"We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities,
against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world,
against wicked spirits in heavenly places." Eph. 6:12.
1. It has been frequently observed that there are no gaps or chasms
in the creation of God, but that all the parts of it are admirably connected
together, to make up one universal whole. Accordingly there is one chain
of beings, from the lowest to the highest point, from an unorganized particle
of earth or water to Michael the archangel. And the scale of creatures
does not advance _per saltum_, by leaps, but by smooth and gentle degrees;
although it is true, these are frequently imperceptible to our imperfect
faculties. We cannot accurately trace many of the intermediate links of
this amazing chain, which are abundantly too fine to be discerned either
by our senses or understanding.
2. We can only observe, in a gross and general manner, rising one above
another, first, inorganical earth, then minerals and vegetables in their
several orders; afterwards insects, reptiles, fishes, beasts, men, and
angels. Of angels indeed we know nothing with any certainty but by revelation.
The accounts which are left by the wisest of the ancients, or given by
the modern heathens, being no better than silly, self-inconsistent fables,
too gross to be imposed even upon children. But by divine revelation we
are informed that they were all created holy and happy; yet they did not
all continue as they were created: Some kept, but some left, their first
estate. The former of these are now good angels; the latter, evil angels.
Of the former I have spoke in the preceding discourse: I purpose now to
speak of the latter. And highly necessary it is that we should well understand
what God has revealed concerning them, that they may gain no advantage
over us by our ignorance; that we may know how to wrestle against them
effectually. For "we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities,
against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against
wicked spirits in heavenly places."
3. This single passage seems to contain the whole scriptural doctrine
concerning evil angels. I apprehend the plain meaning of it, literally
translated, is this: "Our wrestling," the wrestling of real Christians,
"is not" only, or chiefly, "against flesh and blood," weak men, or fleshly
appetites and passions, "but against principalities, against powers," --
the mighty princes of all the infernal regions, with their combined forces:
And great is their power, as is also the power of the legions they command,
-- "against the rulers of the world." (This is the literal meaning of the
word.) Perhaps these principalities and powers remain chiefly in the citadel
of their kingdom. But there are other evil spirits that range abroad, to
whom the provinces of the world are committed, "of the darkness," chiefly
the spiritual darkness, "of this age," which prevails during this present
state of things, -- "against wicked spirits" -- eminently such; who mortally
hate and continually oppose holiness, and labour to infuse unbelief, pride,
evil desire, malice, anger, hatred, envy, or revenge -- "in heavenly places;"
which were once their abode, and which they still aspire after.
In prosecuting this important subject, I will endeavour to explain,
I. The nature and properties of evil angels; and,
II. Their employment.
I. 1. With regard to the First, we cannot doubt but all the angels
of God were originally of the same nature. Unquestionably they were the
highest order of created beings. They were spirits, pure ethereal creatures,
simple and incorruptible; if not wholly immaterial, yet certainly not incumbered
with gross, earthly flesh and blood. As spirits, they were endued with
understanding, with affections, and with liberty, or a power of self-determination;
so that it lay in themselves, either to continue in their allegiance to
God, or to rebel against him.
2. And their original properties were, doubtless, the same with those
of the holy angels. There is no absurdity in supposing Satan their chief,
otherwise styled, "Lucifer, son of the morning," to have been at least
one "of the first, if not the first Archangel." Like the other sons of
the morning, they had a height and depth of understanding quite incomprehensible
to us. In consequence of this they had such knowledge and wisdom, that
the wisest of the children of men (had men then existed) would have been
mere idiots in comparison of them. Their strength was equal to their knowledge;
such as it cannot enter into our heart to conceive; neither can we conceive
to how wide a sphere of action either their strength or their knowledge
extended. Their number God alone can tell: Doubtless it was only less than
infinite. And a third part of these stars of heaven the arch-rebel drew
3. We do not exactly know, (because it is not revealed in the oracles
of God,) either what was the occasion of their apostasy, or what effect
it immediately produced upon them. Some have, not improbably, supposed,
that when God published "the decree" (mentioned Ps. 2:6-7) concerning the
kingdom of his only-begotten Son to be over all creatures, these first-born
of creatures gave place to pride, comparing themselves to him; -- possibly
intimated by the very name of Satan, Lucifer, or Michael, which means,
Who is like God? It may be, Satan, then first giving way to temptation,
said in his heart, "I too will have my throne. 'I will sit upon the sides
of the north! I will be like the Most High.'" But how did the mighty then
fall! What an amazing loss did they sustain! If we allow of them all what
our poet supposes concerning their chief in particular, --
His form had not yet lost
All its original brightness, nor appear'd
Less than archangel ruin'd, and the excess
Of glory obscured;
if we suppose their outward form was not entirely changed (though it
must have been in a great degree; because the evil disposition of the mind
must dim the lustre of the visage,) yet what an astonishing change was
wrought within when angels became devils! when the holiest of all the creatures
of God became the most unholy!
4. From the time that they shook off their allegiance to God, they shook
off all goodness, and contracted all those tempers which are most hateful
to him, and most opposite to his nature. And ever since they are full of
pride, arrogance, haughtiness, exalting themselves above measure; and although
so deeply depraved through their inmost frame, yet admiring their own perfections.
They are full of envy, if not against God himself, (and even that is not
impossible, seeing they formerly aspired after his throne,) yet against
all their fellow-creatures; against the angels of God, who now enjoy the
heaven from which they fell; and much more against those worms of the earth
who are now called to "inherit the kingdom." They are full of cruelty,
of rage against all the children of men, whom they long to inspire with
the same wickedness with themselves, and to involve in the same misery.
5. In the prosecution of this infernal design, they are diligent in
the highest degree. To find out the most effectual means of putting it
into execution, they apply to this end the whole force of their angelical
understanding; and they second it with their whole strength, so far as
God is pleased to permit. But it is well for mankind that God hath set
them bounds which they cannot pass. He hath said to the fiercest and strongest
of the apostate spirits, "Hitherto shalt thou come, and no farther." Otherwise,
how easily and how quickly might one of them overturn the whole frame of
nature! How soon would they involve all in one common ruin, or, at least,
destroy man from the face of the earth! And they are indefatigable in their
bad work: They never are faint or weary. Indeed, it seems no spirits are
capable of weariness but those that inhabit flesh and blood.
6. One circumstance more we may learn from the Scripture concerning
the evil angels: They do not wander at large, but are all united under
one common head. It is he that is styled by our blessed Lord, "the prince
of this world:" Yea, the Apostle does not scruple to call him, "the god
of this world." He is frequently styled Satan, the adversary; being the
great adversary both of God and man. He is termed "the devil," by way of
eminence; -- "Apollyon," or the destroyer; -- "the old serpent," from his
beguiling Eve under that form; -- and, "the angel of the bottomless pit."
We have reason to believe that the other evil angels are under his command;
that they are ranged by him according to their several orders; that they
are appointed to their several stations, and have, from time to time, their
several works and offices assigned them. And, undoubtedly, they are connected
(though we know not how; certainly not by love) both to him and to each
II. But what is the employment of evil angels? This is the Second
point to be considered.
1. They are (remember, so far as God permits!) _kosmokratores_, -- governors
of the world! So that there may be more ground than we are apt to imagine
for that strange expression of Satan, (Matt. 4:8-9,) when he showed our
Lord "all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them," "All these
things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me." It is
a little more particularly expressed in the fourth chapter of St. Luke:
"The devil showed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of
time." (Such an astonishing measure of power is still left in the prince
of darkness!) "And the devil said, All this power will I give thee, and
the glory of them: For that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will,
I give it." (Matt. 4:5, 6,) They are "the rulers of the darkness of this
age;" (so the words are literally translated;) of the present state of
things, during which "the whole world lieth in the wicked one." He is the
element of the children of men; only those who fear God being excepted.
He and his angels, in connexion with, and in subordination to him, dispose
all the ignorance, all the error, all the folly, and particularly all the
wickedness of men, in such a manner as may most hinder the kingdom of God,
and most advance the kingdom of darkness.
2. "But has every man a particular evil angel, as well as a good one
attending him?" This has been an exceeding ancient opinion, both among
the Christians, and the Jews before them: But it is much doubted whether
it can be sufficiently proved from Scripture. Indeed it would not be improbable
that there is a particular evil angel with every man, if we were assured
there is a good one. But this cannot be inferred from those words of our
Lord concerning little children: "In heaven their angels do continually
see the face of their Father which is in heaven." This only proves that
there are angels who are appointed to take care of little children: It
does not prove that a particular angel is allotted to every child. Neither
is it proved by the words of Rhoda, who, hearing the voice of Peter, said,
"It is his angel." We cannot infer any more from this, even suppose his
angel means his guardian angel, than that Rhoda believed the doctrine of
guardian angels, which was then common among the Jews. But still it will
remain a disputable point, (seeing revelation determines nothing concerning
it,) whether every man is attended either by a particular good or a particular
3. But whether or no particular men are attended by particular evil
spirits, we know that Satan and all his angels are continually warring
against us, and watching over every child of man. They are ever watching
to see whose outward or inward circumstances, whose prosperity or adversity,
whose health or sickness, whose friends or enemies, whose youth or age,
whose knowledge or ignorance, whose blindness or idleness, whose joy or
sorrow, may lay them open to temptation. And they are perpetually ready
to make the utmost advantage of every circumstance. These skilful wrestlers
espy the smallest slip we make, and avail themselves of it immediately;
as they also are "about our bed, and about our path, and spy out all our
ways." Indeed each of them "walketh about as a roaring lion, seeking whom
he may devour," or whom he may "beguile through his subtlety, as the serpent
beguiled Eve." Yea, and in order to do this the more effectually, they
transform themselves into angels of light. Thus,
With rage that never ends,
Their hellish arts they try;
Legions of dire, malicious fiends,
And spirits enthroned on high.
4. It is by these instruments chiefly that the "foolish hearts" of those
that know not God "are darkened:" Yea, they frequently darken, in a measure,
the hearts of them that do know God. The "god of this world" knows how
to blind our hearts, to spread a cloud over our understanding, and to obscure
the light of those truths which, at other times, shine as bright as the
noonday sun. By this means he assaults our faith, our evidence of things
unseen. He endeavours to weaken that hope full of immortality to which
God had begotten us; and thereby to lessen, if he cannot destroy, our joy
in God our Saviour. But, above all he strives to damp our love of God,
as he knows this is the spring of all our religion, and that, as this rises
or falls, the work of God flourishes or decays in the soul.
5. Next to the love of God, there is nothing which Satan so cordially
abhors as the love of our neighbour. He uses, therefore, every possible
means to prevent or destroy this; to excite either private or public suspicions,
animosities, resentment, quarrels; to destroy the peace of families or
of nations; and to banish unity and concord from the earth. And this, indeed,
is the triumph of his art; to embitter the poor, miserable children of
men against each other, and at length urge them to do his own work, to
plunge one another into the pit of destruction.
6. This enemy of all righteousness is equally diligent to hinder every
good word and work. If he cannot prevail upon us to do evil, he will, if
possible, prevent our doing good. He is peculiarly diligent to hinder the
work of God from spreading in the hearts of men. What pains does he take
to prevent or obstruct the general work of God! And how many are his devices
to stop its progress in particular souls! To hinder their continuing or
growing in grace, in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ! To lessen,
if not destroy, that love, joy, peace, -- that long-suffering, gentleness,
goodness, -- that fidelity, meekness, temperance, -- which our Lord works
by his loving Spirit in them that believe, and wherein the very essence
of religion consists.
7. To effect these ends, he is continually labouring, with all his skill
and power, to infuse evil thoughts of every kind into the hearts of men.
And certainly it is as easy for a spirit to speak to our heart, as for
a man to speak to our ears. But sometimes it is exceeding difficult to
distinguish these from our own thoughts; those which he injects so exactly
resembling those which naturally arise in our own minds. Sometimes, indeed,
we may distinguish one from the other by this circumstance: -- The thoughts
which naturally arise in our minds are generally, if not always, occasioned
by, or at least connected with, some inward or outward circumstance that
went before. But those that are preternaturally suggested have frequently
no relation to or connexion (at least, none that we are able to discern)
with anything which preceded. On the contrary, they shoot in, as it were,
across, and thereby show that they are of a different growth.
8. He likewise labours to awaken evil passions or tempers in our souls.
He endeavours to inspire those passions and tempers which are directly
opposite to "the fruit of the Spirit." He strives to instil unbelief, atheism,
ill-will, bitterness, hatred, malice, envy, -- opposite to faith and love;
fear, sorrow, anxiety, worldly care, -- opposite to peace and joy; impatience,
ill nature, anger, resentment, -- opposite to long-suffering, gentleness,
meekness; fraud, guile, dissimulation, -- contrary to fidelity; love of
the world, inordinate affection, foolish desires, -- opposite to the love
of God. One sort of evil desires he may probably raise or inflame by touching
the springs of this animal machine. Endeavouring thus, by means of the
body, to disturb or sully the soul.
9. And, in general, we may observe that as no good is done, or spoken,
or thought, by any man, without the assistance of God, working together
in and with those that believe in him; so there is no evil done, or spoke,
or thought, without the assistance of the devil, "who worketh with energy,"
with strong, though secret power, "in the children of unbelief." Thus he
"entered into Judas," and confirmed him in the design of betraying his
Master; thus he "put it into the heart" of Ananias and Sapphira "to lie
unto the Holy Ghost;" and, in like manner, he has a share in all the actions
and words and designs of evil men. As the children of God "are workers
together with God," in every good thought, or word, or action; so the children
of the devil are workers together with him in every evil thought, or word,
or work. So that as all good tempers, and remotely all good words and actions,
are the fruit of the good Spirit; in like manner, all evil tempers, with
all the words and works which spring from them, are the fruit of the evil
spirit: Insomuch that all the "works of the flesh," of our evil nature,
are likewise the "works of the devil."
10. On this account, because he is continually inciting men to evil,
he is emphatically called "the tempter." Nor is it only with regard to
his own children that he is thus employed: He is continually tempting the
children of God also, and those that are labouring so to be.
A constant watch he keeps;
He eyes them night and day;
He never slumbers, never sleeps,
Lest he should lose his prey.
Indeed, the holiest of men, as long as they remain upon earth, are not
exempt from his temptations. They cannot expect it; seeing "it is enough
for the disciple to be as his Master:" And we know he was tempted to evil
till he said, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit."
11. For such is the malice of the wicked one, that he will torment whom
he cannot destroy. If he cannot entice men to sin, he will, so far as he
is permitted, put them to pain. There is no doubt but he is the occasion,
directly or indirectly, of many of the pains of mankind, which those who
can no otherwise account for them lightly pass over as nervous. And innumerable
accidents, as they are called, are undoubtedly owing to his agency; such
as the unaccountable fright or falling of horses; the overturning of carriages;
the breaking or dislocating of bones; the hurt done by the falling or burning
of houses, -- by storms of wind, snow, rain, or hail, -- by lightning or
earthquakes. But to all these, and a thousand more, this subtle spirit
can give the appearance of accidents, for fear the sufferers, if they knew
the real agent, should call for help on One that is stronger than him.
12. There is little reason to doubt but many diseases likewise, both
of the acute and chronical kind, are either occasioned or increased by
diabolical agency; particularly those that begin in an instant, without
any discernible cause; as well as those that continue, and perhaps gradually
increase, in spite of all the power of medicine. Here, indeed, "vain men"
that "would be wise" again call in the nerves to their assistance. But
is not this explaining _ignotum per ignotius_? "a thing unknown by what
is more unknown?" For what do we know of the nerves themselves? Not even
whether they are solid or hollow!
13. Many years ago I was asking an experienced physician, and one particularly
eminent for curing lunacy, "Sir, have you not seen reason to believe that
some lunatics are really demoniacs?" He answered, "Sir, I have been often
inclined to think that most lunatics are demoniacs. Nor is there any weight
in that objection, that they are frequently cured by medicine: For so might
any other disease occasioned by an evil spirit, if God did not suffer him
to repeat the stroke by which that disease is occasioned."
14. This thought opens to us a wider scene. Who can tell how many of
those diseases which we impute altogether to natural causes may be really
preternatural? What disorder is there in the human frame which an evil
angel may not inflict? Cannot he smite us, as he did Job, and that in a
moment, with boils from the crown of the head to the sole of the foot?
Cannot he with equal ease inflict any other, either external or internal
malady? Could not he in a moment, by divine permission, cast the strongest
man down to the ground, and make him "wallow, foaming," with all the symptoms
either of an epilepsy or apoplexy? In like manner, it is easy for him to
smite any one man, or every one in a city or nation, with a malignant fever,
or with the plague itself, so that vain would be the help of man.
15. But that malice blinds the eyes of the wise, one would imagine so
intelligent a being would not stoop so low, as it seems the devil sometimes
does, to torment the poor children of men! For to him we may reasonably
impute many little inconveniences which we suffer. "I believe" (said that
excellent man, the Marquis de Renty, when the bench on which he sat snapped
in sunder without any visible cause) "that Satan had a hand in it, making
me to fall untowardly." I know not whether he may not have a hand in that
unaccountable horror with which many have been seized in the dead of night,
even to such a degree that all their bones have shook. Perhaps he has a
hand also in those terrifying dreams which many have, even while they are
in perfect health.
It may be observed, in all these instances, we usually say, "The devil;"
as if there was one only; because these spirits, innumerable as they are,
do all act in concert; and because we know not whether one or more are
concerned in this or that work of darkness.
It remains only to draw a few plain inferences from the doctrine
which has been delivered.
1. And, First, as a general preservative against all the rage, the power,
and subtlety of your great adversary, put on the panoply, "the whole armour
of God," universal holiness. See that "the mind be in you which was also
in Christ Jesus," and that ye "walk as Christ also walked;" that ye have
a "conscience void of offence toward God and toward men." So shall ye be
"able to withstand" all the force and all the stratagems of the enemy:
So shall ye be able to "withstand in the evil day," in the day of sore
temptation, and "having done all to stand," to remain in the posture of
victory and triumph.
2. To his "fiery darts," -- his evil suggestions of every kind, blasphemous
or unclean, though numberless as the stars of heaven, -- oppose "the shield
of faith." A consciousness of the love of Christ Jesus will effectually
quench them all.
Jesus hath died for you!
What can your faith withstand?
Believe, hold fast your shield! and who
Shall pluck you from his hand?
3. If he inject doubts whether you are a child of God, or fears lest
you should not endure to the end; "take to you for a helmet the hope of
salvation." Hold fast that glad word, "Blessed be the God and Father of
our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to his abundant mercy, hath begotten
us again unto a living hope of an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled,
and that fadeth not away." You will never be overthrown, you will never
be staggered by your adversary, if you "hold fast the beginning of" this
"confidence steadfast unto the end."
4. Whenever the "roaring lion, walking about and seeking whom he may
devour," assaults you with all his malice, and rage, and strength, "resist"
him, "steadfast in the faith." Then is the time, having cried to the Strong
for strength, to "stir up the gift of God that is in you;" to summon all
your faith, and hope, and love; to turn the attack in the name of the Lord,
and in the power of his might; and "he will" soon "flee from you."
5. But "there is no temptation," says one, "greater than the being without
temptation." When, therefore, this is the case, when Satan seems to be
withdrawn, then beware lest he hurt you more as a crooked serpent, than
he could do as a roaring lion. Then take care you are not lulled into a
pleasing slumber; lest he should beguile you as he did Eve, even in innocence,
and insensibly draw you from your simplicity toward Christ, from seeking
all your happiness in Him.
6. Lastly. If he "transform himself into an angel of light," then are
you in the greatest danger of all. Then have you need to beware, lest you
also fall, where many mightier have been slain; then have you the greatest
need to "watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation." And if you
continue so to do, the God whom you love and serve will deliver you. "The
anointing of the Holy One shall abide with you, and teach you of all things."
Your eye will pierce through snares, you shall "know what that holy and
acceptable and perfect will of God is," and shall hold on your way, till
you "grow up in all things into him that is our Head, even Christ Jesus."
[Edited by Michael Anderson, student at Northwest Nazarene
College (Nampa, ID), with corrections by George Lyons for the Wesley Center
for Applied Theology.]