Goodwin Banner


"According to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience". - Ver. 2.

THE habitual estate of every man by nature the Apostle mentioneth in the first verse, in the person of these Ephesians : 'Ye,’ saith he, 'who were dead in sins and trespasses.' Here, in the second verse, he cometh to lay open what manner of conversation they had actually in their lives: 'In which sins,' saith he, 'in time past ye walked;' having three guides, which in this their walking they were led by : -
1. The world; 'according to the course of this world.'
2. Satan, the devil; 'according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience.'
3. The lusts of the flesh - _that is, the corruption of their own hearts, acted and stirred up by these; 'among whom also we had our conversation in times past, in the lusts of our flesh,' &c.
I have despatched this first guide, 'according to the course of this world.' I shall now come to this second, 'according to the prince of the power,' &c.
The Apostle's general scope in these words is to hold forth these three things : -
1. The misery of these Ephesians, and of all men by nature, in respect of subjection unto Satan, that they being children of disobedience, Satan, as a prince, ruleth over them and governeth them.
2. That as the world, so that Satan is a cause of that sinfulness that is in the hearts and lives of men. As the world is a cause, according to which men shape their courses naturally, as the most of unregenerate men do, - that is, the exemplary cause, - so the devil is the impelling cause. He is a cause, both as a prince and as a spirit: 'according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that worketh,' &c.
3. To wind in a description, upon this occasion, of the greatness of Satan's kingdom, which he doth on purpose to illustrate and shew their misery the greater and the more. He is not contented to shew their subjection to Satan, but he doth it under the notion of a kingdom. 'According,' saith he, 'to the prince of the power of the air,' or of the spirit, or the spirit 'that works in the children of disobedience.'
And the scope of all these three particulars tended to this, to stir up their hearts to give God thanks for that great deliverance, which in turning them to God he had wrought in them and for them. 'For God,' saith he, ver. 4, 'who is rich in mercy, even when we were dead in sins and trespasses,' - and thus in subjection unto Satan, - ' hath delivered us,' &c. We find that, in Col. i. 13, turning unto God is called a 'translating us front the power of darkness into the kingdom of his Son.' By the 'power of darkness' there, he especially meaneth the kingdom of Satan, for he is the ruler of darkness, as you have it in the 6th chapter of this epistle, ver. 12. And therefore it is opposed to the kingdom of his Son, because there is a prince over that kingdom - that is, the great prince of this power of darkness - who hath set up a kingdom against his Son. Now the Apostle had shewed, in the 19th verse of the first chapter, - that you may see the coherence, and how one thing hangs with another, - the exceeding great poiver that had this wrought in them, and this translated them. He had likewise, in the 20th and 21st verses, shewed what a glorions kingdom God hath set up for his Son. ' The power which he wrought in Christ,' saith he, 'when be raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power, might and dominion, and every name that is named, and hath put all things under his feet,' &e.
Now he tells them that they, being converted, are placed in this kingdoni with Christ. That you have in the 6th verse of this second chapter : ' He hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.' Therefore now, to take their hearts so much the more, he shows them that Satan hath an opposite kingdom to this of Christ's, under the power of which they were ; and a kingdom it was, and a power he had, and a power that worketh, and worketh effectually. You may see it, saith he, in the children of disobedience to this day, and you yourselves would have been the same. And therefore they were to bless God for that great change, for that power that had thus wrought in them, and translated thom out of the devil's kingdom, - which at best, saith he, is but in the air, and will have an end with the air, - whereas now, saith he, you are set together with Christ in that kingdom which God hath given his Son. We sit together 'in heavenly places' with him - So now you have both the scope of the words, and the general aspect of them.
I shall principally do these two things which eminently the text holds forth, and they are two parts, as I may divide them, that these words fall into The first is, to shew you what a kingdom Satan hath, as here it is described, which the Apostle had in his eye to wind in, in way of opposition to that kingdom which Christ hath described in the 21st and 22d verses of the former chapter. And - The second is, to shew you that Satan rules and reigns in the hearts of unregenerate men, is the cause of sin in them, and they walk according to this prince, he being a spirit, he and his angels, which do work, and work effectually in the hearts of the children of disobedience ; and once wrought in them. Or, if you will, you may divide the words thus, for they may be divided in a twofold manner; here are two periods, though in the Greek the sentence is continued, yet according to the periods there must be two sentences made. He is said to be the prince of the power of the air, and the spirit, or the prince of the spirit - for either will stand, according as interpreters give the sense - that worketh in the children of disobedience.
Here, then, are two parts of this kingdom in these two sentences - 1. he is the prince of the power of the air. 2. he is the prince of the spirit that works in the children of disobedience. The devil, you know, hath two titles, in respect of his kingdom, given him, and it was given him or acknowledged by his competitor, Christ himself. He is first called the prince of devils, that is implied in the first sentence ; he is the prince of the power of the air. And then, secondly, he is called the prince of this world, or of the men of the world ; that is included in the second sentence, the prince of that spirit that worketh in the children of disobedience. This division you may take, because the one holdeth forth eminently the one, the other holds forth more eminently the other. Or, if you will, you may take the former division the one shews what a kingdom he hath, the other what influence he hath in the hearts of men unregenerate in sinning. And indeed the one is interwoven in the other. I shall begin with the first sentence : He is the Prince of the Power of the air. The only difficulty in the phrases is, what is meant by power, and what by air.
By power, some understand, in the abstract, that princedom or government he hath in the air: and by air, by a double synecdoche, they understand this lower world and the men in it : and so understand that universal power and princedom that is committed unto the great devil here in this world, both over his men, and over his natives, his complices, His evil angels. In Rev, xvi. you shall find that when the seventh angel poured out his vial, ver. 17, - which is that vial that ends all the enemies of Christ, and bringeth in the day of judgement, or the thousand years that go before it, - it is said, he 'poured out his vial into the air, and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, it is done ' that is, there was an end of all, because this last vial is to be upon the universal power of the devil, which meant is by air; because as air circleth all things round, so it takes in the whole. The other vials have been poured out upon part of the kingdom of the beast and of the devil, but this is upon the air, and so upon his whole power.
And another sense, which indeed cometh all to one, is, that here, by the power of the air,' is meant not simply that government or power committed to him over the air whereof he is the prince, in the abstract, but that thereby is meant in a more peculiar manner his devils, his angels as they are called!. It is put for the angels that have this power, whereof he is the prince; which angels live and fly up and down in the air, as the most accommodate place ir their residence. And so it would rather seem to be here understood, because it would hold forth something distinct from what is said in the second sentence over his power over men, over the children of disobedience, the Apostle expresseth that in the second sentence thereof here, in thus first he meaneth, in a more peculiar, eminent manner, those airy spirits that are principalities, and powers, and rulers with him in this world, and are the spirits that do work under him in the children of disobedience. So that now by 'power of the air' is meant that united kingdom, that body of angels, - I may call them a political body, - under this one prince, Satan.
The only objection against this interpretation is this, that it is called power, in the singular number, and that therefore the angels that have power under him should not be meant.
But that is easily taken off, for it is all these as united into one kingdom as we call an army sent from Spain, the power of Spain - that is, so many men ; or an army that cometh under the command of one general against another nation, we call it such a force', or such a power cometh. In Col, i. 13, there it is put in the singular number too. As in chapter i. 21 of this epistle Christ is said to be the head of all 'principality and power' - it is in the Singular. And yet he meaneth not only government, but the persons in the government. In Exodus 14:28 we find that which in the Hebrew is 'all the host of Pharoah were drowned' the Septuagint renders it in the singlar number, all the 'power' of Pharoah, meaning his whole army; and so it is like in Exodus 15:4. And so now here, the word - power of the air - which he is prince of though sometimes they differ, yet sometimes they are put one for and with another, as in 1 Cor. xv. 24. And so now the meaning of it is this he is the prince of the power of the air, - that is, of all that body of angels that are united into a kingdom under him, and are in the air, which is the seat of their kingdom and of their rule, and are the spirits that do work in the children of disobedience. And so now 'air' doth note out the local place where they are, for kingdoms have denomination from the place; as we say, the king of Spain, or the kingdom of Spain, or the power of Spain, that is, which is in Spain, of men living there : so here, the prince of the power of the air is the prince of those angels that are united into one power and kingdom in the air, having that for their seat. And that I may add a little more confirmation to this, according to the analogy of Scripture phrase ; you heard before that the ' host' of Pharaoh is called the 'power ' of Pharaoh ; so in Matt. xxiv. 29, that which is there translated the 'host' of heaven, in the Greek is the 'powers' of heaven. The whole creation, my brethren, is divided - or at leastwise all that is above the earth where men live - into three parts, and every one of them have their powers, that are inhabitants of it. There is the highest heavens, where God, blessed for ever, and his angels are ; there is the starry heavens ; and there is the air of this sublunary world : and in respect of the earth, these are sometimes all called heaven, the highest heaven is called the third heaven.
Now, to all these there are hosts, or powers, or a power, which is all one, that is in Scripture attributed to them that he the inhabi-tants thereof; they are set forth under that title and niune. God Ilatil his throne in the highest heavens, and in 1 Kings xxii. 19 you shall read there of the 'host of heaven,' namely all his holy and blessed angels that were there gathered about him, and the Septuagint there translates it likewise the 'powers of heaven.' Then there is the starry heavens, where the sun, and moon, and stars are, and they rule the day and the night, whereof the sun is the prince ; you shall find likewise that they are called the host of heaven, as in Ps. xxxiii. 6, and the Septuagint translates it all the same, 'power.' Then here is the air, you see, that is the third, and that that a host in it too, but it is of devils, whereof this great devil is the prince, it is the seat of his kingdom, it is the power of the air. And so much now for that. And that by the power of the air should be meant the wicked angels as united into one body, as joining and concurring in one power, one army ; this, I say, makes the sense more full and comprehensive, holdeth forth something distinct from that which follows in the next words where his subjects are mentioned, namely the 'children of disobedience,' and sets forth the kingdom of Satan to the full in all its variety, in all its subordinations. He is a prince, under him he hath a power; these work upon men, the children of disobedience-So now you have all these words opened unto you.
Now I shall come to that which is instead of observations,-that is, to explain to you this same kingdom of Satan, for the Apostles scope is to hold that up here. And, first. you see that Satan hath a kingdom, and it is the great kingdom that is set up against the kingdom of Jesus Christ. The Apostle therefore, as he had described Jesus Christ as a mighty king over all principality and power, in the 20th and 21st verses of the former chapter: so here he holdeth forth the opposite kingdom Satan hath, consisting both of men and angels, made up of those two, the one in the air, the other dwelling in the earth. his great competitor, Christ, acknowledgeth him to have a kingdom Matt. xii. 26, 'If Satan be divided against Satan, how shall his kingdom stand ' Yea, and he had the start of his kingdom in the world before Christ came into it, carried the world before him for many thousand years.
It is supposed by some, and indeed rationally and probably by Zanchy, whom I account the best of Protestant writers in his judgment, and likewise by Suarez, the best of school-men,- that upon the very setting up, or at least-wise upon the notice that the angels had of the setting up of a kingdom for the man Christ Jesus, predestinated to come, (which whether it was without the fall predestinated, as some, or upon supposition of the fall, as others, yet so much might be revealed to them,) and that the human nature was to be assigned up into the Second Person, and he to be the head of all principality and power, and that angels and men should have their grace from him ; this, they say, being declared to be the will of God, their very refusing of this kingdom, and to be subject unto Christ as they thus assumed, was their first sin ; and that now, in opposition hereunto, they did set up another kingdom against him. Thus, I say, these writers that I have mentioned do think, and they allege that place in the Epistle of Jude, ver. 3, where the sin of the angels being described, it is said, 'they kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation,' which, say they, is not there brought in as their punishment they left that station God had set them in, and they left their dwelling in heaven, to set up a kingdom here below in opposition to Christ, and so to have an independent kingdons of themselves; for which God hath condemned them into eternal torment and to hell, and 'delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment,' 2 Peter ii. 4. And to set up this great kingdom is their business, and therefore they now do associate themselves together, not out of love, but as becometh rational creatures that would drive on a project and a design. Our Saviour Christ in that place, Matt. xii., speaks of it as the great end that Satan prosecuteth. Satan, saith he, will not cast out Satan, for that would divide his kingdom, and he is tender of that, that is his great design. I will not much insist upon it, only I will give you the grounds that they go upon, besides this mentioned. That place in John viii. 44, where Christ lays open both the devil's sin, and the sin of the Jews. The sin of the Jews was, that they would not receive that truth which Christ had delivered to them, as he tells them, ver. 45, ' Because I tell you the truth, you believe me not,' and not receiving it, they sought to kill him. Now if you ask what that truth was that Christ had so much inculcated to them, you shall see at ver. 25 what it is. They asked Jesus who He was. ' Even the same,' saith he, ' that I have told you from the beginning,' the Messiah, the Son of God ; and saith he, in the next verse, ' He that sent me is true, and I speak to the world those things which I have heard of him ;' and, ver. 2-8, When you have crucified me, some of you shalt know it - for some were converted, or at least they saw it more eminently to their hardening,-' You shall know that I am he.' This he calleth the truth, ver. 32 : You, saith he, speaking to his disciples, ' shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.' Now the truth is the Son of God. ' If the Son make you free, you shall be free indeed.' ver. 36. This was the great truth that these Jews wold not receive. Now he tells them likewise, ver. 44, that Satan, their father the devil, 'abode not in the truth.' he was the first, saith he, that opposed and contradicted this great truth, and would not be subject to God who revealed this, nor would hence accept, or embrace, or stand, or continue in this, he would quit heaven first and so from hence came he to be a murderer, a hater of this man Christ Jesus, and of this kingdom, and of mankind; for he that hateth God, or he that hateth Christ, is, in what in him hath, a murderer of him, and he shewed it in falling upon man, And they back it with this reason why it should be so meant: because otherwise the devil's sin, which he compares theirs unto, had not been so great as theirs, there had not been a likeness between the sin of the one and the other. His sin had only been telling of a lie, a lie merely in speech, and theirs had been a refusing of that great truth, Jesus Christ as the Messiah and Head, and so the devil's sin would have been less than theirs; whereas he is made the great father of this great lie, of this great stubbornness to receive Christ, and to contradict this truth; and this, saith he, he hath opposed from the beginning, with all his might, and he setteth your hearts a-work to kill me. But, I say, I will not stand upon this, because I only deliver it as that which is the opinion of some, and hath some probability.
However this is certain, whatsoever his sin was, he hath now, being fallen, set up his kingdom in a special manner against Christ. And so Christ hath been the great stumbling stone; the angels fell upon it, and men fall upon it. So that indeed the first quarrel was laid in this, God himself proclaimed it at the very beginning. And a little would make one think, that there was something before, when God denounced the sentence against the serpent. 'The seed of the woman shall break the serpent's head,' which though spoken to the serpent, comes in by way of curse, as striking at the very spirit of the devil's sin. He shall break thy head, saith he; thou wouldest have lifted up thyself, he shall crush thee. God, I say, proclaimed the war, and the quarrel hath continued from the beginning of the world to this day, and will do until Satan be put out of this air; for so long he is to have his kingdom, till Christ beateth him out of it every day in the world, and so will continue to do, till he hath won the world from him, and then he will chain him up in the bottomless pit. Therefore saith Christ in Luke xi, 20, 'If I with the finger of God cast out devils,' - the devil hath a kingdom, saith he, he had said that before, - then know that the kingdom of God, that great kingdom prophesied of which the Son of man should have from God, is come amongst you. In John xii. 28, 'I have glorified my name,' saith God, 'and I will glorify it;' what followeth thereupon as the consequence of it? Saith Christ, 'Now shall the prince of this world be cast out;' his kingdom shall go down, that is the way by which God will glorify himself. I will glorify myself; saith he, - that is, I will throw down that kingdom which the devils possess. When the seventy returned, and rejoiced that the devils were subject to them in Christ's name, saith he, 'I saw Satan ' - I saw him before, this was in mine eye - ' falling from heaven like lightning;' and that is the great thing in Christ's eye, to bring down the devil's kingdom.
The truth is, the reason that God suffered Satan, and indeed hath given a kingdom to him by way of permission, is this: be would set up the greatest enemy that could be supposed his Son Jesus Christ could have, strengthened with a multitude of angels, having gained all mankind, - for so he had at first setting up of this kingdom ; there was a law that not a man should be born in this world but he should be a subject of his kingdom, - and Jesus Christ had not one person upon earth; he might have angels in heaven indeed. Now this God did, that he might shew forth the glory of the kingdom of his Son, in ruining this great enemy and destroying this great kingdom; for this is the great kingdom that Christ hath in his eye. Alas the ruining of earthly kingdoms, the Roman monarchy, and the like, it is but a petty business to the breaking of this kingdom, this great head, which is as the thing that turns about all the kingdoms of the world - That is the first observation.
The second thing which you may observe out of the words likewise, is this, that this kingdom is a monarchy. Here is a prince, one great devil over other devils, ' the power of the air;' and over men, 'the children of disobedience!' and this kingdom set up against our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. This is a truth which both heathens and others acknowledge. Trismegistus hath it, as in Lactanthis' second book of Divine institutions ; he speaks of evil spirits and good spirits, and of the evil spirits he saith there was one chief devil. And it was a tradition likewise amongst the Jews, and owned by Christ himself, in that of Matt. xii., who called him the ' prince of devils.' And there are testimonies by some that those that were magical amongst the heathen, when they could not raise a spirit, they would call upon that chief devil, whom they durst not name, that he would send one to them. I only speak it for this, that amongst them this was a tradition, that there was one great devil. When I handled that of 'principality and power' in the 20th verse of the first chapter, I remember I shewed then that, take the power of angels in heaven simply, it is in respect of them an aristocracy; it is a monarchy in respect of Christ indeed. But come down to hell, and there it is a monarchy; he is both prince of devils, and prince of this world too, as Matt. ix. 34, xii. 24; John xii. 31.
How he cometh to be thus the monarch, we will not stand disputing. The school-men have many things upon it. He was the most excellent of all the rest, and the order of nature still continued though they fell as in a man's soul, though he fall into sin, yet that order that the powers of the soul were set in it at first continueth still; the understanding still guideth the will, and the will the affections. Or perhaps he was the ringleader of them all; and therefore when his punishment, and that in respect to his first sin, is mentioned, it is said, ' Go into the fire prepared' - prepared so long ago, even from his first sinning - ' for the devil and his angels.' The style of the punishment runs as the style of the sin runs, for it is spoken in respect of the sin. The devil had sinned, and his angels that cleave unto him therein; therefore the punishment runs, 'prepared for the devil and his angels;' prepared, I say, for him even from his first sinning, as being the ringleader of them all in that first sin. And so indeed Grotius interpreteth that in John vin. 44, He is a liar, and the father of it;' he is, saith he, a father of that kind, of all the devils that lied. A father, how? Not by generation, but as in Gen. iv. 20, he that first invented brass is said to be the father of such as work in brass; and he that invented tents, the father of such as dwell in tents. And so now by the just ordination of God, they having sinned with him, are all thus subjected to him; he remains a prince over them. The devils sinned with a head, we sinned in a head. And they thus uniting willingly to one monarchy, their chiefest end being to uphold the business of their kingdom, as I shall shew anon, therefore that this may he carried on uniformly and one way, that there may be one uniform spirit stall, and that they may be guided in all ages by it, to breathe in one kind of activity into the children of disobedience, they have all subjected themselves; partly I say by their own voluntary subjection, and partly by the ordination of God, and the excellency of that angel above all the rest. He is called 'that dragon' in Rev. xx., the article is put three times there: 'that dragon, that serpent, that old.' And though other devils may be called devils, - though some say that we read nowhere that any are called devils but this great devil; the others are called demons, but they are not called diaboli and they are called unclean spirits and the like, - but this title, 'who is the devil and Satan,' is proper and peculiar to him. As there is a whole Antichrist, though there be many Antichrists ; so there is one whole dragon, one great devil, though there be many others under him.
You shall read in Ezek. xxix. 3, - it is an excellent allusion, - that Pharaoh king of Egypt is called the great dragon; the like you have in Isa. Ii. 9. Now in Ps. lxxiv. 13, 14, compared with this, you shall find it said, that God gave his people the heads of the dragons for meat; meaning the Egyptians. (It was meat for their faith to live upon, to see the great works that God did for them.) They are called the little dragons, but Pharaoh is called the great dragon. As this was a type of our deliverance out of the kingdom of Satan, so the type runs on : as Pharaoh, though all the rest of the Egyptians were dragons, yet he was that great dragon; so there is one great devil, who is prince of all the rest. And between him and Jesus Christ it is, that this, not competition on Christ's part, - that is too mean a word to be used in this business, - but he is set up, and hath set up himself against our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Therefore now, when Christ came into the world, the devil, having had quiet possession of the kingdoms of the world in all ages, - yon know he had been worshipped as the god of the world, - he began to smell that this man was the Son of God; and in his temptation if you, if you look into Luke iv., he doth offer him all these kingdoms. If thon be the Messiah, saith he, I know it is a kingdom that thou comest for, and that is the quarrel between thee and me; thou shalt have it, saith he, with ease ; they are all given unto me, do but hold it of me, do but worship me. He would have compounded the business of this kingdom with the mnan Christ Jesus. This great devil, that old serpent that tempted Adam, tempteth the second Adam; and this was the decision of the controversy and quarrel, Christ told him with indignation that God only must be worshipped. Now this same great devil, this same prince, he is the supreme, and the others, 'powers of the air,' are but sent out by him, as I may allude to what Peter speales. Therefore in 2 Cor. xii. 7, Paul saith a messenger of Satan was sent to buffet him. It was not the great devil, but an angel, a messenger of his whom he sent.
Now, between thus prince and these under-devils that are rulers of the world under him, as they are called, Eph. vi. 12, there seems in Scripture to be held forth this difference, that they are much fixed to places, I do not say to persons. It is a thing observed in that Mark v. 12, when the legion of devils were to be cast out of the man, the text saith that 'they besought him much' - there is an emphasis put upon it - ' that he would not send them away out of the country.' Why? Because, as Cartwright and others well observe, they would still continue there, where they had been familiar with men, and knew their dispositions and manners, and therefore knew how to lay their temptations ; and it would have been a great disadvantage, they thought, to them to be sent out of that country, and so have been put to seek out another. Therefore the devil's punishment, when he goes out of one, is said to be, that he ' walketh in dry places,' - that is, in places where he finds little work. But now this great devil, he goes up and down the earth, as being he that giveth direction to all the rest. It is that which interpreters observe out of Job, where he is said to come from 'compassing the earth to and fro.' he is the general vizier of the world.
Thirdly, All these agree in one. That is clear out of the text too, for, if you mark it, they are not called 'powers of the air,' though they are so many of them, but they are called ' power,' in the singular number, because they do agree with one united design to carry it on. And they are not called spirits,' but one spirit ; ' the spirit that worketh,' &c. Or, at least, there is one common spirit comes from them all, one spirit and one power, because they all agree to set up sin, and to pull down the kingdom of Jesus Christ, all that possibly they can. This agreement of theirs, to give you but one instance of it, appears in that legion that was in one man, in Mark v. and in Luke viii. These did not act one member of him one way, and others of them another, but they all agree to act the whole man one way. And again, when at their request Christ gave them leave to enter into the swine, there were two thousand swine, therefore at least there were two thousand devils, for it is said, 'they entered into them.' All these agreed still in one project, they carried these swine all of them headlong into the sea; one devil doth not carry one swine one way, and another another way, but they entered into them, they all agreed to carry them headlong into the sea.
And the reason why they are thus united is this, because they are united in one extrinsical common end, which is to them the supreme end of all the rest, to which they lay down all lower, particular, intrinsical ends of their own, all ambition in themselves, or whatsoever else. The devils are proud enough, yet their hatred to God and to Christ, and their zeal to their own kingdom, in the public and general, is made their supreme end. Revenge against God is certainly their main sin, as he that sins against the Holy Chest, having received the sentence of condemnation within himself, revenge against God is his main lust. Therefore they being muted in this end, which is extra se, and concerneth the public cause of them all, as I may call it, hence they lay aside all their lower ends, and they agree to attain that end. And therefore, though they cause divisions amongst men, as they did between Abimelech and the men of Sichem, and so they do in kingdoms yet they all agree in this one end of hatred to God, and therefore in the putting of men upon sin in the uttermost ways they can.
My brethren, what should this teach us? Give me leave to do that by the way, as I go. Is there union in hell under one prince, Satan? and shall there not be union amongst saints, under one Head, Christ Jesus, who have a nearer relation to Christ, not as a Prince only, but as a Head? The devil is not properly a head to these as members. Our Saviour Christ, you know, prayed for his disciples, and so for all others that are saints, that they might he one, as he is one; and they shall certainly be one, one day. Shall not Christ now unite us more one to another that are saints, than our own lusts and corruptions should sever and divide? I said likewise, that among the devils all lower ends fall down to the public, they are united in one end, extra se, out of themselves, for the advancement of their kingdom: should it not be so amongst saints? And therefore the apostle, because the saints agree in one common end, saith, though they differ in opinions and practices - and he speaks in matters of worship - one eateth and another doth not ; yet they both do it to the Lord. And certainly, nay brethren, when men see them to aim at the same common end, the advancement of the kingdom of Christ, the great substantials of it, differences in muatters of opinion and practice ought not to make any disunion; it doth not in hell itself. And likewise it should teach us to prefer the public good to our private ends. The devils, you see, prefer the public good, as I may call it, of their kingdom - for so it is to them - to their lower ends, though they are proud enough. Therefore now, for the safety of a kingdom, for the advancement of a kingdom, of a church, and these are mighty things, men should let all their petty ends bow and vail, and not go about to hinder the carrying on of such a work.
Fourthly, This kingdom of theirs, and these angels he speaks of, they have a great power with them. They are therefore called 'the power of the air;' he doth not call them angels or spirits only, but power. And elsewhere they are called principalities and powers. Eph. vi. 12, 'We wrestle not,' saith he, 'against flesh and blood.' Alas! the power of kings, and armies, and men is nothing. But we fight 'against principalities and powers,' against spiritual wickednesses, against devils, that infinitely exceed all the somis of men, And the word is not only a physical power, of understanding and insinuation, die., but it is authority too. For his natural power, Satan is called the 'strong man,' Matt. xii. 29; 'a lion,' I Pet. v. 8, of all beasts the strongest, the fiercest. I will not insist much upon it; for their authority, 'principalities and powers,' and the word 'power' here includes both. The consideration of this should teach us - for I shall still make meditations and observations as I go along that are useful and practical - to depend upon our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and to be afraid, in respect of what power Satan may have, to carry a man on to sin. They are not only 'powers' in themselves, but they are 'power' likewise; they all concur. Small things, if they all unite, have a great deal of strength in them. But if strengths shall unite, what a strength will it be! How should we therefore live by faith upon the Lord Jesus Christ ! We are weak creatures of ourselves, but in him we are strong. How should we walk fearful of being ensnared by Satan I How should we walk with all the armour of God continually about us!
But they are not only powers thus in respect of physical power, but in respect of authority. All power is of God, and Satan's power is of God, at least by permission. He himself said, Luke iv. 6, that this world was delivered unto him, and therein he spake truths. It was indeed delivered, to him, - that is, by God's permission: though he lied in this, when he said, I give the kingdoms of the world to whomsoever I will; for that is God's prerogative. Indeed he gave it to Antichrist, as I shall shew you anon; but it is God's sole prerogative to give the kingdoms of the world to whomsoever he will ; so Dan. iv. But Satan had then by permission, as Christ gave leave to the devils to enter into the swine; it is a word of permission. Now he hath a kind of a propriety in wicked men, whilst they continue in his kingdom. In Luke xi. 21, 22, a wicked man is called his own house, and his own goods; and they are said to be his captives, taken captive at his will. And therefore some interpret that place, when Christ did come to cast those legions of devils out of the moan, saith he, 'What have I to do with thee ? ' - that is, What hurt have I done thee? I am in this man that I have possessed, I possess but my own, and this is my castle; why shouldest thou come to torment me before my time? Am I not in mine own? And he hath them by conquest : 2 Peter ii. 19, ' Of whom a man is overcome, of him he is brought in bondage.' And God hath permitted him to have all this power, and to have so long possession of it, as he hath had in the world; for if he had not suffered this great enemy to be set up, his Son's kingdom had not been so glorious in the overthrowing of it as it will be.
Now, my brethren, see the mercy of God in freeing and delivering those from this power whom he hath translated into the kingdom of his Son. Our Saviour Christ hath redeemed us; not that the price was paid to Satan, but to God; for so he hath pulled us from the power of darkness by redemption. And how doth he do it? By being in some respects subject to the power of Satan. You know the expression Christ hath, Luke xxii. 53, 'This is your hour, and the power of darkness.' That is, By your means, you Jews, to whom God hath given this hour, - for wicked men have but an hour, the saints of God shall have the day of it, - the devil, who is the prince of darkness, and is that great power of darkness, (as you may see by comparing this with that Col. i. 13, where by 'power of darkness' the devil's kingdom is intended,) cometh thus to have a power over me, to crucify me, to kill me, which is the thing he aims at. Now Jesns Christ, being in this respect subject to the power of Satan, - for otherwise he was not subject; 'the prince of this world cometh,' saith he, 'and hath nothing in me;' nothing in him to tempt him, or to subdue him that way, bnt it was the devil's plot to have him crucified, and he stirred up the Romans, and Pilate, and all these Jews, for the crucifying of him, and he subjected himself so far to the will of Satan, - and by this he hath delivered us out of the power of darkness. Yea, though his kingdom is thus great, God useth poor flesh and blood, men, we that pray and preach, to overcome him, and we do it. In Rev. xii., 'There was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not.' By Michael's angels are not meant only the angels of heaven, but men, the saints on earth too. Why? Because, at the 11th verse, it is said, 'they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb,' - which cannot be meant of the angels, - ' and they loved not their lives unto the death ;' that is, they gave away that part of their lives to death that was to come, and by this they overcame the devil.
The last thing that is here is, the place of this princes dominion, the air. He is 'prince of the power of the air.' The denomination of kingdoms is from the place where themselves and their subjects live, and by 'air' is meant this elementary, this sublunary world, and especially the airy part of it, the interstition between heaven and earth.
Hesiod, speaking of the devils, saith, ' Being clothed with air, they run up and down.' It is the place where they are. And if the devil appear, all his workmanship, his apparitions, his visions is air condensed. He took Christ up into an exceeding high mountain. Why there? That he might in the air make a brave prospect of all the kingdoms of the world, for it was done by an outward vision; all his power lies there. Some have thought there might be an allusion to it when he is called Beelzebub, the god of flies; for the air is as full of them as of flies in the summer. Sure we are, they are called the 'fowls of the air,' Luke vin. 5, 12 compared. There is a story reported by Frantzius, of a holy man in Germany, that that night that the great massacre was in France, he knowing nothing thereof, he saith he saw spirits in the air ; and therefore certainly, saith he, there is some great thing done in the world this night. My brethren, there is such an affinity between air and spirits, that the good angels, - though they are not called the powers of the air, for heaven is their place, and they are those that behold the face of God, - yet when they come down to minister, they are compared to the meteors of the air, as it is a good observation of Cameron upon Heb. i. 6. In Ps. civ. 4, 'He makes his angels spirits, and his ministers flames of fire.' He speaks both of angels, saith he, and he speaks of meteors in the air, winds, and flames of fire that are in the air; for the motion of angels is as lightning, which is the nearest thing to compare them to. That he speaks there of meteors is clear, because he speaks of the works of God in the elementary world, which, in Heb. i., he applies to the good angels, namely, that when they are in the air, sent forth as ministering spirits 'to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation.' But now, though the are as meteors in the air, - for he compares them to wind, sent up and down by God, and to flames of fire - yet that is not their place. But take these bad angels, as they are as wind, as meteors in the air, so the air is their proper place, or at least that place which their kingdom is in therefore now, if they do not possess men's bodies, or the like, they fly up and down in the air. It is the ' prince of the power of the air.'
There is a great dispute, and I confess I am yet exceeding doubtful, and know not well how to determine it, and that is this. Whether, yea or no, the ordinary place for these devils be hell, the abysses, the deep, as it is called, which certainly is a differing place from the air ; for when they were here in the air in this world, they desired that they might not be thrown into the deep ; that is, into hell, into the abysses which is put for hell, Rev. xx. 3, where it is said the devil was taken and cast into abyssus; it is the same word that is used in Luke viii. 31. Whether, I say, that the ordinary place for their abode is to he in hell; but by way of liberty only, now and then for tentation, or the like, as God is pleased to let them out, they are in the air, for whilst they are in the air they cannot be in this abyssus, for the reason I now mentioned ? Or whether, yea or no, that the ordinary seat of them is the air, and that therefore they are called the spirits of the power of the air? I say, it is a very hard thing to determine, because indeed the Scriptures do seem to speak both one way and another way ; and how to reconcile them perfectly, for my part, I confess I fully know not. For, in 2 Peter ii. 4, it is said that he 'spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them doun to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment.' And so, in Jude, ver. 6, ' He hath reserved them in everlasting chains, under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day.' Yet, on thie other side, say the devils unto Christ, 'Art thou come to torment us before our time?' as having the day of judgment in their eye. They knew not indeed when the day of judgment should be, yet they knew it was not yet. And they adjured Christ by his truth and faithfulness: 'I adjure thee by God,' saith he, 'that thou torment me not;' that is, I adjure thee by that righteousness and faithfulness of God, who, in his sentencing of us to condemnation, hath given us the till the day of judgment, that thou torment us not now. For Christ being the Son of God, they knew not but that he might shew his prerogative upon these - themselves being but few - devils that were there, which makes them therefore so submissive.
The Scriptures, therefore, looking thus to both ways, I say, it is exceeding hard to determine. I only refer you to what Mr Mead hath written in his Diatribe, where he handles both that place in Peter and that in Jude. And he saith that the word in Peter, ' he hath cast them down to hell,' doth not necessarily signify a present throwing them down to hell, but a judging of them to hell. And so they are 'reserved in chains to the day of judgment;' that is, in the mean season he lets them be in the air. As we say of a judge, when he condemns a manto be hanged, that he hath hanged the man, though the man he not hanged a long time after : so God judged them unto hell, and impressed upon their consciences a receiving of judgment and an everlasting sentence of condemnation, which they shall never be freed from.
Therefore the devil, you see, when he prayed unto Christ, Mark v., - for the devil prayed then, as wicked men do when their consciences are fired, - he prayed, not that they might be kept from torment altogether, but that they might not be tormented before their time. the truth is, that both may stand. I will give you but that reconciliation which I have had in my thoughts; that is this: that their kingdom is only in the air, and when they are thrown into hell by God, - as it may be sometimes some of them are, at his pleasure, - then they are not in their kingdom. If the great devil be thrown into hell, his power ceaseth ; for the devils do not torment one another, nor wicked souls at present; for how is it said that the fire is prepared for the devil and his angels?' Therefore, though they may he sometimes in hell, and let loose again, to rove up and down here below, - as God sometimes lets them loose, - carrying their chains about them ; yet, notwithstanding, their kingdom is only in the air, and although, I say, they are thrown into hell sometime, yet they may be let loose again.
You have a clear place for that, Rev. xx. 3, It is said there that Satan was sealed up in the bottomless pit for a thousand years, because God, during that glorious time of a thousand years, would not have the saints tormented; and afterwards he is let loose again, till at last he is cast into that lake where he is chained down for ever. And certainly, my brethren, let him now go up and down in the air, he carrieth his chain with him, - that is, a chain of guilt, - and his hell is about him. The place is clear, James in. 6, The tongue,' saith he, ' is set on fire of hell,' that is, of the devil, who is called hell, not only as being condemned to hell, but as carrying hell about him. There is a chain that chains them to hell, that they cannot come out; and if that by permission they are let out at any time, they are in chains still. As men sentenced to death have chains put upon them, and whereever they go, they carry those chains along with them : so God judged, sentenced the devils into hell ; and when they were cast to hell, that is, judged to hell, he clapped chains upon them, which they carry up and down with them wherever they are. Aimd this likewise is certain, that they are not in their full torment. It is said that they do now 'believe and tremble,' tremble at what is to come; and they say, 'Do not torment us before the time;' and there is a reserve. ' They are reserved,' saith the Apostle. And in 2 Peter ii. 9, as wicked men are said to be 'reserved unto the day of judgment :' so they are said likewise to be 'reserved unto the great day.' Therefore they are not in full torment, there is a reservation of a great deal yet to come.
The reason why they are thus permitted to be in the air, and are not in full torment, is this : because his ministry is to 'work in the children of disobedience;' that is, that which God permits him to do, which we may say is his ministry designed him by God. Now he being designed to work, - as the text saith he 'works in the children of disobedience,' - of necessity he must be in the 'air;' for if he were in hell, he could not work at such a distance. It is proper to Christ, who is the King and Head of his Church, though in heaven, to work in a man's heart here upon earth. Satan cannot do the like; therefore to the end he may work upon men, he is in the air. and therefore to be in the 'air,' and to 'work in the children of disobedience,' are equivalent.
And then again, if he were in full torment, it is certain likewise he could not he busy to tempt ; and the reason is clear, for the fulness of God's wrath which he shall have in hell takes up all the intention; insomuch as some divines say, that therefore there is no sinning in an active way in hell, hecaumse they are only sufferers. I remember, it is a notion that Parker hath in his Descension into Hell. The wrath of God would distract the creature, when it cometh in the fullness of it. Now the devil hath all his wits about him, all his wiles, all his methods; therefore certainly they are not in full torment. And likewise, if they had not ease, yea, a pleasure in wickedness in some respect, they would not be so busy ; for they have lusts and desires. 'The lusts of your father the devil,' saith Christ. ' ye will do. Now then, when they have put men upon what they do desire, there is a satisfaction of their lusts, and there is in some respects some pleasure arising, that sets them on work. And this may seem to be one difference between the place of men's souls departed, that go to hell, that are in a place of torment, as it is called, Luke xvi., and the devih's place. God having not appointed them a ministry to work in the children of disobedience, as he hath done the devils ; hence therefore they are in torment, in that torment, though not such as shall be when soul and body are joined together. Therefore new, though they sin, yet they do it not de merito, they shall not answer for all that which is done in hell; the text is clear in that of the Corinthians; ' to answer for what is done in the body,' saith he. But now the devils, they being appointed a ministry, having liberty to be, not in the deep always, but in the air, and in a respect having some ease, hence therefore they go on de merita. Why else are the angels said to be judged? You know it is said, the Saints shall judge the angels. What only for the first great Sin, and not for their putting men upon all the sins since? Then one man would have more sins than the great devil, if the devil were to be judged only for that first great sin. They shall be judged, I say, for what they have done, from the very first sin they committed. And though they are in termino, that is, they are not in via in respect of the sentence of condemnation itself; yet, notwithstanding, in respect of ease they are in the way, and in termino only in respect of the sentence. And as those that sin against the Holy Ghost, and have received the sentence of condemnation in themselves, they are in that respect in hell as well as the devils ; yet because they are but in the frontiers of it, they have but the first fruits, not the fulness of torment; therefore they go on still de merito, adding guilt to guilt, and so do the devils too.
Now, my brethren, to conclude this discourse concerning Satan and his kingdom, with summing up to you, shortly and briefly, the greatness of this kingdom of his. His kingdom, you see -
1. For the form of it, it is a monarchy: he is the 'prince of the power of the air.'
2. For the subjects of it : as Christ hath for his subjects 'things visible and invisible, things in heaven and things in earth,' Col. i. 16 ; so this great devil hath for subjects of this kingdom things invisible - his own natural complices, of the like nature with him ; they are called here, ' the power of the air;' and he hath things visible - ' the children of disobedience,' which are his slaves, which he hath overcome, namely, the sons of men.
3. For the multitude of his subjects, he hath more than Christ by far: of mankind we are sure, what of angels we know not. He is the great and catholic king, he hath had all the world; you see, the world and the devi1 go together in the text; and he that walketh according to the world, walketh according to Satan; and, Rev. xii. 9, he is said to be the dragon that had 'deceived the whole world.'
4. It is such a kingdom as doth not consist only in outward command, but comes in that somewhat near the kingdom of Christ; for he works inwardly. So saith the text here, he ' works in the children of disobedience ;' he doth not invisibly. Only, I say, he is not a head, he hath not that influence Christ hath; but influence he hath, by insinuating himself into men's spirits; he works in them, which no monarch can do, nor which all his agements can do.
5. For his success which he aims at, which is to carry menon to sin, the text saith, he 'works in them ;' that is, he works effectually in them.
6. For continuance of the, as I said before, he had the start of Christ in this world, for he had possession of all mankind, and he thought he had them all under lock and key ; for that which bringeth every man into the world made him a child of the devil.
7. He hath given place to none, as other princes do ; nay, he himself was worshipped in the world, not as king only, but as a god. And therefore, in Lev. xii. it is said that he and his angels were in heaven. Why? Because they were worshipped as gods. ' And he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.' When Constantine turned Christian, all the world turned Christian too; then all his devils were thrown down from having that worship as they always had before. But, my brethren, when he ceased to be a god, he still being the prince of this world, that he might imitate God, who hath set up his Son Jesus Christ, he likewise hath set up his son, Antichrist, the beast of Rome, whose kingdom and the devil's are in many things just alike. I remember I shewed you, when I handled those particulars mentioned in the 20th and 21st verses of the first chapter, a parallel between the pride of the devil and the pride of the Pope, in taking upon him to be as Christ, and that parallel held a great way in all those particulars. Now let us parallel the devil's kingdom and Antichrist's kingdom. For the devil told our Saviour Christ, that he had power to give the world to whom he would; and God did give him power to raise up one king, and the greatest kingdom that ever was for that State of Rome, whereof the Pope is the head, is the greatest kingdom, and hath been of longest continuance of any other. In Rev. xiii., when the devil himnself was cast out from being god of the world, he takes up another plot and the text saith, ver. 2, that the dragon did give the beast his power, and his seat, and great authority. All power of kings and magistrates is of God, Rom. xiii, But the truth is, Antichrist's kingdom, and all his hierarchy, it is of the devil ; he raised him up in imitation of Christ; he is the eldest son of Satan, as Christ is the eldest son of God. And when himself could not keep his kingdom any longer, as he had done, to be immediately worshipped, then he sets up the Pope, the greatest cheat that ever was in the world, a son of his own raising, after whom the whole world ran a-wondering. Now as the devil hath two sorts of subjects, - his natural subjects of his own kind, the angels, his fellow-peers; and men, whom are his slaves, - so hath the Pope.
Therefore in Rev. xiii. you find two beasts, one in the 11th verse arising with two horns like a lamb, that is the Pope and his clergy, those evil angels, for ministers should he angels ; there is his ecclesiastical power. and then he is the head of the kings of the earth; there is his secular power. He hath a double power under him, a double body, even as the devil here hath. And, my brethren, they are ordered to fall together. When the vial was poured out upon the air, Rev. xvi., which is the whole universal power of the devil, it is said that 'Babylon came up into remembrance before God.' And Rev. xix. 20, it is said, 'The beast was cast into the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone.' There is the beast that goes into the lake; the devil goes after him, Rev. xx. 10, ' The devil that deceived the world was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet were.' But in the meantime, though the devil be a king, yet he is a miserable king, for his very kingdom is his prison: if he could break through the heavens and run away from God, he would ; but he cannot, he is under chains, and he is under torment likewise, though not in fulness of torment and, my brethren, to make an observation or two upon it he is but the prince of the air, first ; but our Lord and Saviour Christ, He is the prince in heaven, his throne is in heaven, as Heb. i. hath it, and Eph. i. 19, 20. And Jesus Christ is our intercessor, and our prayers go to heaven, the devil cannot meddle with them, he cannot intercept them, though he be prince in the air; the Holy Ghost carries them up; he holds, as I may say, one hand in our heart, and another in Christ's. Nay, not only Christ is in heaven, and the devil but in the air, but we are 'set in heavenly places with Christ,' Eph. ii. 6. Therefore, as the Apostle saith, what shall separate us from the love of God? Shall principalities or powers, good angels or bad?
You may observe likewise, that Satan hath no kingdom when the air shall cease, when this world shall be at an end. Jesus Christ will put down all power and rule, and God will be all in all; that is, he will be all in heaven, and all in hell too, every way he will be all.
My brethren, fear not this prince of the air, for Jesus Christ himself, when he ascended into heaven, went through this air, this kingdom of the devils, and spoiled these principalities and powers ; that is, virtually, he took their kingdom from them ; and himself, a man, went to heaven personally in the sight of them all, leading them all captive in triumph at his chariot. And, as a father well saith, he purified the air, as he went, of these unclean spirits; that is, by virtue of this ascension of his he hath so triumphed over them, that they shall never do his people hurt, nor ever keep their souls from heaven.
I have this largely opened to you the kingdom of Satan, as these words hold it forth ; for I have kept punctually to them, and that because the Apostle intended to set out this kingdom here in opposition to the kingdom of Christ, which he had described in the 19th and 20th verses of the former chapter.
I should likewise shew you how he is a cause of sin, and how all wicked men walk according to this prince, and how this prince worketh in them, as being children of disobedience. But that I reserve for the next discourse. 13
Return to Ephesians Index

Home | Links | Literature | Webrings | Photos