« PreviousContinue »
Sublapsarians. The whole process of the doĉtrine of the first fort of Supra-lapsarians hath been reduced to four heads ; which are these, * First, That God hath absolutely and precisely decreed the salvation of some particular men by his mercy, and the condemnation of others by his justice, without any intuition of righteousness, or fin; obedience, or disobedience.
Secondly, That God, for the bringing to pass this his decree, determined the creation of Adam, and all men in him, in the state of original righteousness, and further ordained that they should fin, and so be deprived of original righteous. nefs, and become guilty of eternal condemnation. . Thirdly, That God hath decreed those (whom he would fável as to falvation, so to the means to bring them to faith in Jesus Christ, and perseverance in it; and this by his irresistible power, so as they cannot but believe, persevere, and be saved.
Fourthly, That God hath decreed to deny to them whom he hath preordained to destruction, that grace which is ne. cessary to falvation: so as they are not able to believe, neither can they be saved.
[To be continued.] *OOOOOOOOO*0000000* ORIGINAL SERMONS,
By the Rev. 70 HN WESLEY, M. A.
S E R M o N XIII.
On Hebrews i. 14. Are they not all ministering Spirits, fent forth to minister unto
them that shall be heirs of salvation ? M ANY of the ancient Heathens had (probably from
y tradition) some notion of good and evil angels. They had some conception of a superior order of beings, between men and God, whom the Greeks generally termed Demons (knowing ones,) and the Romans Genii. Some of these they supposed to be kind and benevolent, delighting in doing good; others to be malicious and cruel, delighting in doing evil. But their conceptions both of one and the other, were crude, imperfect and confused; being only frag. ments of truth, partly delivered down by their fore.fathers, and partly borrowed from the inspired Writings.
2. Of the former, the benevolent kind, seems to have been the celebrated Demon of Socraies, concerning which so many and so various conje&tures have been made in succeeding ages. This gives me notice, said he, every morning, of any evil which will befal me that day. A late Writer, in. deed (I suppose one that hardly believes the existence of either Angel or Spirit) has published a Dissertation wherein he labours to prove, That the Demon of Socrates was only his Reason. But it was not the manner of Socrates to speak in such obscure and ambiguous terms. If he had meant his Reason he would doubtless have said so: but this could not be his meaning. For it was impossible his Reason should give him notice every morning, of every evil which would befal him that day. It does not lie within the province of Reason, to give such notice of future contingencies. Neither does this odd interpretation in any wise agree with the inserence which he himself draws from it." My Demon, says he, did not give me notice this morning of any evil that was to befal me to-day. Therefore I cannot regard as any evil, my being condemned to die.” Undoubtedly it was some spiritual Being: probably one of these ministering Spirits.
3. An ancient Poet, one who lived several ages before Socrates, speaks more determinately on this subject. Hesiod does not scruple to say,
** Millions of spiritual creatures walk the earth unseen."
Hence, it is probable, arose the numerous tales about the exploits of their demigods, and gods minorum Gentium. Hence their Satyrs, Fauns, Nymphs of every kind, wherewith they fupposed both the sea and land to be filled. But how empty, childish, unfatisfactory, are all the accounts they give of them! as indeed accounts that depend upon broken, uncertain tradition can hardly fail to be.
4. Revelation only is able to supply this defect; this only gives us a clear, rational, confiftent account, of those whom our eyes have not seen, nor our ears heard: of both good and evil angels. It is my design to speak at present only of the former, of whom we have a full, though brief account in these words. Are they not all ministering Spirits, fent forth 10 minister unto them that shall be heirs of salvation ?
· I. 1. The question is, according to the manner of the Apostle, equivalent to a strong affirmation. And hence we learn, First, that with regard to their essence or nature, they are all spirits ; not material, or corporeal beings; not clogged with flesh and blood like us ; but having bodies, if any, not gross and earthly like ours, but of a finer subftance, resembling fire or flame, more than any other of these lower elements. And is not something like this intimated in those words of the Psalmist, Who maketh his angels fpirits, and his ministers e flame of fire! Psalm civ. 4. A's spirits he has endued them with Understanding, Will, or Affections, (which are indeed the fame thing, as the Affections are only the Will exerting itself various ways) and Liberty. And are not these, Under. standing, Will, and Liberty, ellential to, if not the essence of a spirit ?
2. But who of the children of men can comprehend, what is the understanding of an Angel ?' Who can comprehend how far their hght extends ? Analogous to fight in men. though not the same; but this we are constrained to speak
through the poverty of human language! Probably not only over one hemisphere of the earth, yea, or
“ Tenfold the length of their Terrene,"
or even of the Solar System; but so far as to take in at one view, the whole extent of the Creation ? And we cannot conceive any defeat in their Perception, neither any error in their Understanding. But in what manner do they use their Underftanding? We must in no wise imagine, that they creep from one truth to another, by that low method which we call Reasoning. Undoubtedly they see at one glance whatever truth is presented to their understanding : and that with all the certainty and clearness, that we morials see the most selfevident axiom.' Who then can conceive the extent of their Knowledge? Not only of the pature, attributes and works of God, (whether of creation or providence) but of the circumstances, a&ions, words, tempers, yea and thoughts of men. For although God only knows the hearts of all men (unto whom known are all his works) together with the changes they un. dergo, from the beginning of the world: yet we cannot doubt but his angels know the hearts of those to whom they more immediately minifter. Much less can we doubt of their knowing the thoughts that are in our hearts at any particular time. What should hinder their seeing them as they arife ? Not the thin veil of flesh and blood! Can these in. tercept the view of a spirit? Nay,
“ Walls within walls no more its passage bar,
Than unopposing space of liquid air."
Far more easily then, and far more perfectly than we can read a man's thoughts in his face, do these fagacious beings read our thoughts, just as they rise in our hearts: inasmuch as they see their kindred spirit, more clearly than we see the body. If this seem strange to any, who had not adverted to · VOL. VI.
it before, let him only consider, Suppose my spirit was out of the body, could not an angel see my thoughts ? Even without my uttering any words ? (if words are used in the world of spirits.) And cannot that ministering spirit see them just as well now I am in the body? It seems therefore to be an unquestionable truth, (although perhaps not commonly observed,) That Angels know not only the words and actions, but also the thoughts of those to whom they minifter. And indeed without this knowledge they would be very ill qualified to perform various parts of their ministry. - 3. And what an inconceivable degree of wisdom must they have acquired, by the use of their amazing faculties, over and above that with which they were originally endued, in the course of more than fix thousand years. (That they have existed so long, we are assured: for they fang together when the foundations of the earth were laid.) How immensely must their wisdom have increased, during so long a period, not only by surveying the hearts and ways of men in their successive generations: but by observing the works of God, his works of Creation; his works of Providence; his works of Grace! And above all, by continually beholding the face of their Father which is in heaven.
4. What measures of Holiness, as well as Wisdom, have they derived from this inexhaullible Ocean!
Are they not hence, by way of eminence, ftiled the Holy Angels? What goodness, what philanthrophy, what love to man, have they drawn from those rivers that are at his right hand? Such as we cannot conceive to be exceeded by any but That of God our Saviour. And they are still drinking in more love from this fountain of living water.
5. Such is the Knowledge and Wisdom of the Angels of God, as we learn from his own Oracles. Such are their holi