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washed out of my eyes, that I might behold, together with the presence, the numbers, the beauties, and excellencies of those my ever-present guardians !
When we are convinced of the wonderful magnitude of those goodly stars, which we see moving in the firmament, we cannot but acknowledge, that if God had made but one of them, he could never have been enough magnified in his power: but, when our sense joins with our reason, to force upon us, withal, an acknowledgment of the infinite numbers of those great luminaries; now, we are so far to seek of due admiration, that we are utterly lost in the amazement at this stupendous proof of omnipotence.
Neither is it otherwise with the invisible host of heaven. If the power of one angel be such, that he were able, at his Maker's appointment, to redact the world to nothing; and the nature of any one so eminent, that it far surmounts any part of the visible creation; what shall we say to those next-to-infinite Numbers of mighty and majestical spirits, wherewith the great God of Heaven hath furnished his throne and footstool ?
I know not upon what grounds that (by some, magnified) Prophetess *, could so precisely compute, that if all men should be reckoned up, from the first Adam to the last man that shall stand upon the earth, there might be to each man assigned more than ten angels. Ambrose's account is yet fuller; who makes all mankind to be that one lost sheep in the parable, and the angels (whose choir the Great Shepherd left for a time, to come down to this earthly wilderness) to be the ninety and nine. Lo here, well near a hundred for one. Yet even that number is poor, in comparison of the reckoning of him t, who pretends to fetch it from the Chosen Vessel rapt into paradise ; who presumes to tell us there are greater numbers of angels in every several rank, than there is of the particulars of whatsoever material things in this world. The Bishop of Herbipolis I instanceth boldly in stars, in leaves, in spires of grass. But, sure I am, had that Dennis of Areopagus been in St. Paul's room, and supplied his rapture, he could no more have computed the number of angels, than the best arithmetician, standing upon a hill, and seeing a huge Xerxes.like army swarming in the valley, can give a just reckoning of the number of those heads.
Surely, when our Saviour speaks of more than twelve legions of angels, (Matt. xxvi. 53.) he doth not say, how many more: if those twelve, according to Jerome's (though too short) computation, amount to seventy two thousand, the more than twelve were doubtless more than many millions. He, that made them, can tell us. The Beloved disciple in Patmos, as by inspiration from that God, says, I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne, and the beasts, and the elders; and the reumber of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands;
Rev. v. 11. Now the elders were but twenty four, and the beasts were but four : all those other thousands were angels : and, if so many were about his throne, how many do we think were about his missions! Before him, the Prophet Daniel (betwixt whom and the Evangelist there is so perfect correspondence, that we may well say, Daniel was the John of the Old Testament, and John the Daniel of the New) hath made the like reckoning : Thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him ; Dan. vii. 10. But Bildad the Shubite, in one word say's more than all, Is there any number of his armies ? Job XXV. 3.
Lo, his armies are past all number: how much more his several soldiers ! So as it may not perhaps seem hard to believe Dionysius, that the angels but of one rank are more than can be comprehended by any arithmetical number; or Gregory, who determines them numerable only to God that made them, to men innumerable.
O great God of Heaven, how doth this set forth the Infinite Majesty of thine Omnipotent Deity, to be thus attended! We judge of the magnificence of princes, according to the number and quality of their retinue and guard, and other their military powers; and yet each one of these hath an equally absolute life and being of his own, receiving only a pay from his sovereign : what shall we then think of thee, the great King of Eternal Glory, that hast before thy throne innumerable hosts of powerful and glorious spirits, of thine own making and upholding?
And how safe are we, under so many and so mighty protectors ! It might be perhaps well meant, and is confessed to be seconded with much reverend antiquity, the conceit, that each man hath a special angel designed for his custody *: and, if but so, we are secure enough from all the danger of whatsoever hostile machinations; however this may seem some scanting of the bountiful provision of the Almighty, who hath pleased to express his gracious respects to one man in the allotment of many guardians : for, if Jacob speak of one angel, David speaks of more; He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways ; Psalm xci. 11. And even those, which have thought good to abet this piece of platonic divinity concerning the single guardianship of angels, have yet yielded, that, according to several relations, each one hath many spiritual keepers, Insomuch as the forecited Fornerus t, late Bishop of Wirtzburg, durst assure his auditors, that each of them had ten angels, at least, assigned to his custody; according to the respects of their subordinate interests : besides their own person, of their family, parish, fraternity, city, diocese, country, office, church, world. Yet even this computation is niggardly and pinching I, since the abundant store and bounty of the Almighty can as well afford centuries as decades of guardians.
* Cuique electo ordinariè certum propriumque angelum, qui perpetuus sit ejus custos el comes. Zanch, de operibus creat. I. iii. c. 15. f Ex quo facilè colligitur, ex vobis unumquemque habere plus quàm decem Angelos. Forner. de Custod. Ang. Serm. v.p. 56. How scant then is the account of the great and
Howsoever, why should it not be all one to us: since there is no less safety in the hands of one, than many ; no less care of us from many, than from one? Should but one angel guard millions of men, his power could secure them no less than a single charge; but, now that we are guarded with millions of angels, what can the gates of hell do ?
But, what number soever be employed about us, sure I am, that, together with them, those, that attend the throne of their Maker, make up no less, as Nazianzen justly accounts them, than a world of spirits : a world, so much more excellent than this visible, by how much it is more abstracted from our weak senses.
() ye Blessed Spirits, ye are ever by me, ever with me, ever about me: I do as good as see you; for I know you to be here: I reverence your glorious persons ; I bless God for you ; I walk awfully, because I am ever in your eyes; I walk confidently, because I am ever in your hands. How should I be ashamed, that in this piece of Theology, I should be outbid by very Turks; whose priests shut up their devotions with an apprecatory mention of your presence *, as if this were the upshot of all blessings! I am sure it is that, wherein, next to my God and Saviour, I shall ever place my greatest comfort and confidence ; neither hath earth or heaven any other besides, that looks like it.
THE POWER OF ANGELS. MULTITUDES, even of the smallest and weakest creatures, have been able to produce great effects: the swarms but of fies and lice could amate the great and mighty king of Egypt; and all his forces could not free him and his peers, from so impotent adversaries. But when a multitude is seconded with Strength, how must it needs be irresistible ! so it is, in these blessed spirits : even their * Omnipotent Maker, who best knows what is derived from him,
styles them, by his apostle, powers; Eph. iii. 10. Col. Ü. 10: and, by his psalmist, mighty ones in strength ; Psalm cii. 20. A smali force seems great to the weak ; but that power, which is commanded by the Almighty, must needs be transcendently great.
We best judge of powerfulness, by the effects: how suddenly had one angel dispatched every firstborn in Egypt; and, after them, the hundred fourscore and five thousand of the proud Assyrian army! 2 Kings xix, 35: and, if each man had been a legion, with what ease had it been done by that potent spirit! Neither are they less able to preserve, than to destroy. That of Aquinas is a great word: “ One angel is of such power, that he were able to govern all the corporeal creatures of the world.” Justly was it exploded, as the wild heresy of Simon Magus, and his clients the Menandrians, That the Angels made the world. No; this was the sole work of him, that made them: but, if we say that it pleases God by their ministration to sway and order the marvellous affairs of this great universe, we shall not, I suppose, vary from truth. If we look to the highest part thereof, philosophers have gone so far as to teach us, that which is seconded by the allowance of some great divines, That these blessed Intelligences are they, by whose agency, under their Almighty Creator, the heavens and the glorious luminaries thereof continue their ever-constant and regular motions. And, if there fall out any preternatural immutations in the elements, any strange concussations of the earth, any direful prodigies in the sky, whither should they be imputed, but to these mighty angels; whom it pleaseth the Most High God to employ in these extraordinary services ? That dreadful magnificence, which was in the delivering of the Law on Mount Sinai, in fire, smoke, thunderings, lightnings, voices, earthquakes; whence was it, but by the operation of angels ? and, indeed, as they are the nearest, both in nature and place, to the Majesty of the Highest; so it is most proper for them to participate most of his power, and to exercise it in obedience to his sovereignty. As, therefore, he is that Infinite Spirit, who doth all things, and can do no more than all; so they, as his immediate subordinates, are the means whereby he executeth his illimited power, in and upon this whole created world; Joel iii. 11. Whence it is, that in their glorious appearances, they have been taken for Jehovah himself; by Hagar; by Manoah and his wife; yea, by the better eyes of the father of the faithful; Gen. xvi. 13. Judg. xiii. 22. Gen. xxii, 14.
voluminous Abulensis, who, upon Matt. xviii. 10, determines that the Blessed Virgin had two angel-keepers : one, the most noble of the angelical order, which guarded her all her life; the other, Gabriel, an archangel of the second order, who attended her from the time of Christ's conception, until his passion! Bernard. I. vi. c. 10. As also that of Degrassalius, That the French King hath two angelguardians : one, in regard of his private person; another, in respect to his royal dignity! Degrassal, 1. 1. Jure 20. Regal," Franciæ, * Mr. Blunt's Voyage to the Levant,
Now, Lord, what a protection hast thou provided for thy poor worms, and not men, creeping here on thine earth! and what can we fear, in so mighty and sure hands? He, that passeth with a strong convoy through a wild and perilous desert, scorns the danger of wild beasts or robbers; no less, than if he were in a strong tower at home: so do we the onsets of the powers of darkness, while we are thus invincibly guarded.
When God promised Moses, that an angel should go before Israel; and yet, withal, threatened the subduction of his own presence; I marvel not, if the holy man were no less troubled, than if they had been left destitute and guardless; and that he ceased not his importunity, till he had won the gracious engagement of the Almighty, for his presence in that whole expedition. For, what is the greatest angel in heaven, without his Maker? But, let thy favour, ( God, order and accompany the deputation of the lowest of thine angels; what can all the troops of hell hurt us? As soon may the walls of heaven be scaled, and thy throne disturbed; as he can be foiled, that is defended with thy power. Were it possible to conceive, that the Almighty should be but a looker-on in the
conflict of spirits, we know that the good angels have so much advantage of their strength, as they have of their station; neither could those subdued spirits stand in the encounter : but now, he, that is strong in our weakness, is strong in their strength for us. Blessed be God for them, as the Author of them, and their protection; blessed be they under God, as the means used by him for our protection and blessings.
THE KNOWLEDGE OF ANGELS. IF Sampson could have had his full strength in his mill, when he wanted his eyes, it would have little availed him; such is power without knowledge: but where both of these concur in one, how can they fail of effect? Whether of these is more eminent in the blessed spirits, it is not easy to determine.
So perfectly Knowing are they, as that the very heathen philosophers have styled them by the name of Intelligences; as if their very being were made up of understanding. Indeed, what is there in this whole compass of the large universe, that is hid from their eyes? Only the closet of man's heart is locked up from them; as reserved solely to their Maker: yet so, as that they can, by some insensible chinks of those secret notifications which fall from us, look into them also. All other things, whether secrets of nature, or closest counsels or events, are as open to their sight, as the most visible objects are to ours.
They do not, as we mortals are wont, look through the dim and horny spectacle of senses; or understand by the mediation of phantasms : but rather, as clear mirrors, they receive at once the full representations of all intelligible things; having, besides that connatural light which is universally in them all, certain special illuminations from the Father of Lights.
Even we men think we know something; neither may our good God lose the thank of his bounty, this way: but, alas, he, that is reputed to have known most of all the heathen* , whom some + have styled the Genius of Nature, could confess, that the clearest understanding is to those things which are most manifest, but as a bat's eyes to the sun, Do we see but a worm crawling under our feet, we know not what that is, which in itself gives it a being: do we hear but a bee humming about our ears, the greatest naturalist cannot know, whether that noise come from within the body, or from the mouth, or from the wings of that fly 1: how can we then hope or pretend, to know those things, which are abstruse and remote ? But these heavenly spirits do not only know things as they are in themselves, and in their inward and immediate causes; but do clearly see the First and Universal Cause of all things, and that in his glorious essence : how much more do they know our shallow
* Arist. Metaphys. I. ii. t Bonavent, Vulcan. præf. in lib. De mundo. * Lord Bacon, in his Natural Hist,