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  • WORKS OF ARMINIUS - ON ANGELS IN GENERAL AND IN PARTICULAR


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    DISPUTATION XXV

    ON ANGELS IN GENERAL AND IN PARTICULAR

    I. Angels are substances merely spiritual, created after the image of God, not only that they might acknowledge, love and worship their Creator, and might live in a state of happiness with him, but that they might likewise perform certain duties concerning the rest of the creatures according to the command of God.

    II. We call them "substances," against the Sadducees and others, who contend that angels are nothing more than the good or the evil motions of spirits, or else exercises of power to aid or to injure. But this is completely at variance with the whole Scripture, as the actions, (which are those of supposititious beings,) the appearances, and the names which they ascribe to them, more than sufficiently demonstrate.

    III. We add that they are "merely spiritual," that we may separate them from men, the species opposite to them, and may intimate their nature. And though composition out of matter and form does not belong to angels, yet, we affirm that they are absolutely compound substances, and that they are composed,

         (1.) Of being and essence.

         (2.) Of act and power, or capability.

         (3.) Lastly, of subject and inhering accident.

    IV. But because they are creatures, they are finite, and we measure them by place, time, and number.

         (1.) By PLACE, not that they are in it corporeally, that is, not that they occupy and fill up a certain local space, commensurate with their substance; but they are in it intellectually, that is, they exist in a place without the occupying and repletion of any local space, which the schoolmen denominate by way of definition, "to be in a place." But, as they cannot be in several places at once, but are sometimes in one place, and sometimes in another, so they are not moved without time, though it is scarcely perceptible.

         (2.) We measure them by TIME, or by duration or age, because they have a commencement of being, and the whole age in which they continue they have in succession, by parts of past, present and future; but the whole of it is not present to them at the same moment and without any distance.

         (3.) Lastly. We measure them by NUMBER, though this number is not defined in the pages of the sacred volume, and, therefore, is unknown to us, but known to God; yet it is very great, for it is neither diminished nor increased, because the angels are neither begotten nor die.

    V. We say that they were "created after the image of God;" for they are denominated "the sons of God." This image, we say, consists partly in those things which belong to their natures, and partly in those things which are of supernatural endowment.

         (1.) To their nature, belong both their spiritual essence, and the faculty of understanding, of willing, and of powerfully acting.

         (2.) To supernatural endowment, belong the light of knowledge in the understanding, and, following it, the rectitude or holiness of the will. Immortality itself, is of supernatural endowment; but it is that which God has determined to preserve to them, in what manner soever they may conduct themselves towards him.

    VI. The end subjoined is two-fold -- that, standing around the throne of God as his apparitors or messengers, for the glory of the divine Majesty, the angels may perpetually laud and celebrate [the praises of] God, and that they may, with the utmost swiftness, execute, at the beck of God, the offices of ministration which he enjoins upon them.

    VII. We are informed in the Scriptures themselves, that there is a certain order among angels; for they mention angels and archangels,-and attribute even to the devil his angels. But we are willingly ignorant of that distinction into orders and various degrees, and what it is which constitutes such distinction. We also think that if [the existence of] certain orders of angels be granted, it is more probable that God employs angels of different orders for the same duties, than that he appoints distinct orders to each separate ministry; though we allow that those who hold other sentiments, think so with some reason.

    VIII. For the performance of the ministries enjoined on them, angels have frequently appeared clothed in bodies, which bodies they have not formed and assumed to themselves out of nothing, but out of pre-existing matter, by a union neither essential nor personal, but local, (because they were not then beyond those bodies,) and, according to an instrumental purpose, that they might use them for the due performance of the acts enjoined.

    IX. These bodies, therefore, have neither been alive, nor have the angels, through them, seen, heard, tasted, smelled, touched, conceived phantasms or imaginations, &c. through the organs of these bodies, they produced only such acts as could be performed by an angel inhabiting them, or, rather, existing in them, as the mover according to place. On this account, perhaps, it is not improperly affirmed, that bodies, truly human, which are inhabited by a living and directing spirit, can be discerned, by human judgment, from these assumed bodies.

    X. God likewise prescribed a certain law to angels, by which they might order their life according to God, and not according to themselves, and by the observance of which they might be blessed, or, by transgressing it, might be eternally miserable, without any hope of pardon. For it was the good pleasure of God to act towards angels according to strict justice, and not to display all his goodness in bringing them to salvation.

    XI. But we do not decide whether a single act of obedience was sufficient to obtain eternal blessedness, as one act of disobedience was deserving of eternal destruction.

    XII. Some of the angels transgressed the law under which they were placed; and this they did by their own fault, because by that grace with which they were furnished, and by which God assisted them, and was prepared to assist them, they were enabled to obey the law, and to remain in their integrity.

    XIII. Hence, is the division made of angels into the good and the evil. The former are so denominated, because they continued steadfast in the truth, and preserved "their own habitation." But the latter are called "evil angels," because they did not continue in the truth, and "deserted their own habitation."

    XIV. But the former are called "good angels," not only according to an infused habit, but likewise according to the act which they performed, and according to their confirmation in habitual goodness, the cause of which we place in the increase of grace, and in their holy purpose, which they conceived partly through beholding the punishment which was inflicted on the apostate angels, and partly through the perception of increased grace. [If it be asked,] Did they not also do this, through perfect blessedness, to which nothing could be added?, we do not deny it, on account of the agreement of learned men, though it seems possible to produce reasons to the contrary.

    XV. The latter (Thesis 13) are called "evil angels," First, by actual wickedness, and then by habitual wickedness and pertinacious obstinacy in it; hence, they take a delight in doing whatever they suppose can tend to the reproach of God and the destruction of their neighbour. But this fixed obstinacy in evil seems to derive its origin partly from an intuition of the wrath of God and from an evil conscience which springs out of that, and partly from their own wickedness.

    XVI. But, concerning the species of sin which the angels perpetrated, we dare not assert what it was. Yet we say, it may with some probability be affirmed, that it was the crime of pride, from that argument which solicited man to sin through the desire of excellence.

    XVII. When it is the will of God to employ the assistance of good angels, he may be said to employ not only those powers and faculties which he has conferred on them, but likewise those which are augmented by himself. But we think it is contradictory to truth, if God be said to furnish the devils, whose service he uses, with greater knowledge and power than they have through creation and their own experience.

    COROLLARIES

    I. We allow this to become a subject of discussion: Can good angels be said sometimes to contend among themselves, with a reservation of that charity which they owe to God, to each other, and to men?

    II. Do angels need a mediator? and is Christ the mediator of angels? We reply in the negative.

    III. Are all angels of one species? We think this to be more probable than its contrary.

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