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INVISIBLE WORLD. .
THE THIRD BOOK :-OF THE EVIL ANGELS.
OF THEIR FIRST SIN AND FALL. HITHERTO our thoughts have walked through the lightsome and glorious regions of the spiritual world. Now it is no less requisite, to cast some glances towards those dreadful and darksome parts of it; where nothing dwells but horror and torment. Of the former, it concerns us to take notice for our comfort; of these latter, for terror, caution, resistance.
I read it reported by an ancient traveller, Haytonus, of the order of the Premonstratenses; and cousin, as he saith, to the then King of Armenia ; that he saw a country in the kingdom of Georgia, which he would not have believed except his eyes had seen it, called Hamsen, of three days' journey about; covered over with palpa. ble darkness; wherein some desolate people dwell: for those, which inhabit upon the borders of it, might hear the neighing of horses, and crowing of cocks, and howling of dogs, and other noises; but no man could go into them, without loss of himself.*
Surely, this may seem some slight representation of the condition of Apostate Angels, and Reprobate Souls. Their region is the kingdom of darkness: they have only light enough, to see themselves eternally miserable; neither are capable of the least glimpse of comfort or mitigation. But, as it falls out with those, which in a dark night bear their own light, that they are easily discerned by an enemy that waits for them, and good aim may be taken at them, even while that enemy lurks upseen of them; so it is with us, in these spiritual ambushes of the infernal powers: their darkness, and our light, gives them no small advantage against us. The same power, that clears and strengthens the eyes of our soul to see those over-excelling glories of the good angels, can also enable us to pierce through that hellish obscurity; and to descry so much of the natures and condition of those evil spirits, as may render us both wary and thankful.
* Fr. Haytonus in Passagio Terra Sanctæ. An. 1300. editus à Nicol. Salcone,
In their first creation, there were no angels, but of light. That any of them should bring evil with him from the moment of his first being, is the exploded heresy of a Manes; a man, fit for his name; and, if Prateolus may be believed, of the Trinitarians : yea, blasphemy, rather; casting mire in the face of the most pure and holy Deity. For, from an absolute goodness, what can proceed but good? And, if any then of those spirits could have been originally evil, whence could he pretend to fetch it ? Either there must be a predominant principle of evil, or a derivation of it from the fountain of infinite goodness; either of which were very monsters of impiety. All were once glorious spirits: sin changed their hue, and made many of them ugly devils.
Now, straight I am apt to think, “ Lord, how should sin come into the world ? how into angels? God made all things good : sin could be no work of his. How should the good, that he made, produce the evil, which he hates?” Even this curiosity must receive an answer.
The great God, when he would make his noblest creature, found it fit to produce him in the nearest likeness to himself; and therefore to endue him with perfection of understanding and freedom of will: either of which being wanting, there could have been no excellency in that, which was intended for the best. Such, therefore, did be make his angels. Their will, being made free, had power of their own inclinations : those free inclinations of some of them swayed them awry from that highest end, which they should have solely aimed at; to a faulty respect, unto oblique ends of their own.
Hence was the beginning of sin: for, as it falls out in causes efficient, that when the secondary agent swerves from the order and direction of the principal, straightways a fault thereupon ensues; as when the leg, by reason of crookedness, fails of the performance of that motion, which the appetitive power enjoined, a halting immediately follows: so it is in final causes also, as Aquinas acutely: when the secondary end is not kept in, under the order of the principal and highest end, there grows a sin of the will, whose object is ever good; but, if a supposed and self-respective good be suffered to take the wall of the best and absolute good, the will instantly proves vicious. As, therefore, there can be no possible fault incident into the will of him, who propounds to himself as his only good, the utmost end of all things, which is God bimself; so, in whatsoever willer, whose own particular good is contained under the order of another higher good, there may, without God's special confirmation, happen a sin in the will. Thus it was with these Revolting Angels: they did not order their own particular, supposed, good, to the supreme and utmost end; but suffered their will to dwell in an end of their own: and, by this means, did put themselves into the place of God; not regulating their wills by another superior, but making their will the rule of their own desires ; which was, in ellect, to affect an equality with the Highest. Not that their ambition went so high, as to aspire to a height of goodness or greatness, equal to their Infinite Creator: this, as the great Leader of the School hath determined it, could not fall into any intelligent nature, since it were no other, than to affect his own not-being; forasmuch as there can be no being at all, without a distinction of degrees, and subordination of
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This was, I suppose, the threshold of leaving their first estate. Now it was with angelical spirits, as it is with heavy bodies: when they began to fall, they went down at once; speedily passing through many degrees of wickedness. Let learned Gerson see upon what grounds he conceives, that, in the beginning, their sin might be venial; afterwards, arising to the height of maliciousness: whom Salmeron seconds by seven reasons, alledged to that purpose; labouring to prove, that, before their precipitation, they had large time and place of repentance. The point is too high for any human determination : this we know too well by ourselves, that even the will of man, when it is once let loose to sin, finds no stay; how much more of those active spirits, which, by reason of their simple and spiritual nature, convert themselves wholly to what they do incline!
What were the particular grounds of their defection and ruin? what was their first sin? it is neither needful, nor possible to know. I see the wrecks of this curiosity in some of the ancients; who, misguiding themselves by a false compass of misapplied texts, have split upon those shelves, which their miscarriage shall teach me to avoid." If they have made Lucifer, (that is, the morning star) a Devil; and mistake the King of Babylon (Isaiah xiv. 12.) for the Prince of Darkness, as they have palpably done; I dare not follow them. Rather let me spend my thoughts, in wondering at the dreadful justice, and the incomprehensible mercy, of our Great and Holy God; who, having cast these Apostate Angels into heil, and reserved them in everlasting chains under darkness, unto the Judg. ment of the Great Day, hath yet graciously found out a way to re. deem miserable mankind from that horrible pit of destruction. It is not for me, to busy myself in finding out reasons of difference, for the aggravation of the sin of angels, and abatement of man's; as, that sin began in them, they were their own tempters; that they sinned irreparably, since their fall was to them as death is to us : however it were, Cursed be the man, who shall say, that the sin of any creature exceeds the power of thy mercy, O God, which is no other than thyself, infinite. While, therefore, I lay one hand upon my mouth, I lift up the other in a silent wonder, with the Blessed Apostle, and say, How unsearchable are thy judgments, and thy ways past finding out ! Rom. xi. 33.
SECT. II. OF THE NUMBER OF APOSTATE SPIRITS. Who can but tremble, to think of the dreadful precipice of these damned angels; which, from the highest pitch of heaven, were suddenly thrown down into the dungeon of the nethermost hull? Who can but tremble, to think of their Number, Power, Malice, Cunning, and deadly Machinations ?
Had this defection been single, yet it had been fearful: should but one star fall down from heaven, with what horror do we think of the wreck, that would ensue to the whole world! how much more, when the Great Dragon draws down the third part of the stars with his tail! And, lo, these angels were as so many spiritual stars in the firmament of glory. It was here, as in the rebellion of great peers, the common sort are apt to take part in any insurrection.
There are orders and degrees, even in the region of confusion : we have learned of our Saviour to know there is a devil and his angels; and Jewish tradition hath told us of a Prince of Devils.
It was in all likelihood, some prime angel of heaven, that first started aside from his station, and led the ring of this highest and first revolt: millions sided with him, and had their part both in his sin and punishment.
Now, how formidable is the Number of these evil and hostile spirits! Had we the eyes of that holy hermit, for such the first were, we might see the air full of these malignant spirits, laying snares for miserable mankind. And, if the possessors of one poor demoniac could style themselves Legion; a name, that, in the truest account, contains no less than ten cohorts, and every cohort fifty companies, and every company twenty-five soldiers, to the number of one thousand two hundred and twenty-five: what an army of these hellish fiends do we suppose is that, wherewith whole mankind is beleaguered, all the world over! Certainly, no man living, as Tertullian and Nissen have too truly observed, can, from the very hour of his nativity to the last minute of his dissolution, be free from one of these spiritual assailants; if not many, at once. The ejected spirit returns to his former assault, with seven worse than himself.
Even where there is equality of power, inequality of number must needs be a great advantage: a Hercules himself is no match for two antagonists. Yea, were their strength much less than ours, if we be but as a flock of goats feeding upon the hills, when the evil spirits, as the Midianites and Amalekites were against Israel, are like grasshoppers in the valley ; what hope, what possibility were there, if we were left in our own hands, for safety or prevalence ?
But now, alas, their number is great; but their power is more. Even these evil angels are styled, by him, that knew them, no less than Principalities and Powers, and Rulers of the Darkness of this World, and Spiritual Wickednesses in heavenly places. They lost not their strength, when they left their station. It is the rule of Dionysius, too true I fear, That in the Reprobate Angels their na tural abilities still hold*. No other than desperate, therefore, were the condition of whole mankind, if we were turned loose into the lists, to grapple with these mighty spirits.
* Naturalia in Damnatis Angelis manent splendidissima.
Courage, O my soul; and, together with it, victory. Let thine eyes be but open, as Gehazi's, and thou shalt see more with us than against us. One good angel is able to chase whole troops of these malignant: for, though their natural powers, in regard of the substance of them, be still retained; yet, in regard of the exercise and execution of them they are abated, and restrained by the overruling order of divine justice and mercy; from which, far be that infinite incongruity, that evil should prevail above good*. The same God, therefore, who so disposeth the issue of these human contentions, that the race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong, cowardiseth and daunteth these mighty and insolent spirits ; so as they cannot stand before one of these glorious angels; nor prevail any further, than his most wise providence hath contrived to permit, for his own most holy purposes.
However yet we be, upon these grounds, safe in the good hands of the Almighty; and of those his blessed guardians, to whom he hath committed our charge: yet, it well befits us, to take notice of those powerful executions of the evil angels, which it pleaseth the great Arbiter of the World to give way unto; that we may know what cause we have, both of vigilance and gratitude.
OF THE POWER OF DEVILS. No dwarf will offer to wrestle with a giant. It is an argument of no small Power, as well as boldness of that proud spirit, that he durst strive with Michael the archangel: and though he were then foiled in the conflict, yet he ceaseth not still to oppose his hierarchy to the celestial; and, not there prevailing, he pours out his tyranny, where he is suffered, on this inferior world: one while, fetching down fire from heaven, which the messenger called the fire of God, upon the flocks and shepherds of Job, Job i. 16; another while, blustering to the air, with hurrying winds and furious tempests, breaking down the strongest towers and turning up the stoutest oaks, tearing asunder the hardest rocks and rending of the tops of the firmest mountains : one while, swelling up the raging sea to sudden inundations; another while, causing the earth to totter and tremble under our feet.
Would we descend to the particular demonstrations of the powerful operations of evil spirits, this discourse would have no end.
If we do but cast our eyes upon Jannes and Jambres, the Egyptian Sorcerers, (in whom we have formerly instanced in another treatise, to this purpose) we shall see enough to wonder at. How close did they, for a time, follow Moses at the heels; imitating those miraculous works, which God had appointed and enabled him to do for Pharaoh's conviction! Had not the faith of that worthy servant of God been invincible, how blank must he
* The original has “God:” but I suspect it is an error of the press for “ good."