MEDITATIONS ON CHRISTIAN DOGMA.TREATISE III 4. THE NUMBERS AND ORDERS OF THE ANGELS.
MEDITATIONS ON CHRISTIAN DOGMA.
4. THE NUMBERS AND ORDERS OF THE ANGELS.
I. " In the multitude of people is the dignity of the king " (Prov. xiv. 28). God s magnificence is shown by the enormous multitude of the works of His hand. Consider the thousand millions of men actually living on this planet, and the uncounted numbers who have lived or have yet to live. Consider the teeming abundance of animal, plant, and insect life. Look up to heaven, and remember that God alone " telleth the number of the stars and calleth them by their names " (Ps. cxlvi. 4). The fixed stars, or suns, are perhaps as numerous as the whole number of living men on earth ; each of these is surrounded by its attendant planets and satellites ; and each of these is perhaps as full of life as our globe. And yet this is only the outer court of God s palace Heaven itself, the special realm of God s magnificence, must exceed the universe in the multitude of its inhabitants as it does in splendour. A momentary glimpse of the heavenly vision was granted to the prophet, and he tells us that about the throne of God " thousands of thousands ministered to Him, and ten thousand times a hundred thousand stood before Him " (Dan. vii. 10). We are impressed, or at times overwhelmed, by the strange influence that emanates from a great crowd, in the streets of a city or in the ranks of an army. How wonderful the effect of the mere numbers of that spiritual world that surrounds the throne of God! How thrilling the moment of your entrance among them !
II. This world, as we know it, is distinguished also by the immense variety of the different kinds and forms of beauty, and grandeur, and ingenuity, and utility. The representation of the multitudinous perfections of God has to be carried out by innumerable classes of creatures as well as by in numerable examples of each. This must be the case in the angelic world, as it is here. Among those blessed spirits there may well be differences in the character of their intelligence or love, and in the functions of their service, much more varied than the species of living creatures on earth, or the countless forms assumed by dead matter. What these may be we are unable to picture to ourselves. Our ideas are limited by the narrow surroundings in which we live. From revelation and the sense of the Church we may gather a few indications as to the classification and the functions of the heavenly spirits. The exploration and investigation of this mere corner of the world in which we live is more than enough to furnish occupation for millions of men during thousands of years. What will it be when we are admitted to the full knowledge of the whole abundance of the future world ! Prepare for it now. Let the science of nature lead you to the science of God ; and do not dwell so exclusively on the lowest of God s wonders as to forget the existence of the higher ones.
III. Ancient speculation on Holy Scripture deduced therefrom the notion of a certain order among the angels, and this has obtained general currency in the Church. This classification bears the impress of the Holy Trinity. There are three hierarchies among the angels, and each of these consists of three choirs. These are the Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones ; the Dominations, Powers and Virtues ; the Principalities, Archangels and Angels. The tradition of these nine choirs was also current among the Jews from the remotest times. These hierarchies constitute three great empires of spiritual beings, each divided into three kingdoms or provinces, and perhaps each of these again into countless classes of spirits. All these gradually rise in perfection and beauty as they approach more nearly to the throne of God. We have reason to believe that some saints have been placed among the highest angels for their love and their labours on earth. Is your devotion such as to entitle you to rank with any class of the angels ?
MEDITATIONS ON CHRISTIAN DOGMA BY THE RIGHT REV. JAMES BELLORD, D.D