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enthusiasts vain and ridiculous, without any great help of rhetorical flourishes or logical confutations.
And much of the same nature is that disparity of the hypotheses of the learned philosophers in relation to the origination of the world and man, after a great deal of dust raised and fanciful explications and unintelligible hypotheses. The plain, but divine narrative by the hand of Moses, full of sense and congruity, and clearness, and reasonableness in itself, doth at the same moment give us a true and clear discovery of this great mystery, and renders all the essays of the generality of the heathen philosophers to be yain, inevident, and indeed inexplicable theories, the creatures of phantasy and imagination, and nothing else*.”
I am, Sir, &c.
* Hale’s Primitive Origination of Mankind, folio, p. 340.
ON GUARDIAN ANGELS.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCHMAN's
Sir, T HEN the judicious Hooker lay on his death bed, he
V was visited by his friend Dr. Saravia, who finding him deep in contemplation and not inclinable to discourse, asked what his thoughts were then set upon : to which the dying faint replied, " that he was meditating the number and nature of angels, and their blessed: obedience and order, without which, peace could not be in Heaven; and oh !" said he, “ that it might be so on earth!”
I was led to a recollection of this pleasing and instručtive anecdote, by a perufal of the postscript to the letter of a Country Vicar in your last number ; where I am respectfully called upon to give my opinion upon this question, " Whether there be such beings as guardian angels under the present dispensation of the Gospel ?" ...
horld under the neceffary % no means
I might, however, wonder at this invitation to discuss a point of some difficulty and obscurity, when your correspondent himself decides it rather peremptorily in the affirmative by saying in a parenthesis that, “ there indisputably were such beings under the dispensation of Moses, and till our Saviour's appearance upon earth, and for some time after it.”
If so, then there can be no need of my observations on the subject; for it is by no means reasonable to suppose that what was necessary to the moral government of the world under the Mosaic dispensation and immediately after the Christian æra, should have ceased to be so in our time. If it can be shewn that there ever were Guardian Angels, in the sense understood by your correspondent, I must then admit that they have still an existence and a similar agency. But this I must beg leave to say is the very matter to be inquired into and proved. What was observed by me, in the hafty communication referred to, certainly goes no far. ther than to the general employment of spiritual beings in our world. At least nothing more than this was in my intention at the time; for so far am I from thinking, that , there are particular Angels assigned to particular persons or things, the notion does appear to me calculated to debase the mind to a degree of slavish superstition, to draw it off from a due estimate of its own powers, and to sink it down from an elevated sentiment of dependence upon the Almighty, into a kind of idolatrous reverence for imaginary intelli. gences.
A learned prelate of our church, in a discourse on the ministry of Angels, has the following observation, very well worth attending to.
16 Wherever God hath created any faculty or power," faith he “ we always suppose there is some suitable object created with it. The power would otherwise be given in vain. By the same kind of reasoning, we may infer, where an object is created, there must be some suitable powers which it was intended to gratify: and since the objects of knowledge do abundantly exceed human understanding, we cannot but conclude, that there is existing an higher order of beings more capable of searching out the works of God, : ' and of discerning the wisdom of Nature,*" :
This reasoning is perfectly just, but though the bishop
Conybeare's Sermons, vol. ii. 275.
allows that these superior beings are the “ immediate ate tendants on God, and the ministers that execute his pleasure,” he very judiciously avoids the question of Guardian Angels, conscious, I suppose, that it would not bear the touchstone of this argument, for I shall contend that the alligning the care of particular persons or communities to certain of those beings, " is unsuitable to the powers and objects of both." The Christian doctrine is this, that the good Angels have had their season of probation, and “ kept their first estate, in consequence of which their happiness is permanently secured ;” but man in this world is on the stage of trial, and a candidate for immortality. His powers are proportioned to the service in wbich he is engaged, and the object which he has in view. Now it is essentially necessary to the very nature of a probationary state, that the candidatę be a free agent, having the entire management of all the faculties on the due use of which his future condition depends. But, if man has a particular divine intel. ligence, or a good genius allotted to him on whose suggestions he is to rely, he becomes a machine, or at the bet a being who gives up the powers of his mind to the direction of some invisible agent of whose nature and qualities he is ignorant.
It may here be said that man may resist the good counsel he receives and reject the guide so graciously given to him; but this to my apprehension, only multiplies the objections that may be advanced against the notion of Guardian Spirits. For if man after all has the power to obey or disobey the monitor appointed him, and may choose for himself, what course of life to pursue, then the appointment of a Guardian Angel appears totally useless. As man hath already a power to determine his own actions, there can be no reason given for assigning to him an external intelligence, which must either destroy the freedom of his will by gaining the ascendancy over it; or be overthrown and expelled from its charge by the powers of darkness.
So far is this doctrine from having any good practical tendency that there does appear much in it of a dangerous nature to the interefts of morality and religion. In the firft place it is calculated to weaken that sense of personal re, sponsibility which is essential to the character of a proba. tionary being, furnished by the Almighty with a judgment, will, and every other means adapted to his present state, and to his future profpects. And in a religious view, this notion is no less mischievous ;
Ariana the anid Teftam every crea advanc
for it seems to countenance the Manichean and Gnostic errors; to make man the sport of contending powers; and to lessen his conceptions of the omnipotence, goodness and : wisdom of the Deity. It certainly has a direct tendency to destroy the idea of the Divine ubiquity, and by introducing
a monstrous system of polytheism, to make the Deity a qui. nescent spectator of the world which he has made.
Two corruptions in the Christian Church have been fortered by this notion, that there are particular official angels, set apart for the charge of individuals and provinces. The Arian scheme has hence received its principal support'; and from the appellation of JEHOVAH ANGEL given to our , Lord in the Old Testament, and from its being said that " he was the first born of every creature, &c.” in the New, the advocates of that heresy have advanced the doctrine, that the Messiah is at the head of the Angels, who have the ministration of this world in their charge *
· The Church of Rome expreflly maintains this doctrine of Guardian Angels, and has incorporated it into her devotional offices. The invocation of angels forms a part of the regular public worship of that. Church; and in their private manuals there are express devotional addresses which the people are directed to offer daily to their tutelar angels.
I do not, however, reject this or any other speculative tenet, merely because it has been perverted to heretical purposes, and to unfcriptural usages; my objections to the no. tion arise from its narrow and degrading principle, and from its evident opposition to the enlarged view of redemption opened to us in the Gospel.
It is true we read much in both parts of the Bible, con. cerning the agency, powers, and apparitions of angelical beings. Something, also, we are told of their nature, employment, and general economy. But nothing, I apprehend, can be gathered from any of those passages of Holy Writ to establish the doctrine of an appointment of certain angels as the guardians of individualmen, or of particular states · and countries. The only text in the New Testament which describes expressly, the nature and office of angels, is the last verse of the first chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews, but it proves nothing more than that they are " the special
* See Essay on Spirit; and Clayton's Answer to Bolingbroke, part iii. 8vo. 1751. VOL. XIV.
; ... servants Chm. Mag. June 1808.
servants of the Almighty, by whom they are occasionally sent forth to minister unto them who are the heirs of salva. tion.”
We read in the prophecy of Daniel, indeed, of " Michael, the great prince which standeth up for the chil. dren of Israel ;' but that passage has been fully cleared and explained by bishop Horsley in his last published Sermon on " the Watchers and the Holy Ones," and proved to relate solely to the Messiah.
It is a gratification to me, that my opinion on the subject of tutelary Angels coincides exactly with what is delivered in that excellent discourse, the perusal of which I earnestly recommend to the Country Vicar.
· Aş probably he may not have seen it, I shall here take the liberty of transcribing a passage or two from it, which must serve for the exhibition of my sentiments upon this ques. tion.
After giving the ordinary exposition of his text (Dan. iv. 17.) which makes the “ Watchers," and the “ Holy Ones,” to be Angels; the bishop proceeds thus:
“ This interpretation of these words is founded upon a notion, which got ground in the Christian Church many ages since, and unfortunately is not yet exploded ; namely, that God's government of this lower world is carried on by the administration of the holy angels; that the different orders (and those who broached this doctrine, could tell us exactly how many orders there are, and how many angels in each order), that the different orders have their different de. partments in government assigned to them: fome, constantly attending in the presence of God, form his cabinet council: others are his principal governors,' every kingdom in the world having its appointed guardian angel, to whose manage. ment it is incrusted : others again are fuppofed to have the charge and custody of individuals. This system is, in truth, nothing better than the Pagan 'polytheism, somewhat dif. 'guised and qualified, For, in the Pagan system every nation had its tutelar deity, all fubordinate to Jupiter, the fire of gods and men. Some of those prodigies of ignorance and folly, the rabbis of the Jews, who lived since the dispersion of the nation, thought all would be well, if for tutelar deities they substituted tutelar angels. From this substitution the system, which I have described, arose; and from the Jews the Christians, with other fooleries, adopted it. Bút by whatever name these deputy-gods be called; whether you call them gods, or demi-gods, or demons, or genii, or heroés, or angels;
of the natitused tutelar angels:
rose; and from the what