Christ's Temptation Sermon 3 - Matthew 4:5-6Christ's Temptation Practically Explained and Improved in Several Sermons by Thomas Manton (1620-1677) (Volume 1)
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Christ’s Temptation Sermon 3 – Matthew 4:5-6
“Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, and saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee; and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.” Matthew 4:5-6
IN this second temptation I shall give you – (1.) The history of it; (2.) Observations upon it.
I. The history of it. There,
1. What Satan did.
2. What he said.
3. The soreness of the temptation.
1. What he did: ‘Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple.’ There – (1.) Take notice of the ground which the devil chose for the conflict: ‘He tak-eth him up into the holy city, and setteth him on the pinnacle of the temple.’ By the holy city is meant ‘Jerusalem,’ for this name is given to it in other scriptures: Isa. lviii. 2,’ They call themselves of the holy city.’ And Isa. lii. 1, ‘O Jerusalem, the holy city;’ and in many other places. It was so called, because it was the seat of God’s worship, and the place where God manifested his gracious presence with his people. If you ask why now it was called the holy city, since it was a city of blood, the seat of all wickedness, in which the law of God was depraved, their religion corrupted, their religion polluted? I answer, Yet there was the temple of the Lord. Some relics of good and holy men, some grace, yet continued, and the only place that owned the true God, though with much corruption. The more especial place which the devil chose for the conflict was pterugion tou ierou ‘the pinnacle of the temple,’ or ‘the wing of the temple;’ meaning the border round about the flat covering of the temple to hinder any one from falling off easily, which might be adorned with pinnacles and spires, from whence one might easily fall. (2.) How the devil got him there? Whether Christ was carried through the air, or went on his feet, following him of his own accord? The last seemeth to be countenanced by Luke; that he led him to the pinnacle of the temple, Luke iv. 9, hgagen auton yet the former is preferred by most ancient and modern interpreters, and not without reason. For Christ voluntarily to follow the devil, and to go up to the top of the temple, and stand on one of the pinnacles thereof, it seemeth improbable, and would take up more time than could be spent on this temptation. He that would not obey the devil persuading him to cast himself down, that he might not tempt God, would not voluntarily have gone up with him, for that would have been the beginning of a temptation, to yield so far. Most probably, then, Satan was permitted to carry him in the air, without doing him any hurt, to Jerusalem, and one of the pinnacles of the temple and battlements thereof. But how Christ was carried in the air, visibly or invisibly, the scripture showeth not: it affirmeth the thing, but sets not down the manner. We must believe what it asserteth, reverence what it concealeth. Here was a real translation, a transportation from place to place, not imaginary, for then Christ had been in no danger. And again, not violent, but voluntary – a carrying, not a haling – a leading, not a forcing, as the wrestler is drawn on to the combat. As he suffered himself to be drawn to death by Satan’s instruments, so by the devil to be translated from place to place. The officers of the high priest had power to carry him from the garden to Annas, from Annas to Caiaphas, from Caiaphas to Pilate, from Pilate to Herod, from Herod to Pilate again, and then from Gabbatha to Golgotha, which could not have been unless this power had been given them from above, as Christ himself telleth Pilate, John xix. 11. So God, for his greater glory and our instruction, permitted this transportation; therefore this translation is not to be imputed to the weakness of Christ, but his patience, submitting thus far that he might experience all the machinations of Satan; and the transporting is not to be ascribed to the tempter’s strength, but his boldness. Christ did not obey him, but submitted to the divine dispensation, and would fight with him not only in the desert, but in the holy city: and no wonder if Christ suffered Satan to carry him, who suffered his instruments to crucify him.
2. What he said to him, ver. 6, where take notice – (1.) Of the temptation itself, ‘If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down.’ (2.) The reason alleged to back it, ‘For it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee,’ etc.
[1.] The temptation itself: ‘If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down.’ Mark what was the mote in the devil’s eye, that Christ was declared to be the Son of God, the Messiah and Saviour of the world. He would have him to put it to this proof in the sight of all Jerusalem, wherein, if he failed, and had died of the fall, the Jews would think him an impostor; if he had escaped, he had submitted to the devil’s methods, and so had run into the former sins mentioned before in the first temptation, his doing something at the devil’s direction; his disbelief of the divine oracle, unless manifested by such proof as Satan required; and besides a tempting of divine providence – the ordinary way was down stairs. He would have him leap, and throw himself over the battlements. It would be too long to go down stairs; he will teach him a nearer way: to cast himself down and fear no hurt, for if he were the Son of God he might securely do so. But chiefly Christ was not to begin his ministry by miracles, but doctrine – not from a demonstration of his power, but wisdom. The gospel was to be first preached, then sealed and confirmed by miracles; and Christ’s miracles were not to be ludicrous, but profitable – not fitted for pomp, but use – to instruct and help men, rather than strike them with wonder. Now this would discredit the gospel, if Christ should fly in the air; besides, we must not fly to extraordinary means, where ordinary are present.
Only, before I go off, observe that Satan did not offer to cast him down; that God did not suffer him to do, because he sought to bring Christ to sin. If Satan had cast him down, Christ had not sinned.
[2.] The reason by which he backeth the temptation. It is taken from scripture: ‘For it is writtan, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee.’ The scripture is in Ps. xci. 11, 12, where the words run thus: ‘He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.’ Where,
First, Observe the devil’s cunning in citing scripture. The apostle telleth us that Satan is sometimes transformed into an angel of light, 2 Cor. xi. 14. And we read that once he took the habit and guise of a prophet, 1 Sam. xxviii. 18; and indeed he deceiveth more by the voice of Samuel than by the voice of the dragon. We read of ta Bayh tou Satana ‘The depths of Satan,’ Rev. ii. 24. Here he cometh like a divine, with a Bible in his hand, and turneth to the place; here the enemy of God cometh with the word of God, and disguiseth the worst of actions with the best of words, opposeth God to God, and turneth his truth to countenance a lie. Being refuted by scripture, he will bring scripture too, and pretendeth to reverence that which he chiefly hateth. Christians, you have not to do with a foolish devil, who will appear in his own colours and ugly shape, but with a devout devil, who, for his own turn, can pretend to be godly.
Secondly, That he citeth such a scripture, which exceedingly conduceth to commend the happiness of the godly; for God will not only be the keeper and guardian of them that fear him, but hath also appointed the ministry of angels; and the argument of the tempter seemeth to be taken from the less to the greater; for if it be true of every one that trusts in God, and dwelleth in the shadow of the Almighty, that God will have such a care of him, much more will he have a care of his beloved Son, in whom he is well pleased. Therefore, you that are declared to be so from heaven, and having such an occasion to show yourself to be the Son of God with so much honour and profit, why should you scruple to cast yourself down?
But wherein was the devil faulty in citing the scripture? Some say in leaving out those words, in all thy ways. This was Bernard’s gloss – in viis, non in praecipitiis; will keep you in your ways or duties, not in your headlong actions; these were none of his ways, to throw himself down from the battlements of the temple. This is not to be altogether rejected, because it reaches the sense; yet this omission was not the devil’s fault in citing this scripture; for, all thy ways signifieth no more but in all thy actions and businesses, and that is sufficiently implied in the words cited by Satan. But the devil’s error was in application. He applieth the word of God, not to instruct, but deceive; rather to breed a contempt, disdain, and hatred of scriptures, than a reverent esteem of them; to make the word of God seem uncertain; or if a reverence of them, to turn this reverence into an occasion of deceit; more particularly to tempt God to a needless proof of his power. We are not to cast ourselves into danger, that providence may fetch us off. God will protect us in the evils we suffer, not in the evils we commit – not in dangers we seek, but such as befall us besides our intention.
3. The soreness of this temptation, which appeareth in several things.
[1.] The change of place. For a new temptation, he maketh choice of a new place; he could do no good on him in the wilderness, therefore he taketh him and carrieth him into the holy city. Here was a public place where Christ might discover himself with profit, and the edification of many, if he would but submit to the devil’s methods. In the temple the Messiah was as in his own house, where it was fit the Messiah should exhibit himself to his people. There was an old pro-phecy, Mal. iii. 1, ‘The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come into his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in.’ And he was to send forth his rod out of Zion, even the law of his kingdom: Ps. cx. 2. If he would yield to this advice and vain-glorious ostentation of his power before that numerous multitude which continually resorted to the holy things performed in the temple, how soon should he be manifested to be the Son of God, or the power of the great God. The devil doth not persuade him to cast himself from a rock or top of a tree in the desert – that had been temerity and rashness – but from a pinnacle of the temple, an holy place, and a place of much resort. But the Son of God was not to be discovered to the world by the devil’s methods. That had been such a piece of ostentation and vainglory as did not become the Son of God, who came to teach the world humility. But, however, the temptation is grievous: in so good a design, in such an holy place, there could no ill happen to the Son of God, nor a better occasion be offered of showing himself to many, so to confirm the Jews in the truth of the oracle they had of late heard from heaven.
[2.] The change of temptations. Since he will trust, the devil will put him upon trusting; he shall trust as much as he will. There he tempted him to the use of unlawful means to preserve his life, here to the neglect of things lawful. There, that God would fail him if he were still obedient to the Spirit, and did not take another course than divine providence had as yet offered to him; here, that God would not forsake him, though he threw himself into danger. There, that he would fail though he had promised; here, that he would help though he had not promised. That faith which sustained him in his hunger would preserve him in this precipice; if he expected his preservation from God, why not now? He had hitherto tempted him to diffidence, now to prefidence, or an over-confident presumption that God would needlessly show his power. It is usual with the tempter to tempt man on both sides; sometimes to weaken his faith, at other times to neglect his duty. He was cast out of heaven himself, and he is all for casting down.
[3.] The temptation was the more strong, being veiled under a pretence of scripture, and so Christ’s weapons seem to be beaten back upon himself. The devil tempted him to nothing but what he might be confident to do upon the promise of God. Now it is grievous to God’s children, when the rule of their lives and the charter of their hopes is abused to countenance a temptation.
II. The observations.
1. Observe, that the first temptation being rejected by Christ, Satan maketh a new assault. Though he get the foil, he will set on us again; like a troublesome fly that is often beaten off, yet will return to the same place. Thus the devil, when he could do no good upon his first patent against Job’s goods and children, cometh and sueth for a new commission, that he might touch his flesh and bones: Job ii. 4, 5, ‘Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life. But put forth thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee, to thy face.’ Satan is incessant in his attempts against the saints, and is ready to assault afresh upon every occasion. Now this cometh to pass by Satan’s unwearied malice, who is a sworn enemy to our peace and welfare – he still ‘seeketh to devour’ us, 1 Peter v. 8; also from God’s providence, who permitteth this that we may not be careless and secure after temptation, though we have gotten the victory; for our life is a continual warfare: Job vii. 1, ‘Is there not an appointed time for man upon earth?’ The same word signifieth also a warfare. Man’s life is a perpetual toil, and a condition of manifold temptations and hazards, such as a soldier is exposed to; therefore we must perpetually watch. We get not an absolute victory till death. Now this should the more prevail with us, because many of God’s people have failed after some eminent service performed for God. Josiah, after he had prepared the temple, fell into that rash attempt against Pharaoh Necho which cost him his life: 2 Chron. xxxv. 20, ‘After all this, when Josiah had prepared the temple, Necho, king of Egypt, came up to fight against Carchemish by Euphrates; and Josiah went out against him.’ And Peter, after he had made a glorious confession, giveth his Master carnal counsel: Mat. xvi. 18, ‘Thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build my church,’ etc.; and yet, ver. 23, ‘Get thee behind me, Satan.’ Many, after they have been much lifted up in consolation, do readily miscarry. First, be made a glorious confession, a sign of great faith; then carnal wisdom vents itself in some counsel concerning the ease of the flesh. Oh, what need have we to stand upon our guard, till God tread Satan under our feet! As one of the Roman generals, whether conquering or con-quered, semper instaurat pugnam, so doth Satan.
2. Observe, God may give Satan some power over the body of one whom he loveth dearly. For Satan is permitted to transport Christ’s body from the wilderness to the holy city, and to set it on a pinnacle of the temple. As it is very consistent with God’s love to his people to suffer them to be tempted in their souls by the fiery darts of Satan, so he may permit Satan to afflict their bodies, either by himself, or by witches, who are his instruments. Thus he permitted Satan to afflict Job, chap. ii. 6, 7, ‘And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thy hand, but save his life. So went Satan forth from the presence of the Lord, and smote Job with sore boils, from the sole of his foot unto his crown.’ The devil may have a threefold power over the bodies of men
[1.] By transportations, or carrying them from one place to another, which usually is not found but in those that give up themselves to his diabolical enchantments. Or,
[2.] In possessions, which were frequent and rife in Christ’s time:
‘My daughter is sorely vexed with a devil,’ Mat. xv. 22. Or,
[3.] In diseases, which is more common. Thus he afflicted Job’s body with ulcers; and what we read, Ps. xli. 8, ‘An evil disease cleaveth fast unto him.’ It is ‘a thing of Belial,’ as if it were a pestilential disease from the devil. So some understand that, Ps. xci. 3, ‘Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.’ As if those sudden darts of venom by which we are stricken in the plague came from Satan. Certainly evil angels may have a great hand in our diseases: Ps. lxxviii. 49, ‘He cast upon them the fierceness of his anger, wrath, and indignation, and trouble, by sending evil angels among them.’ But I press it not much. Only,
(1.) A word of patience, that we would submit to God, though our trials be never so sharp. We must yield to that measure of humiliation which it shall please God to prescribe. If he should give leave to Satan to inflame our blood and trouble the humours of our body, we must not repine; the Son of God permitted his sacred body to be transported by the devil in the air.
(2.) A word of comfort. Whatever power God permitteth Satan to have over our bodies, or bodily interests, yet it is limited; he cannot hurt or molest any further than God pleaseth. He had power to set Christ on a pinnacle of the temple, but not to cast him down. He had a power to touch Job’s skin, but a charge not to endanger his life: Job ii. 6,’ Behold, he is in thine hand, but save his life.’ God sets bounds and limits to the malice of Satan, that he is not able to compass all his designs. Job was to be exercised, but God would not have him die in a cloud, his life was to be secured till better times.
(3.) A word of caution. Let not the devil make an advantage of those troubles which he bringeth upon our bodies, or the interests of the bodily life, yet let him not thereby draw you to sin. Here the devil may set Christ upon a precipice, but he can do him no further hurt; he may persuade us to cast down ourselves, but he cannot cast us down unless we cast down ourselves, Nemo loeditur nisi a seipso. His main spite is at your souls, to involve you in sin. God may give him and his instruments a power over your bodily lives, but he doth not give him a power over the graces of the saints. The devil aimeth at the destruction of souls; he can let men enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season, that he may deprive you of delight in God and celestial pleasures; he can be content that you shall have dignities and honours if they prove a snare to you. If the devil seek to bring you to poverty, trouble, and nakedness, it is to draw you from God. He careth not for the body but as it may be an occasion to ruin the soul.
3. Observe, If Satan lead us up, it is to throw us down. He taketh up Christ to the pinnacle of the temple, and saith unto him, ‘Cast thyself down.’ He bringeth up many by little and little to some high place, that by their aspiring they may at length break their necks. Thus he did Haman, and so he doth many others, whose climbing maketh way for their greater fall. The devil himself was an aspirer, and fell from heaven like lightning: Luke x. 18, ‘ I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.’ And though in show he may seem to befriend many that hearken to his temptations, yet in the end he crieth, ‘Down with them, down with them, even to the ground.’ God’s manner is quite contrary; when he meaneth to exalt a man, he will first humble him, and make him low: Mat. xxiii. 12, ‘Whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.’ But the devil’s way is to lift them up to the clouds, that he may bring them down to the lowest pit of destruction. Adam, in conceit, must be like God, that indeed he may be like the beasts that perish: Ps. xlix. 20, ‘Man that is in honour, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish.’
4. Observe, ‘If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down.’ The temptation is quite contrary to what it was before. Then it was to preserve life by unlawful means, now to endanger life by the neglect of means lawful; there to distrust God’s care of our preservation when he hath set us about any task or work, here to presume on his care without warrant. The devil tempts us sometimes to pamper the flesh, sometimes to neglect it in such a way as is destructive to our service. Thus the devil hurrieth us from one extreme to another, as the possessed man ‘fell oft-times into the fire, and oft into the water,’ Mat. xvii. 15. Those that are guided by Satan reel from one extremity to another; either men slight sin and make light of it, or sinners are apt to sorrow above measure, as the incestuous Corinthian:
2 Cor. ii. 17, ‘Lest perhaps such an one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.’ And the apostle showeth there that these were the
enterprises of Satan. Some men are careless of God’s interest in the world, or else heated into the activity of a bitter zeal. Some are of a scrupulous spirit, that they may make conscience of all things; and the devil hurrieth them into a large atheistical spirit, that they make conscience of nothing. How often have we known a fond scrupulosity to end in a profane licentiousness, when they have been wearied out of that kind of frame of spirit! Some are dead and heartless, like Gallio, – ‘ care for none of these things;’ fight Christ, fight Antichrist, it is all one to them; and usually they are such as formerly have been heated with a blind and bold madness: as Peter at first refused to have his feet washed by Christ, and then would have head, hands, feet and all washed, John xiii. 8, 9, being out in both. What sad work is there made in the church of God by Solifidians and Nullifidians: heretofore it was all faith and free grace misapplied and misunderstood; and now it is all morality and virtue, while Christ is neglected, and the mystery of the gospel little set by or valued. It is ever the devil’s policy to work upon the humour of people. If they will reform the church, it shall be to a degree of separation, and condemning all churches and Christians that are not of their mode; if they be for uniting, Christ’s unquestionable interests must be trodden underfoot, and all care of truth and reformation must be laid aside. If he can destroy religion and godliness no other way, he will be religious and godly himself; but it is either, as to private Christians, to set them upon overdoing, that he may make them weary of the service of Christ; or, as to the public, by crying up some unnecessary things, which Christ never commanded. If men be troubled with sin, and see a necessity of the gospel, and prize the comforts of it, the gospel must be over-gospelled, or else it will not serve their turns; and that over-gospel must be carried to such a length as to destroy the very gospel, and free grace itself. The devil first tempted the world to despise the poor fishermen that preached the gospel; but the world, being convinced by the power of the Holy Ghost, and gained to the faith, then he fought by riches and grandeur to debase the gospel; so that he hath got as much or more by the worldly glory he puts upon Christ’s messengers as by persecution. Then, when that is discovered, the devil will turn reformer; and what reformation is that? the very necessary support and maintenance of ministers must be taken away. All overdoing in God’s work is undoing. If Christ will trust, the devil will persuade him to trust, even to the degree of tempting God.
5. Observe, That the devil himself may pretend scripture to put a varnish upon his evil designs; for here he seeketh to foil Christ with his own weapons: which serveth to prevent a double extreme.
[1.] One is, not to be frighted with the mere noise and sound of scriptures, which men bring to countenance their errors. See whether they be not wrested and misapplied; for the devil may quote scripture, but he perverts the meaning of it. And usually it is so by his instruments; as that pope, who would prove a double power to be in himself, temporal and spiritual, by that scripture, Ecce duo gladii! ‘Behold, here are two swords!’ Luke xxii. 38. It is easy to rehearse the words of scripture, and therefore not the bare words, but the meaning must be regarded.
[2.] The other extreme is this: Let none vilify the scriptures, because pleaded by Satan; for so he might as well vilify human reason, which is pleaded for all the errors in the world; or law, because it is urged sometimes to justify a bad cause. For it is not scripture, that is not a nose of wax, as Papists say. It is a great proof of the authority and honour of scriptures, that Satan and his greatest instruments do place their greatest hopes of prevailing by perverting and misapplying of it.
6. Observe, That God hath given his angels a special charge about his people, to keep them from harm. Here I shall show
[1.] That it is so.
[2.] Why it is so.
First, That it is so is evident by the scripture, which everywhere shows us that angels are the first instruments of his providence, which he maketh use of in guarding his faithful servants: Heb. i. 14. The apostle saith, ‘Are they not all, leitourgika pneumata ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to them that shall be the heirs of salvation?’ Their work and employment is to attend us at God’s direction, not to be worshipped and served by us by any devotion. They are ‘ministering spirits,’ not ours, but Christ’s; he that serveth hath a master whom he serveth, and by whom he is sent forth: their work and employment is to attend us indeed, but at the command and direction of their own Master. They are not at our beck to go and come at our pleasure, neither do they go and come at their inclination, but at the commission of God: their work is appointed by him, they serve us as their Master’s children, at his command and will; and whom do they serve? ‘The heirs of salvation.’ They are described, Titus iii. 7, ‘That being justified by grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.’ They are not ministers of conversion and sanctification: to this ministry Christ hath called men, not angels; but in preserving the converted the angels have a hand. Therefore it is notable they are sometimes called God’s angels: Ps. ciii. 21, ‘Bless the Lord, all ye his hosts, ye ministers of his that do his pleasure;’ sometimes their angels: Mat. xviii. 10, ‘Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones, for I say unto you, that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.’
But whether every one hath an angel-guardian is a curious question. Sometimes one angel serveth many persons: Ps. xxxiv. 7, ‘The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them;’ and sometimes many angels are about one person: 2 Kings vi. 17, ‘And, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots round about Elisha.’ And here in the text quoted by Satan, ‘He shall give his angels charge concerning thee.’ There is not mention made of one, but many angels, and the angels in general are said to be ministering spirits. When soldiers are said to watch for a city, it is not meant that every citizen hath a soldier to watch for him.
The only place which seemeth to countenance that opinion is Acts xii. 15, ‘Then said they, It is his angel.’ But if Peter had a peculiar angel to guard him, and look after him then, when he was in great trouble, and detained in prison, it doth not follow that every person and everywhere should have an angel-guardian. Besides, an assertion in scripture must be distinguished from men introduced speaking in scripture. It showeth, indeed, that it was the opinion of the Jews at that time, which these holy men had imbibed and drunk in. Or it may be the word angel is only taken for a messenger sent from Peter. Why should an angel stand knocking at the door, who could easily make his entrance? And is it credible that the guardian angels do take their shape and habit whose angels they are? It is enough for us to believe that all the angels are our guardians, who are sent to keep us and preserve us, as it pleaseth God.
But what is their ministry and custody? It is not cura animarum, care and charge of souls; that Christ taketh upon himself, and performeth it by his Spirit; but ministerium externi auxilii, to afford us outward help and relief: it is custodia corporis, they guard the bodily life chiefly. Thus we find them often employed. An angel brought Elijah his food under the juniper-tree: 1 Kings xix. 5. An angel stirred the waters at the Pool of Siloam: John v. 4. An angel was the guide of the way to Abraham’s servant: Gen. xxiv. 7, ‘He will send his angel before thee, and thou shalt take a wife unto my son from thence.’ Angels defend us against enemies: Ps. xxxiv. 7, ‘The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them;’ 2 Kings xix. ‘The angel of the Lord went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand.’ An angel opened the prison doors to the apostles: Acts v. 19, and xi:. 7.
But were not all these services extraordinary and miraculous, which we may not now expect?
Ans. The visible ministry was extraordinary, proper to those times; but the invisible is perpetual and ordinary, as Abraham’s servant did not see the angel in the journey. The devil worketh in and about wicked men invisibly, so do the good angels.
Secondly, Reasons why it is so.
(1.) To manifest the great love and care which God hath over his people; therefore he giveth those blessed spirits, which behold his face, charge concerning his people on earth; as if a nobleman were charged to look to a beggar by the prince of both.
(2.) We understand the operation of finite agents better than infinite. God is so far out of the reach of our commerce, that we cannot understand the particularity of his providence.
(3.) To counterwork the devil: evil angels are ready to hurt us, and therefore good angels are ready to preserve us. Well might the devil be so well versed in this place; he hath often felt the effects of it; he knew it by experience, being so often encountered by the good angels in his endeavours against the people of God.
(4.) To begin our acquaintance, which in heaven shall he perfected:
Heb. xii. 22, ‘Ye are come to an innumerable company of angels.’
Use 1. To show the happy state of God’s people. No heirs of a crown have such guards as they have. Christ dwelleth in their hearts as in a throne: Eph. iii. 17, ‘That Christ may dwell in your hearts
by faith.’ The Holy Spirit guardeth them against all cares and fears:
Phil. iv. 7, ‘And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ.’ And the good angels are as a wall and camp about them: Ps. xxxiv. 7, ‘The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them;’ Mat. xviii. 10, ‘Despise not one of these little ones for verily I say unto you, that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.’ If the angels make an account of them, surely men should not despise them; yea, rather, God esteemeth so much of the meanest of these little ones, that the good angels, who daily enjoy God’s glorious presence, are ministering spirits appointed to attend them. If the Lord and his holy angels set such a price on the meanest Christians, we should be loth to despise and offend them.
2. It should breed some confidence and comfort in Christians in their sore straits and difficulties, when all visible help seemeth to be cut off. This invisible ministry of the angels is matter of faith 2 Kings vi. 16, 17, ‘And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open the young man’s eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the young man’s eyes, and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.’ These were no other but the angels of God, which were as an host to defend them. Open the eye of faith, you may see God, and his holy angels to secure you.
3. Take we heed how we carry ourselves, because of this honourable presence. In congregations there should be no indecency, ‘because of the angels,’ 1 Cor. xi. 10. In all our ways let us take heed that we do not step out of God’s way. Do nothing that is unseemly and dis-honest; they are spies upon us. And it is profitable for us, that they may give an account of us to God with joy, and not with grief.