Page images
PDF
EPUB

not grasp a spirit with our hands, feel it and see it, yet we can in some manner conceive of it. But for the planetary inhabitants, we cannot account for them to ourselves or any one else, nor can we conceive anything of them that we can say

is

probable or rational.

Is it at all irrational to suppose, or improbable to be, that God may have made a degree of angels or of ministering spirits (whether they are angelic, or of other species, is not for us to determine) who may be of a differing degree, appointed for a differing residence, and to different employments from the superior angels, for a season?

As there are different degrees of glory in heaven, stars of different magnitude and lustre in the firmament, so may there not be angels or spirits of differing quality and degrees of power and favour? why else are they called thrones, and dominions, principalities, and powers ? they are all titles of honour given to the angels in the Scripture, Eph. i. 21. and vi. 12. If there be several titles, there must be several degrees.

There can be no superior, if there are no inferior; what can we understand by thrones and principalities in heaven, but degrees of angels? Besides, what do we understand by angels and archangels? 1 Thess. iv. 16. shall descend with the voice of an archangel : and again Jude, ver. 3. Michael the archangel.

If there are angels which are not archangels, but of an inferior degree, so there may be also different degrees among the angels which are not archangels; and some of these may be appointed their residence in the air or atmosphere of this world (earth), or within the compass of this particular solar system, for 1 allow there may be several like systems.

Thus those that will suppose these appearances to be of none but angels, I shall not contend at all with them: I exclude no species of spirits, but the departed unembodied souls of men; I have allowed apparitions to the Devil himself upon his own wicked and proper occasions. I only cannot grant, that because God can, therefore he does employ him, upon his own gracious and beneficent orders to his creatures ; this must at least seem to bring Providence to a necessity of employing him for want of other officers, which I think is highly detracting, and dishonouring of the divine Majesty, as if he was obliged to employ the Devil, as we say, for want of a better.

But excluding Satan, I think God does not want agents; he has apparently posted an army of ministering spirits, call them angels if you will, or what else you please ; I say, posted them round this convex, this globe the earth, to be ready at all events, to execute his orders and to do his will, reserving still to himself to send express messengers of a superior rank on extraordinary occasions.

I make no question but these are the angels which carried

away

Lazarus into Abraham's bosom, I mean which are supposed to do so.

I doubt not, these are the angels of which Christ says, his father, if he had prayed, would have sent him more than twelve legions for his guard. To

say it is not to be expected God should cause such an host of glorious spirits to attend on this little point the earth, and this despicable species called man, would be but to oblige me to say, what may not God be supposed to do for that creature whom he so loved as to send his only begotten son to redeem ? so at least that question is fully answered.

Now these spirits, let them be what they will, and call them angels if you please, I conceive these are they whose appearances give us so much difficulty to solve: these may, without any absurdity,

be supposed capable of assuming shape, conversing with mankind, either in the ordinary or extraordinary way, either by voice and sound, though in appearances and borrowed shapes, or by private notices of things, impulses, forebodings, misgivings, and other imperceptible communications to the minds of men, as God their great employer may direct.

Nor are these notions of them at all absurd or inconceivable, though the manner how they act may not be understood by us : it is but soul conversing with soul, spirit communicating to spirit, one intellectual being to another, and by secret conveyances, such as souls converse by.

Neither is the apparition of these spirits any absurdity; these may be intimate with us, appear to us, be concerned about us, without any thing unintelligible in it: why may not one spirit be so as well as another? and one kind or species of spirits as well as another ?

If these are innocent, good meaning, and beneficent spirits, why may it not consist with the wisdom and goodness of God to suffer such to be conversant with men, and to have access to the spirits embodied, as well as to allow the Devil and evil spirits to converse so among us to our hurt?

But let me give one caution here, and enter my protest against the power, or pretences to the power, of raising, or, as it is called, bringing up these spirits. To call them, and summon them up for intelligence of human affairs, and this by magic and conjurations, which we vulgarly and justly enough call the black art; I cannot allow this part of science to have any influence upon, or command over, any good spirit: but that, as the witch of Endor obtained of the Devil to personate the old prophet Samuel, and appear in his shape, speak in his name, and act the prophet in masquerade; so these men

of art may bring the Devil to mimic a good spirit, call himself an inhabitant of the world of spirits, and so delude mankind, as he does in almost everything he says to them; but he cannot really call up one of these independent free spirits, who are perfectly out of his reach wherever they are; and whose angelic nature places them above, not under him, or at his command.

Satan is a conquered, subdued enemy; and these indeed were his conquerors, and are still his terror; he abhors them, and hates them, and flees before them: and what if I should say they were placed in this situation, namely, in the invisible regions near and about this world, for this very reason, viz. to keep under this arch-enemy and rebel? as a conquering prince having obtained a glorious victory over a powerful rebel, though he retires from the country with his troops, the war being over, yet leaves a good body of forces to keep the peace of the country, and to awe the rebels from any further attempt.

Thus they are guardian angels really, and in the very letter of it, without being obliged to attend at every particular man's ear or elbow. Mankind are thus truly said to be in the hands of God always ; and Providence, which constantly works by means and instruments, has the government of the world actually in his administration, not only by his infinite power, but by immediate deputation, and the subdued Devil is a prisoner of war both chained and restrained.

CHAP. VI.

Of the manner how the spirits of every kind, which can or do appear among us, manage

their

appearance; and how they proceed. The possibility being thus settled, and it being granted that spirits, or detached angels, do converse with mankind visibly as well as invisibly, and have access to us, to our souls as well as bodies, as well by secret communication as by open and public apparition; it remains to inquire into the manner how this conversation is carried on.

I have already entered my protest against all those arts called magical and diabolic, by which man is made capable (at least) of being aggressor in this communication, that he can call up these spirits, or call them down rather, and begin the conversation when he pleases.

Whether by compact and secret hellish familiarity with the Devil he may not obtain leave to use Satan with such freedom, I will not determine; I doubt he may; for the Devil may depute such and such powers and privileges to his confederates, as to his honour and in his great wisdom shall seem meet: but that he can empower them to do the like with those good and beneficent spirits of the invisible world, who are (I have supposed) spirits, not devils, that I deny, nor do I see any reason to grant it.

I come then to the manner the spirits, which I would suppose may inhabit the utmost waste, are able to correspond with us; and first, as spirits or angels, call them as you will, they are to be supposed, like other spirits, to have an extensive know

« PreviousContinue »