« ZurückWeiter »
order, and those who are of superior, being ministers of Christ ; 80 without doubt it also is in some respects in heaven, between those that are of lower, and those that are of higher degrees of glory. There, those that are most exalted in honour and happiness, though they are above the least, yet in some respects they are the least ; being ministers to others, and employed by God to minister to their good and happiness. These sayings of Christ, in Matth. xx. 25, &c., and Mark ix. 35, were spoken on occasion of the disciples manifesting an ambition to be greatest in his kingdom, by which they meant bis state of exaltation and glory; and so it is in some sort, even with respect to the man Christ Jesus himself, who is the very highest and most exalted of all creatures, and the head of all. He, to prepare himself for it, descended lowest of all, was most abased of any, and in some respects became least of all. Therefore, when Christ in these places directs that those that would be greatest among his disciples, should be the servants of the rest, and so in some respects, least; he enforces it with his own example. Matth. xx. 26, 27, 28. “ Whosoever will be great among you, let bim be your minister, and whosever will be chief among you, let him be your servant. Even so the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." And Luke xxii. 26, 27. “He that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he that is chief as he that doth serve, for whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he tbat sitteth at meat ? But I am among you as he that serveth.” None in the kingdom of heaven ever descended so low as Christ did, who descended as it were into the depths of hell. He suffered shame and wrath, and was made a curse. He went lower in these things than ever any other did, and this he did as a servant not only to God, but to men, in that he undertook to serve us, and minister to us in such dreadful drudgery, while we sit at mcat in quietness and rest, and partake of those dainties which he provides for us.
Christ took upon him to minister to us in the lowest service, which he represented and typified by that action of washing the disciples' feet, which he did chiefly for that end. Thus Christ is he that seems to be intended in Matth. xi. 11, by him "that is least in the kingdom of heaven;" who is there said to be greater than John the Baptist.
The design of God in thus ordering things, is to teach and show that he is all, and the creature nothing, and that all exaltation and dignity belong to him; and therefore those creatures that are most exalted shall in other respects be least and lowest. Thus, though the angels excel in wisdom and strength, and are advanced to glorious dignity, and are principalities and
powers, and kings of tho earth, yet God makes them all ministers to them who are much less than they, of inferior nature and degree. Thus, also, the saints who are most exalted in dignity are servants to others. The angelic nature is the highest and most exalted created nature; yet God is pleased to put greater honour upon our inferior nature, viz. the human, by causing that the Head and King of all creatures should be in the human nature, and that the saints in that nature in Christ, should be in many respects exalted above the angels, that the angelic nature may not magnify itself against the human ; and the man Christ Jesus, that creature who is above all, owes his superiority and dignity, not at all to himself, but to God; viz. to his union with a Divine person. Though he be above all, yet in some respects he is inferior; for he is not in the highest created nature, but in a nature that is inferior to the angelic. To prepare him for his exaltation above all, he was first brought lowest of all in suffering and humiliation, and in some respects in office, or in those parts of the office that were executed by him in his state of humiliation. Though the saints are exalted to glorious dignity, even to union and fellowship with God himself; to be in some respects divine in glory and happiness, and in many respects to be exalted above the angels; yet care is taken that it should not be in themselves, but in a person who is God, and they must be as it were emptied of themselves in order to it. And though the angels are exalted in themselves, yet they are ministers to them who are not exalted in themselves, but only in communion with a divine person as of free grace partaking with them. Thus wisely hath God ordered all things for his own glory, that however great and marvellous the exercises of his grace, and love, and condescension are to the creature, yet be alone may be exalted, and that he may be all in all. And though the creature be unspeakably and wonderfully advanced in honour by God's grace and love ; yet it is in such a way and manner, that even in its exaltation it might be humbled, and so as that its nothingness before God, and its absolute dependence on God, and subjection to him, might be manifested. Yet this humiliation or abasement, which is joined with the creatures' exaltation, is such as not to detract from the privilege and happiness of the exaltation. So far as exaltation is suitable for a creature, and is indeed a privilege and happiness to the creature, it is given to the creature and nothing taken from it. That only is removed that should carry any shadow of what belongs only to the Creator, and which might make the difference between the Creator and creature, and its absolute, infinite dependence on the Creator less manifest. That humiliation only is brought with the
exaltation that is suitable to that great humility that becomes the creature before the Creator. This humiliation does not detract any thing from the happiness of elect holy creatures, but adds to it, for it gratifies that humble disposition that they are of, It is exceeding sweet and delightful to them to be humbled and abased before God, to cast down their crowns at his feet as the four and twenty elders do in Rev. iv. 10. — And to abase themselves, and appear nothing, and ascribe all power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing to him. They will delight more in seeing God exalted than themselves, and they will not look on themselves the less honoured because that God appears to be all, even in their exaltation, but the more. These creatures that are most exalted will delight most in being abased before God, for they will excel in humility as much as in dignity and glory, as has been elsewhere observed. The man, Christ Jesus, who is the head of all creatures, is the most humble of all creatures. That in Matth. xviii. 4, “ Whosoever therefore humbleth himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven, is true, with respect to the humility that they exercise, both in this and in another world. They that have most humility in this world, will continue to excel in humility'in heaven; and the proposition is reciprocal. They that have the greatest humility, shall be most exalted, and shall be greatest in the kingdom of heaven, and they that are greatest in the kingdom of heaven, are most humble.
Corol. I. What has been said above, confirms the conclusion that some in heaven will be a kind of ministers in that society : teachers; ministers to their knowledge and love, and helpers of their joy, as ministers of the gospel are here.
Corol. II. Hence we may learn the sweet and perfect harmony that will reign throughout that glorious society, and how far those that are lowest will be from envying those that are highest, or the highest from despising the lowest,'for the highest shall be made ministers to the happiness of the lowest, and shall be even below them in humility, and the lowest shall have the greatest love to the highest for their superior excellency, and for the greater benefit which they shall receive from their ministration, as it is the disposition of the saints to love and honour their faithful ministers here in this world. :  Angels-why called Thrones, Dominions, Principalities and Powers. As the angels are made to be employed as the ministers of God's providence of the government of the world, and as they are beings of a limited understanding, and not equally capable of understanding and managing the affairs of the whole universe, or of the whole extent and compass of
divine providence, or of any part indifferently, as they may be of affairs of some particular kind, or system, or series of events, or of some particular part of the universe ; (for it must veeds be so with all that are of limited understanding, that they must be more capable of the care and management of things in a certain parti
a cular sphere than of any thing indifferently without any fixed limits:) so it is very reasonable to suppose from bence that the different angels are appointed to different kinds of work, and that their ministry more especially respects some certain limited parts of the universality of things which God has in some respect committed to their care, so that over these things they have a ministerial dominion, some of larger and others of lesser extent; some in a more exalted, others a less humble station. So they are a kind of princes under God, over such and such parts of the creation, or within such a certain sphere. Though their dominion be only ministerial, (as the dominion of ministers of the gospel, or angels of the churches is,) yet it is very honourable and exalted. It is a very honourable work in wbich they are employed, an image of the work of the Son of God, as God man, who has the vicegerency of the whole universe, and so they as well as the princes of Israel are called gods, Elohim, Ps. xcii. 7. “Worship him, all ye gods,” which is rendered by the apostle, • Let all the angels of God worship him.” And they are all called “The sons of God,” as they are, Job xxxviii. · When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.” They may, on this account also, be fitly compared to stars, (as they are here, and also in the song of Deborah, “ The stars in their courses fought against Sisera,”) not only for their brightness in wisdom and holiness, and for their being the native inhabitants of heaven, and obeying the commands of God, as the stars do, but because they have their particular dominion set them in the lower universe, as the stars have, Job xxxviii. 33. “ Canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth?" And also because they have their certain sphere and course to which they are limited in heaven. These seem in part to be signified by the kings of the earth, that shall bring their honour and glory into the church. They are made chiefly for a ministerial dominion over, and management of, the world of mankind on the earth, as ministering spirits unto Christ; and on the account of their honourable place and trust in heaven, they may be called ministers of the new earth, there spoken of in that chapter.
God hath concealed the particular spheres of the angels' dominion and ministry, that we might not be tempted to idolatry. They, therefore, that worship angels under a notion of such and such angels having a superintendency over such particular persons or affairs, intrude into those things that they have not seen.
It is not reasonable to suppose that the angels are called thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers, merely for the honour they have in their great abilities and excellent qualifications, for the words do properly denote rule and authority. Earthly rulers are called principalities and powers. Tit. iii. i. “Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, and to obey magistrates."
(937] Angels elect—their dependence on Christ. Two questions may be raised with respect to the elect angels.
Ques. I. How far the elect angels are dependent on Christ for eternal life?
Ans. I. Probably the service appointed them as the great trial of their obedience, was serving Christ, or ministering to him in bis great work that he had undertaken with respect to mankind.
Il. When Lucifer rebelled and set up himself as a head in opposition to God and Christ, and drew away a great number of the angels after him, Christ, the Son of God, manifested himself as an opposite head, and appeared graciously to dissuade and restrain by bis grace the elect angels from hearkening to Lucifer's temptation, so that they were upheld and preserved from eternal destruction at this time of great danger by the free and sovereign distinguishing grace of Christ. Herein Christ was the Saviour of the elect angels, for though he did not save them as he did elect men from the ruin they had already deserved, and were condemned to, and the miserable state they were already in, yet he saved them from eternal destruction they were in great danger of, and otherwise would have fallen into with the other angels. The elect angels joined with bim, the glorious Michael, as their Captain, while the other angels hearkened to Lucifer and joined with him, and then was that literally true that was fulfilled afterwards figuratively. Rev, xii. “ When there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not, neither was there place found any more in heaven, and the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent called the Devil and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world, he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him."
III. They were dependent on the sovereign grace of Christ to uphold them and assist them in this service, and to keep them from ruining themselves, as the fallen angels had done; by the fall of the angels, especially of Lucifer, the greatest, brightest, and most intelligent of all creatures, they were taught their own emptiness and insufficiency for themselves, and were led humbly in a self-diffidence to look to Christ, to seek to bim, and depend on him, in whom it pleased the Father that all fullness should dwell to preserve them. So that they all along hung upon him. Through