behold him, and with songs
And choral symphonies, day without night,
Circle his throne rejoicing. V. 161.
The tutelary care of angels is incidentally alluded to in Paradise Lost:
..... except whom
God and good angels guard by special grace. II. 1032.
Subjected to his service angel wings
And flaming ministers, to watch and tend
Their earthly charge. IX. 155.
Send me the angel of thy birth, to stand
Fast by thy side. Samson Agonistes, 1431.
..... some good angel bear
A shield before us. Comus, 658.
This is the interpretation of Grotius, Hammond, (who quotes from the Fathers in support of his opinion) Wolf, Doddridge, Pearce, &c. But Milton probably alluded to Tremellius, whose version he principally used, and whose note is as follows: 'Hujus autem rei testes sunt et observatores angeli in ecclesia Dei, ab externo ordine internam Dei gratiam et pictatum membrorum optime recognoscentes. Psal. xxxiv. 8. et xci. 11. Matt, xviii. 10. John i. 52. Eph. iii. 10. 1 Tim. v. 21. Heb. i. 14. 1 Pet. i. 12.' These seem to have been the 'numerous examples' referred to above.
Th' Arch-Angel Uriel, one of the sev'n
Who in God's presence, nearest to his throne,
Stand ready at command, and are his eyes
That run through all the heav'ns, or down to th' earth
Bear his swift errands over moist and dry,
O'er sea and land. Paradise Lost, III. 648.
Go, Michael, of celestial armies prince.
Paradise Lost, VI. 44.
So in the description of the first fight in Paradise Lost, which is borrowed from the prophecy in the Apocalypse quoted above, 'long time in even scale the battle hung,' till at last Michael, 'the prince of angels,' engages in single combat with the Adversary:
.... from each hand with speed retir'd,
Where erst was thickest fight, th'angelic throng,
And left large field. VI. 307.
..... do him mightier service as his thralls
By right of war, whate'er his business be,
Here in the heart of hell to work in fire,
Or do his errands in the gloomy deep.
Paradise Lost, I. 148.
..... the spirits perverse
With easy intercourse pass to and fro
To tempt or punish mortals. II. 1031.
So stretch'd out huge in length the Arch-Fiend lay,
Chain'd on the burning —lake, nor ever thence
Had ris'n or heav'd his head, but that the will
And high permission of all-ruling heav'n
Left him at large to his own dark designs.
Paradise Lost. I. 209.
..... his doom
Reserv'd him to more wrath; for now the thought
Both of lost happiness and lasting pain
Torments him-. I. 52.
..... hope never comes
That comes to all. I. 66.
..... We are decreed,
Reserv'd, and destin'd to eternal woe;
Whatever doing, what can we suffer more,
What can we suffer worse ? II. 159.
Me miserable! which way shall I fly
Infinite wrath, and infinite despair? IV. 73.
The Stygian council thus dissolv'd, and forth
In order came the grand infernal peers:
Midst came their mighty Paramount-.
Paradise Lost, II. 506.
..... To whom th' Arch-Enemy,
And thence in heav'n call'd Satan. —I. 81.
..... the Adversary of God and man,
Satan-. II. 629.
High proof ye now have giv'n to be the race
Of Satan (for I glory in the name Antagonist of heav'n's Almighty King.)
X. 385. See also VI. 281,
The tempter ere th'accuser of mankind.
Paradise Lost, IV. 10.
..... who bids abstain
But our Destroyer, foe to God and man? IV. 749.