Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

called the archangel, Jude ix. Another, whose name is called Gabriel, interpreted two visions to the prophet Daniel, ch. viii. 16. ix. 21. The fame also appeared to Mary, to announce to her the conception of Jesus.

What rank these beings hold with respect to intellectual power, is altogether unknown to us; for we can by no means infer, from their being immediately employed by God, that they are naturally endued with any extraordinary share of understanding. This, at least, we are not led to infer, from the choice which God has thought proper to make of prophets of the human race. Indeed, his own wisdom was often rendered the more conspicuous by their weakness. Nor is their employment an absolute proof of superior goodness.

It must be allowed, however, that, confidering angels as being in a higher, and ourselves in a lower station, it was not unnatural to imagine, that they were much

superior

superior to us in power, wisdom, virtue, and happiness. Accordingly, we find the woman who applied to Joab, 2 Sam. xiv. 17. 20. speaking of angels as possessed of extraordinary wisdom, “ knowing all things “ that are in the earth ;” and having the most perfect discernment of characters; and Achih, a king of the Philistines, i Sam. xxix. 9. compares the innocence of David to that of an angel. Also David himself speaks of the angels as excelling in strength, Pf. ciii. 20.

If it be true, that some of these angels have finned, so as to have been cast out of heaven, and to continue still abandoned to impiety, making it their business to seduce mankind, and taking pleasure in doing them all kinds of injury (though, not knowing their situation, we cannot judge completely of their temptation, yet) we can hardly imagine, that they could have had much greater strength of mind than men are generally poffeffed of, or have had originally a disposition more favourable to virtue.

This

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

This fall of angels, I must own, however, appears to me to be very problematical ; and though it cannot be said that the thing is absolutely impoflible, it seems, upon the face of it, to be very improbable. Besides, if such exalted beings as these are supposed to have sinned, and have thereby become obnoxious to the divine displeasure, what end could it answer to them to be so afsiduous in seducing mankind ? Indeed, upon the supposition, that their existence and torments were to be everlasting, it may be conceived to give them a glooniy kind of satisfaction, to have brethren in iniquity for their companions in their sufferings. But this idea of never-ending punishment, refpecting any order of beings, as well as men, has, I apprehend, been shewn to be unreafonable and absurd.

The language of the scriptures is often highly figurative, which may account for the unknown principle, or source of evil, being personified in them, so as to be called Satan in Hebrew, and Devil, sveson@, in Greek; but whatever is actually ascribed to VOL. II. Ff

this

this being, will appear, if we consider the circumstances of the several narrations, to be derived from nothing but the irregular palfions of men, which are, of themselves, a cause abundantly adequate to the effect.

Indeed, the manner in which the sacred writers speak of the vices of those men, who are said to have been actuated by this evil principle, plainly enough intimates, that they did not, in reality, consider their guilt as shared with them by any other being who prompted and seduced them. Nay, the very contrary doctrine is strongly asserted by the apostle' James, who says, ch. i. 14. “ But .“ every man is tempted, when he is drawn “ away of his own lust, and enticed.” When our Lord said to Peter, on his suggesting that his sufferings were unworthy of him, Matt, xvi. 23. “ Get thee behind “ me, Satan,” the very indignation with which he spake, shows that he conceived the suggestion to have arisen only from Peter himself, who, in this case, was his Satan, or adversary, as opposing the great purposes which were to be answered by his

death. death. And, surely, the strong affection which Peter appears to have had for Jesus, joined with the narrowness of his views, may easily be supposed to account for his language. In like manner, all that may really be meant by Jesus being tempted by tbe devil, Matt. iv. may be, that the improper thoughts mentioned in the course of the narrative, either occurred to himself in his private meditations, or were suggested by some other person. .

When Satan is said to have stirred up David to number the people of Israel, i Chr. xxi. 1. the thought may, in fact, have arisen from his own pride only, which, being evil, is therefore ascribed to Satan ; and it is remarkable, that the very same scheme is by another historian, 2 Sam. xxiv. 1. ascribed to God, because the purposes of his providence were finally answered by it. So also the evil spirit from the Lord, which is said to have troubled Saul, 1 Sam. xvi. 14. was probably nothing but his own melancholy, or ill-humour, which was relieved by music. Ff 2

All

« AnteriorContinuar »