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One thing certainly that makes us hesitate to regard these “principalities and powers," of which God “divested Himself” in the death of Christ, as malignant powers, is that in this Epistle the angels, who were thus set aside by Christ from the authority they formerly had, are represented as within the sweep of Christ's reconciling love as now dependent on Christ, in order to be brought within that harmony of all things with God which is the end of His Son's work.
On these two points, then, we notice an advance in the later Epistles with regard to Paul's teaching about the angels, first, in his apprehension of the death of Christ as having displaced them from the rule they once exercised over men; and second, in his inclusion of them in the Divine plan of redemption. But it is significant that Paul's interest in the angels is exhausted when he has made good his point that they are powerless, and have no real relation to the religious life of men. He does indeed, in Eph. vi. 12, speak of the Christian warfare as being with principalities and powers,—by which he intimates his belief in spiritual agencies that are in active opposition to the Divine will. But of angels as concerned in the administration of religious influence to men we hear no more after he has shown that the Christian dispensation has abolished the function they once discharged in the Divine Economy.
There is nothing in Paul of that prying curiosity into the secret administration of Providence which we find in Jewish literature, and which revelled in speculations about the ranks and orders of angels. The Romish Church has here served itself heir to the fantastic imaginations of Jewish theology on this subject. But Paul had too much practical good sense to trouble himself much about these matters.
We cannot, indeed, say much regarding the nature of the spiritual Force that is the cause of the phenomena of the material world. It is more consonant with our modern ideas to conceive of God as directly and immediately acting on nature, and according to that regularity of action that we speak of as law. Ancient thought, on the other hand, conceived of God as effecting His purposes through subordinate spiritual agencies. Cardinal Newman is perhaps the only great writer in modern times who is true to the spirit of ancient thought in this particular, for he holds very strongly the belief that all movement in nature is caused by angelic intelligences. In his sermon on the Feast of St. Michael, or the powers of Nature, he says: “Proceeding on such passages as John v. 4; Ex. xix. 16–18; Acts vii. 53; Rev. vii. 1; Gen. xix. 13; 2 Kings xix. 35; 2 Sam. xxiv. 15-17, as far as scriptural communications go we learn that the course of nature, which is so wonderful, so beautiful, and so fearful, is effected by the ministry of these unseen beings. Nature is not inanimate: its daily toil is intelligent; its works are duties. . . . Whenever we look abroad we are reminded of those most gracious and holy beings, the servants of the Holiest, who deign to minister to the heirs of salvation. Every breath of air and ray of light and heat, every beautiful prospect, is, as it were, the skirts of their garments, the waving of the robes of those whose faces see God in heaven.” 1
There may be nothing irrational in all this, however alien to our ways of thinking. It is a form of expression for the faith, that nature is living, or rather, that spirit, spiritual intelligence, is the real cause of all power and energy in the world; and that faith is welcome in whatever form it clothes itself; in its most fantastic dress it is preferable to the idea that nature is dead, and that there is nothing more than mechanical force at work in its phenomena.?
To the apostle the religious interest at stake in the question about the angels was secured when he had made good his point that Jesus was supreme over all, and that no intermediate intelligence had power to come between him and God, or to subject our life to the thraldom of that material world which was supposed to be the seat of their
1 Newman's Sermons, vol. ii. pp. 360–362.
2 R. Rothe was a firm believer in angels. It is said that when dying he bade his friends stand aside, smiling as he added : “It is not good that there should be too many people around a deathbed ; then there is no room for the angels."
power. And if the truth of Christ's supremacy over "all principalities and powers” is to have value for us as a religious truth, we must translate it into the form I have set forth in the text, and regard it as the expression of the truth that through Christ, the Second Adam, and faith in His love, we are able to make all things in the natural world, even those that would otherwise work adversely to us, to minister to our Highest Good.
For a full statement of the Old Testament doctrine of angels there is nothing better than Prof. A. B. Davidson's article on “ Angels” in the forthcoming Bible Dictionary edited by Dr. Hastings, by whose kindness I have been permitted to read it in proof.
NOTE B, p. 180.—BECK ON TRUTH AND LIFE
The following is from the opening lecture of his course on the Doctrine of the Christian Faith. I extract it from his Gedanken aus u. nach der Schrift. Neue Folge, 1878.
“ Ich weiss es, ... wie wogenartig auch edlere Gemüther umhergeworfen werden von Zweifeln und mancherlei Lehrmeinungen, und eben desshalb lege ich Ihnen die Bitte aus Herz: Fassen Sie Ihre Seelen in Ruhe und Geduld während des Vortrags, und seien Sie nicht schnell zu innerem Murren, wenn manches Sie eine harte Rede dünkt, auch nicht schnell zum hoffnungslosen Verzagen, wenn nicht in Bälde alles denk und mundgerecht für Sie ist, und die Frucht nicht vom Baume Ihnen in den Mund fällt. Das ist nicht wesenhafte Wahrheit, sondern Schein und Wahn, was sich bequem und rasch macht, was nicht enge Pforte und schmalen Weg hat, nicht Kraft und Ernst des ganzen Menschen in Anspruch nimmt, sondern nur eine vereinzelte Operation, die Denkoperation. Die Wahrheit besteht nicht aus blos formalen Gedanken, sondern ist reales Leben. Die Mittheilung der Wahrheit kann nur als Lebenseinpflanzung stattfinden und diese erfordert Offenheit, Stille und Ausdauer, dass Anwurzelung und Entwickelung zu Stande komme. Die Wahrheit muss Anstössiges und Fremdartiges für uns haben, so lange und so weit wir selbst ihr noch fremd sind; die Zubildung zu ihr und die Ausbildung in ihr geschieht nach festen Gesetzen eines Lebensprocesses, und nicht nach blossen Gesetzen eines Denkprocesses. Darum kann die Wahrheit, die höher ist als wir selbst, auch nur allmälig und stückweise von uns erkannt werden, kann auf der Entwicklungsstufe, auf der wir gerade stehen, nicht in allen Theilen und Beziehungen uns zugänglich und verständlich werden. Wer ausharrt und das festhält, was er schon als innerlich versiegelte Wahrheit hat und dabei das noch Befremdliche nicht wegwirft, sondern für weitere Prüfung sich reservirt, der gewinnt Boden und Samen, woraus ihm immer reichere Ernte erwächst; wer abspringt, so oft ihn ein Zweifel juckt, statt seinen Zweifel selbst zu bezweifeln, wer abbricht, wo sichs seiner angelernten Manipulation nicht fügen und biegen will—der mag ein fahrender Schüler werden oder ein versessener Antithesenmeister, aber zur Wahrheit, die ihn trägt und über sich selbst hinausführt, die ihm Lebenssubstanz gibt und Capital für eine Ewigkeit—zu der Wahrheit kommt er nie.”
NOTE, P. 210.—DIFFERENT FORMS OF THE THEORY OF
THE PRE-EXISTENT GOD-MANHOOD OF CHRIST Most of those who have believed in the Pre-existent Godmanhood of Christ have represented it as an eternal determination of the Godhead, or of the Logos. But the opinion has also been held by some that the Pre-existent Humanity of the Son of God is not eternal, but was assumed by Him in an act prior to creation, in order that through It all things might be created, and that it is this taking of our nature into union with His own Eternal Nature that constitutes Him the First-Born of creation. This is the doctrine of Isaac Watts and others, and it has been recently revived, although without any apparent dependence on previous writers, in a work entitled The Nature of Christ, by William Marshall, 1896, in which, with great earnestness and confidence in the scripturalness of his view, the writer, in opposition to previous Christologies, advocates the position that the Son of God, before creation and for mediatorial ends, became the Divine Man in order to represent God to men and men to God : and that it was this Divine Humanity that He laid aside when He became Incarnate, in order that in our flesh and blood He might work out our salvation. He thus distinguishes between a twofold incarnation, that which took place before and for the ends of creation, consisting in the assumption of our nature in its spiritual essence, and that which took place when He descended to this world, consisting in the assumption of a flesh and blood humanity subject to temptation and disease and death.
The point of sameness in this view and the ordinary form in which the doctrine of the Pre-existent Divine Humanity of Christ has been held is that in both there is posited a pre