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are rational: And that in all thefe Kinds of Creatures, there are alfo feveral Degrees, or Steps, whereby Nature rifes to the Top of that kind, which hath fome Refemblance of the next fort of Beings above them. For fome Brutes are more fenfible and apprehenfive than others; and fome Plants more beautiful, and approaching alfo nearer to Sense; and of things without Life, fome are far more fplendid and amazing than their Neighbours. It was incredible therefore they thought, that above Man there fhould be no Degrees of Being, of feveral Sorts alfo, till we come to God himfelf: They conceived the Air, and the Sky, all thofe vaft Tracts of Space, which we behold and imagine, not to be empty Wilderneffes and barren Defarts, but as fully replenished and peopled with Spirits and invifible Creatures, as this Earth is with Men and other Bodies. And that it was as abfurd to think there fhould be no Creatures between God and us, as that there fhould be none between us and Stones. This Argument, together with thofe from Senfe, they took to be no less than a Demonftration.
To which if you add the more full Confirmation, which the Revelation of God unto the Jews, and unto us Chriftians, hath given us of this Point, there being feveral Appearances of Angels to the Fathers, and unto Mofes, and ftill more illuftrious, to our Saviour Chrift and his Apoftles, who have verified it abundantly to us, I do not fee how we can doubt of this Truth, unless we will difbelieve all Hiftory, nay, our Reason, and the very Senfes of Mankind.
This being then agreed upon by all People,whe ther mere Heathens, or Jews, or Chriftians, or Mahometans; you must know that there is alfo as general a Confent, that these Angels or spiritual Creatures, are the Ministers of the most high God; they are represented to us, even in the holy Scriptures, as Part of the celeftial Court, that are employed by God, the Sovereign of the World, as he pleases. And fo much the Word Ayleλoi, Angels, imports Messengers fent by him upon fuch Errands to this World, as he thinks good to grant Commiffion to them, and order them to appear in.
I find alfo, that there is as univerfal a Belief, that there are feveral Ranks and Orders of them, (as there are of other kinds of Beings) and that they are not all of one Quality and Dignity, but fome much fuperior to others, who are, as it were, the Commanders of the reft of that heavenly Hoft. This fome think is expreffed in the Language of holy Writ, by Thrones, and Dominions, and Principalities, and Powers. Howfoever, I fhall have occafion to illuftrate the Truth of the Thing, before I have done, for the full Explication of my Text.
And, Laftly, that I may no longer hold you in this Preface, I find it the conftant Opinion of the World, that thefe Angels are affigned to feveral Offices, and prefide even over all Creatures here below. There being fome who are not only pos, as Mofes fpeaks, the Guardians of the feveral Nations, of the World, but κοσμικῶν τοιχείων, Confervators and Keepers of
the Elements of this World, as Arethas fpeaks,
From which Words, I defign to difcourse of these two Things.
First, What the Office or Employment of the holy Angels is, to which they are affigned by the Soveraign Lord of all, in regard of Men, expreffed here in these Terms, they behold the face of my Father which is in Heaven.
Secondly, What Perfons they are for whom they are most officious, and of whom they take the greatest Care, included in the Word, their, Chrift's little Ones, the fmalleft and feebleft of the Faithful, (fpoken of before ;) from which we may gather what they do for the rest of the Body of Chrift.
Which two Things being cleared, it will be most seasonable to touch, in the Conclufion, up on the Coherence and Dependance of these Words, with the rest of our Saviour's Difcourfe from the beginning of this Chapter; they being a Reafon, as you may difcern by the Particle, for, why we should be careful to behave our felves to the Comfort and Incouragement even of the meaneft Chriftians.
I begin with the first, the Office and Employment of the holy Angels for our Good and Welfare, which unless we understand, we shall not be fo grateful to God, as we ought, for their Miniftry, it being commonly Invifible, and to be difcerned by nothing but a ferious Mind, efpecially when poffefs'd with a belief of the Writings of the Men of God.
THE Scripture then, you must know, reprefents God unto us as the Majefty of Heaven and of Earth, the Supream Lord and Governour of all Things; who although he be every where, yet exhibites or fhows his moft glorious Prefence inore especially in the Heavens, which are called the Throne of God. There his Majefty doth, as it were, keep its Court, from thence he issues out his Orders, concerning the Government, the Preservation and Punishment of all his Subjects; and there, confequently, the Divine Majesty and Glory is attended by the moft Noble and Excellent of them all, as a King among ushath those ftill about him who are of the higheft Quality, and eminent Rank in his Dominions. Now as thofe Perfons wait upon an earthly Prince, and are ready by him to be fent as his Embaffadors or Messengers, in any Employment that he hath occafion to make ufe of their Service: Juft fo are the Angels reprefented as the glorious Minifters of Almighty God, who attending upon him in his Celeftial Court, are always at hand to be dispatched about fuch Bufinefs, and to take upon them fuch Charges as he thinks good to commit to them throughout the whole World, for the good of his lower fort of Subjects, especially of us the Children of Men.
And that I take to be the principal meaning of this Phrafe in my Text, their Angels behold the face of my Father; as if he had faid, they Gg 2