Angels – Miscellanies by Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)
I CANNOT see why it should be thought more disagreeable to reason to suppose, that angels may have influence on matter so as to cause those alterations in it, which are beyond the established laws of matter, more than to suppose that our spirits should have such an influence. And I do not see why other spirits should not have influence on matter according to other laws; or why, if we suppose spirits have an influence on matter, that it must necessarily be according to the same established rules as our spirits. We find that from such motions of mind there follows such an alteration in such and such matter, according to established rules; and those rules are entirely at the pleasure of him that establishes them. And why we should not think that God establishes other rules for other spirits, I cannot imagine. And if we should suggest, that according to established laws, angels do make alterations in the secret springs of bodies, and so of minds, that otherwise would not be, I cannot see why it should be accounted more of a miracle than that our souls can make alterations in the matter of our hands and feet, which otherwise would not be.
 Angels confirmed. The angels that stood are doubtless confirmed in holiness, and their allegiance to God; so that they never will sin, and they are out of every danger of it. But yet I believe God makes use of means to confirm them. They were confirmed by the sight of the terrible destruction that God brought upon the angels that fell. They see what a dreadful thing it is to rebel. They were further confirmed by the manifestation God had made of his displeasure against sin, by the eternal damnation of reprobates amongst men, and by the amazing discovery of his holy jealousy and justice in the sufferings of Christ. They are confirmed by finding, by experience, their own happiness in standing, and finding the mistake of the angels that fell, with respect to that which was their temptation, and by new and greater manifestations of the glory of God, which have been successively made in heaven, and by his dispensations towards the church, and above all, by the work of redemption by Jesus Christ. Eph. iii. 10. 1 Tim. iii. 16. 1 Peter i. 12. Vide No. 515.
Corol. Hence we learn that the angels were not concerned in the work of redemption by Jesus Christ.
So I believe the saints in heaven are made perfectly holy and impeccable, by means, viz. By the beatific vision of God in Christ in glory; by experiencing so much the happiness of holiness, its happy nature and issue; by seeing the wrath of God on wicked men, &c.
 The angels of heaven, though a superior order of being, and of a more exalted nature and faculties by far than men, are yet all ministering spirits sent forth to minister to them that shall be the heirs of salvation; and so in some respect are made inferior to the saints in honour. So likewise the angels of the churches, the ministers of the gospel that are of a higher order and office than other saints, yet they are, by Christ’s appointment, ministers and servants to others, and are least of all, as Matt. xx. 25, 26, 27. “Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.” Matt. xxiii. 8, 9, 10, 11, 12. “But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.” And Mark ix. 35. “If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.” It is as it is in the body natural, those parts that we account more noble and honourable are, as it were, ministers to the more inferior, to guard them, and serve them, as the apostle observes, 1 Cor. xii. 23, 24. “And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked.”. God’s ways are all analogous, and his dispensations harmonize one with another. As it is between the saints that are of an inferior order of beings, and the angels which are of more exalted natures and degrees, and also between those Christians on earth that are of inferior order, and those who are of superior, being ministers of Christ; so 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 Matt. xx. 25, &c. and Mark ix. 35. were spoken on occasion of the disciples manifesting an ambition to be greater in his kingdom, by which they meant his 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. Matt. xx.26, 27, 28. “Whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister, and whosoever 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 served? is not he that sitteth at meat? But I am among you as he that served.” 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 meat 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 Matt. 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 the 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 marvelous the exercises of his grace, and love, and condescension are to the creature, yet he 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 Matt. 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 needs 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 particular sphere than of any thing indifferently without any fixed limits;) so it is very reasonable to suppose from hence 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 which 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, Etohim, 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 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 rate 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.”
 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 his great work that he had undertaken with respect to mankind.
II. 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 his 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 him, 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 deceived 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 him, and depend on him, in whom it pleased the Father that all fulness should dwell to preserve them. So that they all along hung upon him. Through the whole course of their obedience during their time of trial, having no absolute promise, as believers in Christ have amongst men of perseverance in one act of faith, but only God the Father had revealed to them that if they were preserved, it must be by influence and help from his Son, and also made known to them the infinite riches of the grace of his Son, and its sufficiency for them, and given the experience of it in preserving them when the other angels fell, and God directed them to seek to his Son for help. But this humble dependence was part of their duty or work by which they were to obtain eternal life, and it was not as it is with men, the fruit of the purchase of life already made, the first act of which entitles to all other fruits of this purchase through eternity. Thus angels did depend on Christ, and they were supported by strength and grace from him freely communicated; it was sovereign grace that he was not obliged to afford them, for he was not obliged to afford them any more grace than he did the angels that fell, so that it can truly be said of the angels, that they have eternal life by sovereign grace through Christ in a way of self-emptiness, self-diffidence, and humble dependence on him. So far is the way of the elect angels’ receiving eternal life like that of elect men’s receiving of it.
IV. Christ is their Judge, and they actually receive their reward at his hands as their Judge, as I have elsewhere shown.
V. They not only have the reward of eternal life adjudged to them by Christ, but actually, continually, and eternally derive it from him as their head of life and divine influence, the Spirit is given them through him.
VI. They have their Happiness in him in this brightness of God’s glory and express image. It is that they behold the glory and love of God, and so have eternal life in the enjoyment of God. Thus Christ is the tree of life in paradise, on whose fruit all its inhabitants live to all eternity, and the Lamb is the light of that glorious city.
Quest. II. How far the angels are dependent on Christ as God man, and have benefit by his incarnation, sufferings, and exaltation, and the work of redemption that he wrought out for mankind?
Ans. I. The work of redemption is their end; they were created to be subservient to Christ in this affair.
II. Their work and service that was appointed them, that was the trial of their obedience, was to serve Christ and his elect people in this affair, and it was by obeying Christ as his servants in this affair, that they actually obtained eternal life.
III. Especially did the angels obtain life by attending on Christ, and being faithful to him during the time of his humiliation, which was the last and most trying part of their obedience.
IV. The Lord Jesus Christ God man is the Judge of the angels, that gives them the reward of eternal life. They did not enjoy perfect rest till he descended and confirmed them, so that the angels, as well as men, have rest in Christ God man. (See the next.)
V. They have this benefit by the incarnation of Christ, that thereby God is immediately united with a creature, and so is nearer to them, whereby they are under infinitely greater advantages to have the full enjoyment of God.
VI. Jesus Christ God man is he through whom, and in whom, they enjoy the blessedness of the reward of eternal life, both as the Head of influence through whom they have the Spirit, and also as in Christ God man they behold God’s glory, and have the manifestations of his love.
VII. As the perfections of God are manifested to all creatures, both men and angels, by the fruits of those perfections, i.e. by God’s works, (the wisdom of God appears by his wise works, and his power by his powerful works; his holiness and justice by his holy and just acts, and his grace and love by the acts and works of grace and love,) so the glorious angels have the greatest manifestations of the glory of God by what they see in the work of man’s redemption, and especially in the death and sufferings of Christ.
 The elect angels have greatly increased both in holiness and happiness, since the fall of those angels that fell, and are immensely more holy than ever Lucifer and his angels were; for perfection and holiness, i.e. a sinless perfection, is not such in those that are finite, but that it admits of infinite degrees. The fall of the angels laid a foundation for the greater holiness of the elect angels, as it increased their knowledge of God and themselves, gave them the knowledge of good and evil, and was a means of their being emptied of themselves and brought low in humility, and they increased in holiness by persevering in obedience. What they behold of the glory of God in the face of Christ as men’s Redeemer, and especially in Christ’s humiliation, greatly increased their holiness; and their obedience, through that last and greatest trial, contributed above all things to an increase of their holiness. This further shows how the elect angels are dependent on Christ God man.
 Christ’s humiliation many ways laid a foundation for the humiliation of all elect creatures. By seeing one infinitely above them descending so low, and abasing himself so much, they are abundantly made sensible how no abasement is too great for them. Lucifer thought what God required of him too great an abasement for so high and worthy a creature as he; but in Christ Jesus they see one infinitely higher than he descending vastly lower than was required of him. It tends to humble the angels, and to set them for ever at an immense distance from any thought that any thing that God can require of them can be too great an abasement for them; and then it tended to humble them, as this person that appeared in such meanness, and in so despicable a state, is appointed to be their Lord and their God, and as they were required humbly to minister to him in his greatest abasement. It tends to abase elect men two ways.
1. As here is the example of the voluntary humiliation of one infinitely more worthy than they; and,
2. As here is the greatest manifestation of the evil, dreadful nature of sin, and particularly as here is the effects of their sin. Here appears the venomous nature of their corruption, as it aims at the life of God, and here appears the infinite greatness of its demerit in such sufferings of a person of infinite glory. So that all elect creatures are as it were humbled and abased in their head. This shows further how the elect angels are dependent on Christ God man.
 Heaven How the elect angels know good and evil. It is a thing supposed, without proof, that the glorious inhabitants of heaven never felt any such thing as trouble or uneasiness of any kind. Their present innocence and holiness does not prove it. God may suffer innocent creatures to be in trouble for their greater happiness. The nature and end of that place of glory does not prove it, for if that did not hinder sin from entering, neither will it necessarily hinder trouble from entering there.
The elect angels probably felt great fear at the time of the revolt of Lucifer and the angels that followed him. They were then probably the subjects of great surprise, and a great sense of their own danger of falling likewise; and when they saw the wrath of God executed on the fallen angels, which they had no certain promise that they should not suffer also by their own disobedience, being not yet confirmed, it probably struck them with fear. And the highest heavens was not a place of such happiness and rest before Christ’s ascension as it was afterwards; for the angels were not till then confirmed. So that it was in Christ God man that the angels have found rest. The angels, therefore, have this to sweeten their safety and rest, that they have it after they have known what it is to be in great danger, and to be distressed with fear.
 That the angels in the times of the Old Testament did not fully understand the counsels and designs of God with regard to men’s redemption, may be argued from that text, Isa. lxiv. 4. “For since the beginning of the world they have not heard, (men is not in the original,) nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him.”. In the original, what “he hath made or done for him that waiteth for him.” It is rendered in the margin, ”hath seen a God besides thee which doth so for him that waiteth for him.” But our translation gives the sense more agreeable to the citation of the apostle, 1 Cor. ii. 7 9..It is manifest by this text, if we take it in a sense agreeable to the apostle’s understanding of it, that none of old understood the mystery of man’s redemption by Jesus Christ, it never entered into the hearts of any; and if this be the sense, it will follow from the words of the text, not only that it had not entered into the hearts of any of mankind, but also of the angels, for all are expressly excluded but God himself; none have heard, seen, or perceived, O God, beside thee. The meaning is not only that no works had been already done that ever any had seen or heard of parallel to this work; for if the meaning was, that no works that were past had been seen or heard of like this work, those words, O God, beside thee, would not be added; for if that were the sense, these words would signify, That, though others had not seen any past works parallel with this, yet God had, which would not have been true; for God himself had not seen any past works parallel with this. The same may also be argued from Eph. iii. 9-11. compared with Rom. xvi. 25, 26. and Col. i. 26. Not only are the words of Eph. iii. 10. very manifestly to my present purpose, but those words in the verse preceding are here worthy of remark. The mystery which, from the beginning of the world, hath been HID IN GOD; which seems plainly to imply, that it was a secret which God kept within himself, which was hid and sealed up in the divine understanding, and never had as yet been divulged to any other, which was hid in God’s secret counsel, which as yet no other being had ever been made acquainted with; and so the words imply as much as those in the forementioned place in Isaiah, that none had perceived it beside God.
 Angels. That they are as the nobles and barons of the court of heaven, as dignified servants in the palace of the King of kings, is manifest by Matt. xviii. 10. See my Notes. So in their being called thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers.
 Angels ignorant of the majesty of the gospel till Christ’s coming.
Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and generations, but now is made manifest to his saints, to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you the hope of glory. Dr. Goodwin says, “This doctrine of the gospel he kept hid and close in his own breast; not a creature knew it; no, not the angels, who were his nearest courtiers and dearest favourites, it lay hid in God, Eph. iii. 9. even hid from them, ver. 10. A mystery, which when it should be revealed, should amaze the world, put the angels to school again, as if they had known nothing in comparison of this, wherein they should know over again all those glorious riches which are in God, and that more perfectly and fully than ever yet. And so after they had a little studied the catechism and compendium, there should come out a large volume, a new system of the riches of the glory of God, the mystery of Christ in the text, which is the last edition, also, now set out enlarged, perfected, wherein the large inventory of God’s glorious perfections is more fully set down with additions. (Dr. Goodwin’s Works, vol. i. part iii. p. 64. on Col. i. 26, 27..)