« PreviousContinue »
of God, where he diffuses in an eminent manner the glory and brightness of his majesty, why should it be thought that its foundations are only coeval with the fabric of this world, and not of much more ancient origin? At the same time it does not follow that heaven should be eternal, nor, if eternal, that it should be God; for it was always in the power of God to produce any effect he pleased at whatever time and in whatever manner seemed good to him. We cannot form any conception of light independent of a luminary; but we do not therefore infer that a luminary is the same as light, or equal in dignity. In the same manner we do not think that what are called the back parts of God, Exod. xxxiii. are, properly speaking, God; though we nevertheless consider them to be eternal. It seems more reasonable to conceive in the same manner of the heaven of heavens, the throne and habitation of God, than to imagine that God should have been without a heaven till the first of the six days of creation. At the same time I give this opinion, not as venturing to determine anything certain on such a subject, but rather with a view of showing that others have been too bold in affirming that the invisible and highest heaven was made on the first day, contemporaneously with that heaven which is within our sight. For since it was of the latter heaven alone, and of the visible world, that Moses undertook to write, it would have been foreign to his purpose to have said anything of what was above the world.
In this highest heaven seems to be situated the heaven of the blessed; which is sometimes called Paradise, Luke xxiii. 43. 2 Cor. xii. 2, 4. and Abraham's bosom, Luke xvi. 22. compared with Matt. viii. 11. where also God permits himself
1 The same opinion has been held by the Fathers, as well as by most of the moderns. In libro de Trinitate, sive Novatiani sive Tertulliani sit, tam mundus angelicus quam superfirmamentarius conditus dicitur ante mundum Mosaicum his verbis. Quum etiam superioribus, id est, super ipsum quoque solidamentum partibus, angelos prius instituerit Deus, spirituales virtutes digesserit, thronos potestatesque præfecerit, et alia multa cœlorum immensa spatia condiderit, &c. ut hic mundus novissimum magis Dei opus esse appareat, quam solum et unicum. Denique Catholicorum communem hanc fuisse sententiam notat Cassianus suo tempore, nempe sæculo quinto ineunte; ante illud Geneseos temporale principium, omnes illas potestates cœlestes Deum creasse, non dubium est.' T. Burnet. Archaol. Philos. c. 8.
to be seen by the angels and saints (as far as they are capable of enduring his glory), and will unfold himself still more fully to their view at the end of the world, 1 Cor. xiii. 12. John xiv. 2, 3. "in my Father's house are many mansions." Heb. xi. 10, 16. "he looked for a city which hath foundations.... they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly....for he hath prepared for them a city."
It is generally supposed that the angels were created at the same time with the visible universe, and that they are considered as comprehended under the general name of heavens. That the angels were created at some particular period, we have the testimony of Numb. xvi. 22. and xxvii. 16. "God of the spirits," Heb. i. 7. Col. i. 16. "by him were all things created. . . . visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, &c. But that they were created on the first, or on any one of the six days, seems to be asserted (like most received opinions) with more confidence than reason, chiefly on the authority of the repetition in Gen. ii. 1. "thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them,"-unless we are to suppose that more was meant to be implied in the concluding summary than in the previous narration itself, and that the angels are to be considered as the host who in
2 The opinion that angels were not created, but self-existent, according to the Manichæan system, is with great propriety attributed to Satan in Paradise Lost.
That we were form'd then say'st thou ? and the work
From Father to his Son? strange point and new!
Doctrine which we would know whence learn'd? who saw
Thy making, while the Maker gave thee being?
See Jortin's observations on this passage, Remarks on Ecclesiastical History, I. 411.
In another place Satan proposes the question as doubtful;
Are his created-.
3 So Jenkins, quoting Job xxxviii. 7. On the Reasonableness of the Christian Religion, B. II. Ch. 9.
habit the visible heavens. For when it is said Job xxxviii. 7. that they shouted for joy before God at the creation, it proves rather that they were then already in existence, than that they were then first created. Many at least of the Greek, and some of the Latin Fathers, are of opinion that angels, as being spirits, must have existed long before the material world;* and it seems even probable, that the apostasy which caused the expulsion of so many thousands from heaven, took place before the foundations of this world were laid. Certainly there is no sufficient foundation for the common opinion, that motion and time (which is the measure of motion) could not, according to the ratio of priority and subsequence, have existed before this world was made; since Aristotle, who teaches that no ideas of motion and time can be formed except in reference to this world, nevertheless pronounces the world itself to be eternal.5
Angels are spirits, Matt. viii. 16. and xii. 45. inasmuch as a legion of devils is represented as having taken possession of one man, Luke viii. 30. Heb. i. 14. "ministering spirits." They are of ethereal nature, 1 Kings xxii. 21. Psal. civ. 4.
4 Plures e patribus Christianis angelos extitisse ante terram, vel ante mundum Mosaicum, per ignota nobis sæcula, statuerunt; aliqui etiam cœlos supremos, vel cœlum empyreum. Sed de angelis constantior est et a pluribus celebrata sententia. Ut mittam Origenem, hoc Sanctus Basilius in Hexaëmero, Chrysostomus πρὸς τοὺς σκανδαλισθέντας, c. 7. πολλῳ TaÚTηs Tñs KTίoεwс πρεσßúтepot, &c. Gregorius Nazianzemus Orat. 38. et alibi, Johannes Damascenus 1. ii. Orth. Fid. c. 3. Joh. Philoponus De Creatione Mundi, 1. i. c. 10. Olympiodorus in Job xxxviii. aliique e Græcis docuere. E Latinis etiam non pauci eidem sententiæ adhæserunt. Hilarius, 1. xii. De Trinitate; Hieronymus, Ambrosius in Hexaëmero, l. i. c. 5. Isidorus Hispalensis, Beda, aliique.' T. Burnet. Archæol. Philos. 1. ii. c. 8. It is observable that Milton had indirectly declared himself to have believed in the pre-existence of angels in the Paradise Lost, where he represents Uriel to have been present at the creation of the visible world, and puts into his mouth the beautiful description quoted in a preceding page,' I saw when at his word the formless mass,' &c.
5 See Aristot. Natural Auscult. lib. viii. cap. 1. In reference to this, Milton says elsewhere:
Time, though in eternity, applied
Paradise Lost, V. 580.
6 Your bodies may at last turn all to spirit,
compared with Matt. viii. 31. Heb. i. 7.
Not long divisible.
7 Meanwhile the winged heralds, by command
Paradise Lost, VI. 330.
8 I came among the sons of God, when he
Gave up into my hands Uzzean Job. Paradise Regained, I. 368.
9 Dark with excessive bright thy skirts appear,
Yet dazzle heav'n, that brightest Seraphim
Paradise Lost, III. 380.
1 'Yea the angels themselves, in whom no disorder is feared, as the
the apostle's reprehension, Col. ii. 18. "intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind."
THE VISIBLE CREATION comprises the material universe, and all that is contained therein; and more especially the
The creation of the world in general, and of its individual parts, is related Gen. i. It is also described Job xxvi. 7, &c. and xxxviii. and in various passages of the Psalms and Prophets. Psal. xxxiii. 6—9. civ. cxlviii. 5. Prov. viii. 26, &c. Amos iv. 13. 2 Pet. iii. 5. Previously, however, to the crea tion of man, as if to intimate the superior importance of the work, the Deity speaks like to a man deliberating: Gen. i. 26. "God said, Let us make man in our own image, after our own likeness." So that it was not the body alone that was then made, but the soul of man also (in which our likeness to God principally consists); which precludes us from attributing pre-existence to the soul which was then formed,―a groundless notion sometimes entertained, but refuted by Gen. ii. 7. "God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; thus man became a living soul." Job xxxii. 8. "there is a spirit in man, and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding.' Nor did God merely breathe that spirit into man,3 but moulded it in each individual, and infused it throughout, enduing and embellishing it with its proper faculties. Zech. xii. 1. "he formeth the spirit of man within him."
We may understand from other passages of Scripture, that when God infused the breath of life into man, what man thereby received was not a portion of God's essence, or a participation of the divine nature, but that measure of the divine virtue or influence, which was commensurate to the capabilities of the recipient. For it appears from Psal. civ. 29, 30. that
2. It is not good. God here presents himself like to a man deliberating; both to show us that the matter is of high consequence,' &c. Tetrachordon. Prose Works, III. 329.
3 Lest that pure breath of life, the spirit of man
4. Unde a quibusdam dicitur, particula auræ divinæ, Horat. II. Sat. ii. quod non reprehendo, modo bene intelligatur non quasi a Dei essentia, tanquam ejus pars, avulsa fuisset; sed quod ineffabili quodam modo profluere eam ex se fecerit.' Curcellæi Institutio, III. 7.