And there appeared in the cherubim the form of a man's hand under their wings.
There are two proofs of our religious life. The first is our great thoughts of God; the second is our great deeds for God. On the first we soar up to Him as on a wing; with the second we labour for Him as with a hand. The Bible, the whole structure of our sacred faith, appeals to the two aspects of life — divine and human. It has the wing and the hand; it reaches out to heights we cannot attain; it is suffused in splendours and in mysteries beyond our endurance. The Trinity and the Godhead, eternal duration, the origin of things, the eternal love of God to man, His electing and atoning grace — how far off these things seem. On the other hand, how it sinks down to sympathy, to fellowship, to suffering, arching them over by visible and invisible majesty. Thus, while man mourns over his lot, that "his strength is labour and sorrow," he finds, as Ruskin has finely said, that "labour and sorrow are his strength"; and God makes him fit for soaring by sorrowing or by sympathetic doing.
I. SEE WHAT A DIVINE WORK CREATION IS. Here, in this human hand beneath the angel's wing, do we see the procedure of the Divine work. All God's most beautiful things are related to use. God does not unfold from His mind beauty alone. Infinite thought, ah! but infinite manipulation too; this hand, the hand of the Infinite Artist, tinted every flower and variegated every leaf into loveliness; this hand, the hand of the Infinite Mechanician — I do not like the word, but let it go — gave respiration and lustre arid plumage to the wing of every bird; this hand, the hand of the Infinite Arehi. toot, poised every planet in space, and adapted its measure of force to every grain of sand. I would not preach a gospel of cold utilitarianism — that word usually represents the hand without the wing; it is the depravity of logic which it represents, not the Divine reason and fitness. On the contrary, many know nothing of use. Oh, what wasted lives we lead! Alas! alas! our most beautiful things are as perishable foam bells, born and expiring on a wave. Not so God.
II. THEN YOU SEE WHAT DIVINE PROVIDENCE IS. Man is the one manifold. In the multiplicity of Divine operations we see the human hand beneath the angel's wing. "A little lower than the angels," God carries on His great operations. What is this humanity which everywhere meets us alike, in things above and beneath? "Angels desiring to look" into the things of men, and all nature striving upward into manhood. By men surely God carries on some of the greatest affairs of His providence. From His exalted concealment, God is constantly energising by the human hand. This in all ages has been. And is not our redemption a hand, the human hand beneath the Divine wing, a hand stretched out, "the likeness of a man's hand beneath the cherubim." What is the humanity of Jesus but the human hand beneath the Divine wing? If all things on earth whisper man, and point to man, and reflect man, and prophesy the reign and the ultimate Christian perfectibility of man, oh, what a consolation is this! Thus, also, this thought, this idea, rebukes the many false modern notions of God. See in this God's own picture of His providence; and never be it ours to divorce that human from the Divine in God's being.
III. See, in the human hand beneath the wing of the angel, THE RELATION OF A LIFE OF ACTION TO A LIFE OF CONTEMPLATION. The great Gregory says, "The rule of the Christian life is first to be joined to an active life in productiveness, and after, to a contemplative mind in rest." Thus, when the mind seeks rest in contemplation, it sees more, but it is less productive in fruit to God; when it betakes itself to working, it sees less but bears more largely. Hence, then, by the wings of the creatures we may behold the contemplations of the saints, by which they soar aloft, and, quitting earthly scenes, poise themselves in the regions of heaven; as it is written, "They shall mount up as on wings." And by the hands understand deeds, they administer even by bodily administration; but the hands under the wings show how they surpass the deeds of their action by the excellence of contemplation.
IV. RELIGION IS THE HUMAN HAND BENEATH THE ANGEL'S WING. It is both. So I may say to you: Has your religion a hand in it? Has your religion a wing in it? Has it a hand? It is practical, human, sympathetic. Has it a wing? It is lofty, unselfish, inclusive, divine. Has it a hand? How does it prove itself? By embracing, and this hand laying hold upon — by works. Has it a wing? How does it prove itself? By prayer, by faith, by heaven. I do not know if you have read and are acquainted with the essay of that eminent man, Richard Owen, "On the Nature of Limbs"; if so, you did not fail to meditate on that frontispiece, in which the science of anatomy rises into more than the play of poetry; where that great, perhaps greatest of all anatomists, does not hesitate to show to us by a diagram, the human skeleton hand, clothed upon, preening, developing into the wing of an angel. But faith sees more than science: faith does, indeed, behold the hand rising into the wing; indeed, sees in the hand only the undeveloped wing. Without a doubt it shall be so; we are preparing for the hour when our wings shall burst from their prison and spring into the light.
(E. P. Hood.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And there appeared in the cherubims the form of a man's hand under their wings.