MEDITATIONS ON CHRISTIAN DOGMA.TREATISE III 5. THE INTELLIGENCE OF THE ANGELS.
Vigil Of All Saints
MEDITATIONS ON CHRISTIAN DOGMA.
5. THE INTELLIGENCE OF THE ANGELS.
I. The angels, being pure spirits, have an activity that is spiritual; their first faculty therefore is that of the understanding. As they are so much superior by nature to men, so is their intelligence more acute and their knowledge more extensive. The first and chief object of their knowledge is the supreme truth, God, and the truths of the divine sphere of existence. They live in the immediate presence of God, they see Him clearly, face to face, and they penetrate more thoroughly than we can at present into the understanding of His attributes, His power, His works. Seeing God, they see all things in Him. The image and model of all things is reflected in the consciousness of God ; all events past, present, future, are for ever present to the thought of God. The beatific vision of God is found in the immediate communication of the created mind with the divine mind ; the vision of divine truths thus made manifest involves the vision of created truths ; so are all things seen in God by the heavenly spirits, whether angels or human souls. The angels thus have a knowledge of created things, of the course of events, of the secrets of nature, which is far superior to that of men ; they can anticipate the contingent future more surely than we, and can even foresee some future free acts of men by the permission and assistance of God. Endeavour to lead the life of the angels on earth, and you will acquire an insight into the things of God beyond what study can communicate. This will furnish you with practical guidance for the conduct of life, and promote your happiness more than any mundane attainments.
II. Angelic intelligence surpasses the human, not only in knowing more, but in the manner of acquiring and holding knowledge. 1. We gather our knowledge of things by our contact with them through our senses : the angels see things in their cause, in God, with all their relations to environment. 2. We learn by long application to study and trains of reasoning, by slow degrees and with much labour: the angels see at a glance, intuitively, all that they wish to know. 3. We spend much of our time in unconsciousness. The material medium through which our intelligence works grows weary and ultimately wears out. The angelic mind is for ever in a state of unwearied activity. 4. The angel sees things in their dependence on God, sees God reflected and expressed in them, and glorifies God by this knowledge : we see creatures or self apart from God, not understanding their relations to God, to His laws, to our happiness ; and we often turn our knowledge to our own hurt. Look at all things with the eye of faith and religion, and you will read in them a significance which is hidden from the worldly and unbelieving.
III. The fallen angels retain their natural faculties, powers of intellect, and wide knowledge ; but they use these great gifts to raise themselves up in arrogance against Him who is the source of all truth. As St. Paul says : " Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth " (1 Cor. viii. 1). St. Augustine likens that science of men which is without the grace and charity of God to the science of the devils and the reprobate. St. Bernard compares it to meats which cannot be digested for want of the proper secretions, and which afflict the body instead of nourishing it. The good angels enjoy their knowledge in dependence on God, and pay Him the homage of humility on account of their own advantages and greatness. The knowledge and love of God is more precious to them than all their natural powers or command over created science. Value knowledge most highly, but value the grace of God infinitely more. Know ledge accompanied by depravity is like a poisoned sword in the hand of a madman. It does more harm even than ignorance.
MEDITATIONS ON CHRISTIAN DOGMA BY THE RIGHT REV. JAMES BELLORD, D.D