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very same Greek word which we render here angels, but there it is rendered messengers.
This learned writer next observes, and the observation upon examination will appear just, that understanding this verse of fallen angels, does not at all suit with the scope of the apostle's argument, and appears to have no proper connection with the rest of his discourse. The design of the apostle, in what he says here, is to exhort the Christians to continue in the faith they had professed, and not to do as those of whom he speaks in the4th verse, " Turn the grace of God into lasciviousness, and deny the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ," which he endeavours to deter them from, through fear of the judgments of God, which he supports by calling to their remembrance well known examples or instances of the judgments of God inflicted on those who had faultered in their faith—"1 will put you in remembrance (says he) though ye once knew this;" though ye have been before perfectly acquainted with what I am going to say. He then gives the instance of the Israelites, who, after their wonderful deliverance from Egypt, were disbelieving of God's word and power, and refuted to go up to take possession of the land of Canaan, as they were commanded ; of which an account is given in Numbers xiv. This was certainly an instance exceedingly well known to those to whom Jude wrote. In the seventh verse he mentions the instance of the destruction of the cities of Sodom and GoraOrrha, by fire from heaven: this to* was well known to those to whom he wrote; that is, they knew it to be recorded in their sacred writings. Between, these two •tands the verse we are upon. Now supposing it to be spoken of fallen angels, this was an instance that did not come within what he tells them in the fifth verse—" I will put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this," &c. for certain it is, there is nothing about fallen angels in the Old Testament, in which all the other instances he mentions are to be found.
And it appears unaccountable, that Jude should begin with putting them in remembrance, as he expresses it, of an instance recorded in their sacred books, then immediately give an instance of which there is not the least mention in these books, and then return again to give instances to be found in them. This certainly must be allowed to be a very confused manner of writing.
It ought to be noted toq, that all the other instances given, are of men who fell into wickedness, and consequently punishment, by giving themselves up unto their lusts, and not believing the declarations of God, which is what St. Jude is earnestly exhorting them from to whom he writes. It appears strange, therefore, that St. Judo should, among these, introduce an instance of angels, of which it is very certain his readers knew nothing about their nature, nor their ki nd of office, if they had so much as heard any thing at all about them; at least we are certain they had never been informed about them by their sacred books; so that the apostle could not well conceive that such an un« known instance could have any weight with those to whom he Wrote. Nor is it likely that the apostle would place an instance, if taken from any other book or tradition, between instances taken from books, which those to whom he wrote, considered divine, and which made not the least mention of it; for this would have been to have placed another book upon an equal footing with that which was held alone to contain the oracles of God. know nothing of, can quit or leave the habitation be has fixed them in. A thousand difficulties, a thousand absurdities, arise from such a supposition ; as well may we suppose the sun to leave his stated course, and the planets not to be confined within their sphere ; as well may we suppose the earth to take the place of the sea, and the sea the place of the earth
These particulars being well considered, We shall see great reason to think that Jude did not speak of fallen angels in this verse, but of something else; and what that might probably be is next to be enquired : but first it may not be improper to observe, that the beginning of this verse is not in our translation rendered agreeable to the Greek; for there is nothing that can properly be rendered theirJb^st estate. The Greek word we render so, signifies properly* or in its primary sense, ■principality, excellency, rule, pre eminence. It also signifies, beginning, principal, foundation; but neither of these seem to support its being rendertA first estate. It ought therefore rather to be rendered hept, or maintained not their principality, or excellency, or rule, or pre-eminenie.
The point then is, who it was that those whom Jude wrote to, knew or had been informed from unquestionable authority, did not keep or maintain ther principality, excellency, rule, or pre-eminence, through want of faith in and by disobedience to God, and had in consequence been punished for it. The learned Becker thinks it was the chiefs of the tribes of Israel, who were sent to search the land of Canaan, and who all, except Joshua and Caleb, at their return, brought up an evil report of the land ; and asserted that the Israelites, though God was their leader, were not able to go up against the people of it. These were heads and rulers ofthe Israelites; for so it is expressly said, Num. xiv. 2, 3, and these all, for their incredulity and disobedience, " died ofthe plague before the Lord; but Joshua and Caleb lived." Num. xiv. 37, .38. .
Here then was a very notable and well-known example, which was direct to the purpose of deterring those to whom St.Jude wrote from falling into unbelief, lest they also should be punished by some divine judgment. This was, too, an example of men like themselves, and of men of their own nation, which must needs have greater weight than any thing that could be said about angels, of whom they knew nothing, nor of what nature their crime was. And it was an example which they knew stood recorded in those books, which they alone held to be the oracles of God; in which there is nothing said of angels which kept not their first estate.
Supposing Becker's conjecture to be right, which, considering the circumstances, there is a great probability of, the Greek word we render angels may then be rendered in its proper sense messengers, which is a point of some consideration: for the improper signification of a word should never be preferred to its proper or primitive sense, unless there is an absolute reason for it, by the subject necessarily requiring it: and the Greek word we render, without any good ground, first estate, may then be rendered according to its real signification, and the passage will stand thus, and the messengers which maintained not, or did not do honour to their principality, excellency, rule, or pre-eminence; for either or all of these senses agree with these men1, as they are called rulers and heads of the children of Israel. Num. xiii.2,3.
And it might be very justly said of them, that they did not maintain, or do honour to their rank or nation, that principality, excellency, rule, or pre-eminence, which they had, in being rulers and heads of the children of Israel, when they betrayed such cowardice, and want of faith in God, in regard to going up to take possession of the land of Canaan. To these too will suit the succeeding expression of the verse, but left their own habitation; or, as it ought rather to be rendered, relinquished their proper abode, viz. the land of Canaan, which had been promised to them by God: but what idea can be properly fixed to angels leaving or relinquishing their own proper abodes or habitation, and ronsequently possessing themselves of some other? Can wc suppose that any order of beings throughout the universe can possibly quit the habitation which God has fixed them
Id, and take to
another? This would be to bring in confu
sion indeed ; and whilst we see every thing that we know kept within its proper bounds, it is a dishonour to God, to think any of his creatures throughout the universe, whom we tot. in. X
It deserves to be remarked, how well, if this verse be Ud« derstood of those sent to search the land of Canaan, it connects with the foregoing one," I will therefore put you in remembrance, though you once knew this, how that tbe Lord having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterwards destroyed them that believed not;" then follows this verse, "and the messengers which maintained not their pre-eminence," &c. which is as much as to say, and even the rulers and heads of them, who had been sent by the order of God to search out the land, &c. It is further to be observed, that those spiritual beings we call angels, have that title only given to them as being supposed to be the messengers of God, or sent to execute his command : these men, therefore, being sent by tbe express command of God to search oat the land, they are, with the greatest propriety, called angels, at being in fact God's messengers. See Num. xiii. 1, 2.
The expression which follows does not seem at first appearance so well to suit with these; because all we read concerning the punishment of the rulers of the tribes who were sent to search the land, and raised an evil report of it, is that they died of the plague before the Lord. But, here it is said, " he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day." Jude.
The learned Becker observes, that the difficulty lies in the words- everlasting chains under darkness /but these, he thinks, may be no more than figurative expressions to express tho state of the dead. Death is called a land of darkness, in the book of Job, x. 21,22—" Before I go whence I shall not return, even to the land of darkness, and the shadow of death; aland of darkness, as darkness itself; and of the shadow of deuth, without any order, and where the light is darkness." "And the shadow of death" (Psalm xxiii. 4,) can signify nothing else but darkness. And as to the word chains, he thinks it to be figuratively used to express there being no return from death, till God is pleased to order it, agreeable to what Job says, speaking of death—" Before I go from xehence I shall not return." And if we consider what is set down (Acts ii. 24), we shall see reason to be of Becker's opinion; for there we find the very same idea expressed by St. Peter as here ; for, speaking of Jesus's resurrection, hesays," whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that he should be holdcn of it." Now do not loosed and holden, here express and convey the same idea as the word chains, used by the Apostle Jude? and what else is that, but that naturally there is no return from death, or breaking its bonds or chains?
The more we compare and consider these parallel expressions, and other passages of scripture, speaking of the state flf the dead, the more reason we shall see to conclude that St. Jude iright mean nothing more by the expressions he has made use of, than the state of the dead; but that he Blade use of such strong figurative expressions to signify that those he spoke of were taken out of life in an extraordinary manner, by Way ef punishment for their unbelief and false assertions, that they might stand as an exampie or warning toothers, not to offend God in the like manner : and this the Apostle niightthink proper to express in such strong figurative expressions, that Jill one with horror as it were, that those he wrote to might be the more affected by it.
It may be objected that the apostle makes use of the expession eternal chains ; but this, agreeable to the frequent use of the word eternal in the scriptures, may very well be understood in a limited sense, as what is said in the next verse of Sodom and Gomorrha suffering the vengeance of eternal fire must be; and to signify no more than their being reserved in the state of the dead till the consummation of things; or unto the judgment of the great day, as Jude expresses it. And this is a corroborating argument, that he speaks here of men; for he knew that all men of all ages were to stand before the judgment seat of Christ at the great day; but there is not the least reason to suppose he had"'auy notion of other beings to be judged at that day ; at least we are sure that Christ never said any thing of it, fira« that the Evangelists have recorded that he said of the day of judgment.
It is agreed by all, that St. Peter, in his second epistle (ii. 4,) speaks of the same thing as Jude does here ; and it ought to be remarked, that he says nothing of the angels not keeping their first estate, and leaving their own habitation, hut barely says, the angels that sinned; which is the very same expression as is made use of by the writer to the Hebrews, to denote the messengers who were sent to spy out the land (iii. 17.) " With whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose careases fell in the wilderness?" It ought to be observed too,