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Title: Kingless Folk
Author: Adams, John Quincy
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Kingless Folk" ***

"But Love, that moves the earth, and skies, and sea,
Beheld his old love in her misery,
And wrapped her heart in sudden gentle sleep;
And meanwhile caused unnumbered _ants_ to creep
About her, and they wrought so busily
That all, ere sundown, was as it should be,
And homeward went again the _kingless folk_."
  —_The Earthly Paradise._

                            *KINGLESS FOLK*


                  *Other Addresses on Bible Animals.*

                                 BY THE

                 *Rev. JOHN ADAMS, B.D., Inverkeilor.*

                         Edinburgh and London:
                     OLIPHANT, ANDERSON & FERRIER.












PEARLS, NOT PEAS, The Pearl-Oyster






THE BIRD OF THE DAWN, The Cock-crowing


                               *The Ant.*

"Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: which
having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer,
and gathereth her food in the harvest."—Prov. vi. 6-8.

Of what use is a sluggard? "Everything in the world is of some use,"
says John Ploughman, "but it would puzzle a doctor of divinity, or a
philosopher, or the wisest owl in our steeple, to tell the good of
idleness; that seems to me to be an ill wind which blows nobody any
good, a sort of mud which breeds no eels, a dirty ditch which would not
feed a frog.  Sift a sluggard grain by grain, and you’ll find him all
chaff."  A sluggard is really a good-for-nothing, and no better advice
could be given to boys than this: "Get out of the sluggard’s way, or you
may catch his disease and never get rid of it. Grow up like bees, and
you will never be drones."

In this passage from the Book of Proverbs, Solomon advises the sluggard
to go back to school that he may learn _wisdom_, for his folly is quite
equal to his idleness. He is too lazy to drive in a nail, and as the old
jingling rhyme has it, "For want of a nail a shoe came off, for want of
a shoe a horse was lost, for want of a horse a man was lost, for want of
a man a battle was lost, and for loss of a battle a kingdom was lost."
Because of the sluggard’s first idleness in refusing to drive in the
nail the whole kingdom comes down about his ears.  It is not much ease
he gets for all his scheming, and therefore he is sent back to school to
learn wisdom.

The schoolmaster this time is the _Ant_, for, as the Bible tells us,
"there be four things which are little upon the earth, but they are
exceeding wise: the ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their
meat in the summer" (Prov. xxx. 24).

The wisdom taught by the ant is threefold.

                         I.—THE WISDOM OF WORK.

If it be the hand of the diligent that maketh rich, the ants deserve to
flourish; for there are few sluggards in their nest. The great mass of
the teeming population is called "_the workers_."  There may be a few
males and females in each community dressed in four beautiful gauze
wings, and no doubt regarding themselves as very superior members of the
society—the veritable aristocracy of ant life—but they never touch the
work with one of their little fingers.  The keeping of the nest, the
gathering of the food, the care of the eggs, and the rearing of the
young ants, all devolves on the shoulders of the willing workers; and
they, though they have no wings at all, and are called "neutrals" and
some other ugly names, cheerfully undertake the whole labour, and make
the entire community flourish through sheer hard work.

And that is a splendid lesson for all young people.  All great men, as
well as all true ants, have been hard workers. This is the only royal
road to success.

What Sir Joshua Reynolds said to his students is equally true when
applied to other professions: "You must be told again and again that
labour is the only price of solid fame, and that whatever your force of
genius may be, there is no easy method of becoming a good painter.
Nothing is denied to well-directed labour; nothing is to be obtained
without it."  Jesus Himself was a hard worker.  Go, learn of the ant,
and be wise.

                    II.—THE WISDOM OF SELF-RELIANCE.

Solomon adds that the ants carry on their labours without "guide,
overseer, or ruler," and that is strictly the case.  The ants are a
feeble people, but they are perfectly self-reliant.  The bees, for
instance, have a royal personage in their hive.  We call her the queen.
And thus we may speak of bees as we speak of ourselves, as living under
a monarchical government.  But the ants have no king or queen.  There is
no royal personage in their nest.  They are rather to be regarded as
staunch republicans, who carry on their labours without any "ruler,"
guided simply by that unerring instinct which imitates the actings of
reason.  The silly sheep may require a shepherd to take care of them,
but the sagacious ants can take care of themselves.

And all boys who are worth their salt must try to learn the same lesson.
They must learn to strike out a path for themselves, and not be content
to eat the bread of idleness.  They must work for the good of the whole
community by learning to stand on their own feet.  They must despise the
ignoble position of those who, having no mind of their own, are led like
a flock of sheep by the will of another.  They must think and act for
themselves if ever they are to rise to a position of influence.  In one
word, they must be self-reliant.  No doubt there is a sense in which we
must be dependent on the labours of others.  Every honest man is bound
to acknowledge the assistance which he has received from his parents,
his fellows, and his God.  But the two things are not opposed.  "These
two things, contradictory though they may seem, must go together—manly
dependence and manly independence, manly reliance and manly
self-reliance" (Wordsworth).  The two things stand or fall together.
Self-reliance is not selfishness, manly independence is not ignorant
braggadocio.  The ants toil for the common weal.  They rely on one


"They prepare their meat in the summer."  This fact has been denied by
modern entomologists.  They have told us that ants are dormant in winter
(at least in Europe), and, therefore, stand in no need of food.  But, as
one reminds us, "we had need to be very sure of our facts when we
attempt to correct the Spirit of God" (Gosse).  It has been amply
ascertained that in the East and other warm countries where hibernation
is impossible, ants do store up for winter use.  It is even stated that
these harvesting ants bite off the radicle at the end of the seed to
prevent its germinating, and occasionally bring up their stores to the
surface to dry, when the tiny granary has been entered and soaked by the

It is at this point that the example of the ant is specially severe on
the sluggard. In crass idleness he would sleep even in the time of
harvest; but this little creature, the least of insects, avails herself
of every suitable opportunity, and gathers a supply of food sufficient
for her purposes.  "He that gathereth in summer is a wise son, but he
that sleepeth in harvest is a son that causeth shame."  Let all boys
then lay up for the future.  Is it _knowledge_? Let them sow well at
school, that they may reap well in business.  Is it _character_? Let
them sow well in youth, that they may reap well in manhood.  Is it
_religion_? Let them sow well in time, that they may reap well in
eternity.  In all these connections let them be warned by these solemn
words, "The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold, therefore
shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing" (Prov. xx. 4).

                              *The Bear.*

"I will meet them as a bear that is bereaved of her whelps."—Hos. xiii.

However ferocious a bear may be, she is also capable of a large and
generous affection.  She is at once a fond mother, a constant friend
and, if one may so express it, a magnanimous foe.  Her devotion to her
young is proverbial.  She possesses the strongest maternal instincts,
and when to her easily roused ferocity the fury of these instincts is
added, it may be imagined what the violence of her attack will be.  Any
one who threatens the safety of her cubs does so at his peril.  The
constancy of her friendship is shown by the following curious case,
related by Brehm.  He tells us of a little boy who crept one night for
warmth and shelter into the cage of an extremely savage bear.  The
latter, instead of devouring the child, took him under its protection,
kept him warm with the heat of its body, and allowed him to return every
night to its cage.  By-and-by the poor boy died from smallpox, and the
bear, utterly disconsolate, henceforth refused all food, and soon
followed its little _protégé_ to the grave.

But the bear is kind—_effusively_ kind, even to its enemies.  In the
manner of its attack it does not fell them to the ground with one blow
of its paw like the lion, nor seize them with its teeth like the dog.
It _hugs_ them.  It embraces them with its powerful fore-limbs with a
great: show of affection, and continues the squeeze so long that the
poor wretched victims are suffocated. Bruin does nothing by halves.  The
advice of old Polonius is followed to the very letter:—

    "The friends thou hast and their adoption tried,
    Grapple them to thy soul with hooks of steel."

He _does_ grapple them.  He may give great attention to the friendships
of life, but he does not forget to _embrace_ his enemies.

With respect to the bear mentioned in the Bible, we may note three

                              I.—ITS KIND.

This is not the common brown bear of Europe, nor the white polar bear of
the Arctic regions; but the yellowish-brown Syrian bear, which may still
be found in its native haunts around the wooded fastnesses of Hermon and
Lebanon.  It is shorter in limb and has smaller claws than its European
cousin; but its most striking peculiarity is its change of colour.  Like
many other animals, the Syrian bear changes its colour as it grows
older. "When a cub it is of a darkish brown, which becomes a light brown
as it approaches maturity.  But when it has attained its full growth it
becomes cream-coloured, and each succeeding year seems to lighten its
coat, so that a very old bear is nearly as white as its relative of the
Arctic regions" (J. G. Wood).  Alas! the change which is produced by age
is not confined to _Ursus Syriacus_.  The boy, no less than the bear,
will yet experience that solemn transformation.  The blackest locks will
yet whiten with the frosts of age, for lustre, youth, and virility will
all alike perish.  But this change is only the outward symbol of what
ought to be an inward, spiritual fact.  If the locks whiten, so ought
the conscience, the soul, the heart. As youth passes into manhood and
manhood into age, the man within should "aye be gettin’ whiter"; until
when the locks have grown grey in the service of righteousness, the
children may "rise up before the _hoary_ head, and honour the face of
the old man" (Lev. xix. 32).

    "Yes, childhood, mark the hoary head and rise—
    Stand on thy feet and give the honour due;
    That crown of glory points you to the skies,
    Like snow-capped mountains in the azure blue."

                             II.—ITS FOOD.

The bear, to begin with, is a strict vegetarian.  While he can find
abundance of vegetables and fruit he is little disposed to go far in
varying his means of subsistence. His teeth are formed for the purpose.
Unlike those of the lion or tiger, which have a scissor-blade
appearance, and are incapable of any but an up-and-down motion, the
teeth of the bear are true grinders or molars, and the hinge of the
lower jaw is so constructed that it can be worked from side to side, so
that the bear can actually _chew_ its food.

It is said to be very fond of strawberries—like some little boys we
know—and like the blackbird it can walk daintily along the rows and pick
out the ripest.  But if there be one thing more than any other that
throws the bear into an ecstasy of excitement it is the prospect of a
feast of honey.  A nest of ants is nothing in comparison.  The long nose
is thrust into the delicious comb, though it be stung and stung again by
the infuriated inhabitants.

It is not till other food fails that the bear becomes carnivorous.  But
then, driven by hunger, it will even descend into the lower pastures and
seize upon the goats and the sheep.  This habit is referred to by the
youthful David in 1 Samuel xvii. 33.  King Saul was trying to dissuade
him from matching himself against the gigantic Philistine; but David
answered: "Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion,
and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: and I went out after him,
and smote him, and delivered it out of his hand....  Thy servant slew
both the lion and the bear, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be
as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God."
And all the young people know the result. One smooth stone from the
brook was placed in David’s sling, and yon huge mass of human arrogance
was hurled to the ground.  They who fight for Jehovah need never fear.
A stone cast in His name becomes a thunderbolt.

                           III.—ITS FEROCITY.

"Let a bear robbed of her whelps meet a man rather than a fool in his
folly" (Prov. xvii. 12).

The whelps themselves are not ferocious. Indeed, they are remarkably
stupid.  They are as confident as they are weak, and do not even try to
escape when the hunters come upon them.  The young water-fowl by the
river-side disappear in an instant if you happen to come upon them; but
the cubs of the bear, with a stupid simplicity, just allow themselves to
be caught and massacred.  They remind one of the lamb mentioned by the

    "Pleased to the last they crop the flowery food,
    And lick the hand just raised to shed their blood."

But there is something far worse than this simplicity.  There is
brazen-faced irreverence and impudence.  When Elisha, the man of God,
was going up to Bethel, a crowd of young vagabonds came out of the
village and mocked the old man, and said: "Go up, thou bald head; go up,
thou bald head.  And two she-bears came rushing out of the wood, and
tare forty and two of them" (2 Kings ii. 24).  These were not little
children, but "young lads" (R.V. margin), who had begun to herd at
street corners, and to scoff and gibe at those who passed by.  And, in
our own day, society would be none the worse of a few she-bears to act
as a kind of police at all such corners.  They might help to rid the
streets of a good deal of juvenile profanity.  But alas! because this
Old Testament punishment does not fall on these young miscreants, the
evil, instead of becoming less, is in great danger of being largely
increased.  And yet, if boys only knew it, a far worse calamity has
already fallen.  They may not have been attacked by bears, but they
themselves have become bears—not growing fairer, nobler, whiter, as they
grow in years; but fouler, darker, meaner, with the awful increase of
sin—selling themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord.  Ah! let
every true lad beware as to the company he keeps.  "Evil company doth
corrupt good manners."  "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also
reap;" and "the way of the ungodly shall perish."

                              *The Dove.*

"And He said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence."—John
ii. 16.

It is reported of St Francis of Assisi, in the Middle Ages, that he
would sometimes go out and preach to the beasts and birds.  He treated
them so kindly, both in the house and field, that they would draw near
without any sign of fear, and allow him to stroke and feed them with his
hand.  In like manner, we may think of Jesus pitying the poor, dumb
beasts of burden, when He saw them, as we sometimes see them,
unmercifully treated by heartless drivers; or grieving at other times at
the frantic efforts of little birds beating against the bars of their
cage—those tiny songsters of the field and wood, which had been taken by
the snare of the fowler, and bereft of their liberty.

The incident before us is a case in point.  Here, at the beginning of
His ministry, He made a whip of small cords and drove the traffickers
out of His Father’s temple.  Men, money-tables, oxen, were all swept
before His holy indignation.  But there, in mid-air, the upraised whip
was arrested.  _Jesus could not strike the meek and gentle doves_. There
they sat in their wicker baskets, with large eyes that were full of
tender pleading, and the raised whip was not allowed to fall.  He could
only say to their keepers, "_Carry_ these things hence," for to the
dumb, lower animals, He was "moved with compassion."

It is a great and fitting lesson for the young.  They who are kind to
their pets are not far from His Kingdom.  "A righteous man regardeth the
life of his beast."

We ought to be like the dove in three ways.

                            I.—IN CHARACTER.

"Be ye therefore wise as serpents and _harmless as doves_" (Matt. x.
16).  What the lamb is among animals, the dove is among birds.  It is
the divine emblem of purity and innocence—the bearer of the olive branch
of peace.  The whole character of the dove is in keeping with this
estimate.  Its voice, no less than its disposition, is the embodiment of
sweetness.  It has "a tender mournful cadence which, heard in solitude
and sadness, cannot fail to be heard with sympathy, as if it were the
expression of real sorrow" (Gosse).  It recalls the language of Isaiah,
"We mourn sore like doves"; or those beautiful words of Tennyson—

      "Every sound is sweet;
    The moan of doves in immemorial elms,
    And murmuring of innumerable bees."

As symbolical of purity and peace, it became a fit emblem for the Holy
Spirit. "Lo, the heavens were opened, and He saw the Spirit of God
descending _like a dove_ and lighting upon Him."  On the day of
Pentecost, however, the form chosen was quite different.  "There came a
sound as of a rushing mighty wind, ... and cloven tongues _like as of
fire_, and it sat upon each of them."  Why the difference? Why a gentle
dove in the one case and cloven tongues of fire in the other.  The
difference lay in the character of the men.  When it came to men—even to
holy men—it encountered prejudice and opposition, which must be burned
up, and thus it must needs take the semblance of fire.  But when it came
to Jesus on the banks of the Jordan, it came to its own, and its own
received it with open arms; and to show the fulness and peacefulness of
the reception, it must needs be symbolised by a dove.  In the holy
chrism of that baptismal hour, the dove and the lamb had met together.
The sacred bird had found a home, and it folded its wings upon its nest.

But this gentleness of disposition renders the dove a defenceless
creature, ill able to take care of itself, and it easily becomes the
victim of persecution.  Hence Hosea speaks of Israel as "a silly dove
without heart," which shall "tremble as a dove out of the land of
Assyria."  And thus the words "_wise as serpents_" have to be added.
The harmlessness of the dove must be supplemented by the wisdom of the
serpent.  And both elements are found in the peerless example of Jesus.
See how He answered the quibbling questions of the Scribes and
Pharisees. They tried to entangle Him in His talk; but His wisdom was
more than a match for their cunning.  The wolf was utterly discomfited
by the lamb.  And this is the only worthy ideal for His followers: "Be
ready always to give an answer concerning the hope that is in you," but,
"with meekness and fear," "be ye wise as serpents and harmless as

                           II.—IN SWIFTNESS.

The dove is one of the swiftest of birds. The carrier pigeon "has been
known to accomplish a flight of three hundred miles in little more than
two hours."  Its wings are its strength.  Upheld by them she can fly for
many hours, and the birds of prey cannot overtake her.  Homer himself
mentions the dove as the emblem of swiftness and timidity.  It is to
this that the Psalmist refers in Psalm lv. 6, when he beheld the rock
pigeon scudding across the sky in the direction of her mountain home:
"Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away and be at
rest....  I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest."
Truly a wise resolve when in the presence of strong temptation! "O man
of God, flee these things."  "Flee also youthful lusts."  If you cannot
fight like the eagle, fly like the dove, and, like the carrier pigeon,
let your flight be _homeward_.  May the homing instinct be as strong in
you as in her.  For it is only there, in the mountain home of God’s
grace, that your soul can find shelter. Speed, then, your flight "as the
doves to their windows."  "Man’s spiritual existence is like the flight
of a bird in the air: he is sustained only by effort, and when he ceases
to exert himself he falls" (Froude’s "Bunyan").  Let your spiritual
advancement, then, be like the flight of a bird.  Imitate the dove in
its swiftness.

                           III.—IN SACRIFICE.

The dove is pre-eminently the _sacred_ bird.  "The dove among the
Semites had a quite peculiar sanctity."  "Sacred doves that may not be
harmed are found even at Mecca."  "We never read of it in the Old
Testament as an article of diet, though it is now one of the commonest
table-birds all over the East" (Smith’s "Religion of the Semites," new
edition, pp. 219-294). As already noted, it was to the birds what the
lamb was to the animals—it derived its chief interest from its use in

We find it in the purifying of the Nazarite (Num. vi. 10), in the
cleansing of the leper (Lev. xiv. 22); and, as the children will
remember, when Jesus was presented in the temple, His mother offered as
a sacrifice "a pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons" (Luke ii. 24).
In the Virgin Mother’s case the offering was the sacrifice of the
_poor_.  For it is distinctly said in Leviticus xii. 8, "_If her means
suffice not for a lamb_, then she shall take two turtle doves or two
young pigeons: the one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin
offering: and she shall be clean."  Jesus, the Great Sacrifice, was born
in the homes of the poor.  Not the vicious poor, whose poverty is the
measure of their thriftlessness; but the industrious poor, whose piety
is the measure of their honesty.  "Though He was rich, yet for our sakes
He became poor, that we through His poverty might be made rich."

In stooping thus far He was manifesting the gentleness of the dove, and
we are summoned to copy His example.  "Let this _mind_ be in you which
was also in Christ Jesus."  He stooped to death, even the death of the
cross, and we are called upon to stoop to something similar—to the great
deep of self-surrender and self-sacrifice—the crucifixion and the death
of sin.  This is the essence of all Christian sacrifice.  We must be
crucified with Christ, and rise and live through Him. We must be washed
in His blood.  We must be made great by His gentleness. We must be like
the dove and the lamb in _sacrifice_.

In character, in swiftness, and in sacrifice, imitate the dove.

                              *The Coney.*

"There be four things which are little upon the earth, but they are
exceeding wise: ... the conies are but a feeble folk, yet make they
their houses in the rocks."—Prov. xxx. 24-26.

"Little, _but exceeding wise_," that surely is a splendid diploma for
"feeble folk."  If all the children in our homes would but try to gain
that "good degree," it would be a merit certificate of the highest
order, and well worthy of the best gilt frame to be had in the market.
Mr Moody, the evangelist, used to say, when speaking of college honours,
that he had no wish to be styled a B.D., a D.D., or an LL.D.  He would
be content if he got W.D.—"_Well done_, good and faithful servant."  And
the diploma granted to little folks in the school of the coney is
somewhat similar.  They are "capped" on the day of graduation as an
L.B.E.W.—"Little, but exceeding wise."

Why, in their school, the distinction between big and little is simply
ignored. The little creature is no bigger than a rabbit, and yet,
strange to say, its nearest affinity is with the huge rhinoceros.
According to modern classification, it is placed between the elephant
and the horse. The shape of its teeth, and the form of its feet and
skull, make it a first cousin to the hippopotamus.  There is little
difference between them, except in dimensions, and, as every schoolboy
knows, there is not much in a difference like that. If the huge
leviathan has nothing more to boast of than mere bulk, the little coney
can afford to sit on its rocky ledge and look down on its unwieldy
proportions with the utmost indifference.  "Wisdom is better than
strength."  It was the wisdom of the poor wise man that delivered the
city, and not the strength of the city walls.  And it is not the bones
of the rhinoceros, but the wisdom of the coney, that will bring us true
success in life.  "Wisdom is the principal thing, therefore get wisdom,
and with all thy getting, get understanding."


Among the Jews the coney was regarded as one of the unclean animals,
"because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof, he is unclean"
(Lev. ii. 5).  But, in actual fact, he does neither.  All ruminating
animals are furnished with a complex stomach for chewing the cud; but
this is not the case with the elephant, the coney, and the hippopotamus.
They neither chew the cud nor part the hoof.  But the coney has a habit
of sitting on a ledge of rock and working its jaws from side to side as
if it really did chew the cud, so that a careless observer would readily
mistake it for a ruminating animal.  This movement of the jaws is a very
important one.  According to J. G. Wood, the coney performs it
instinctively, in order that the chiselled edges of the upper and lower
teeth may be preserved sharp by continually rubbing against each other,
and that they may not be suffered to grow too long, and so to deprive
the animal of the means whereby it gains its food.

The coney knows what every good tradesman knows, that sharp tools are
the secret of all high-class work.  No boy ever cut his finger with a
sharp knife, but always with a blunt one.  And what a sharp knife is to
the finger, a sensitive conscience is to the life.  If the heart be kept
true and tender, and the mind alert and keen, the conscience will never
sting and lacerate the soul.  It is only the wicked who flee when no man
pursueth, and whose conscience is like the worm that never dies.  "Leave
her to Heaven," said Hamlet of his guilty mother, "and to those thorns
that in her bosom lodge to prick and sting her."  But the righteous are
as bold as a lion.  Like Paul, they have the approval of a good
conscience, and

    "A heart unspotted is not easily daunted,
    Thrice is he armed that hath his quarrel just."

And the young people will not forget that tools are kept sharp by
exercise, not by allowing them to rust like a sluggard’s spade, which no
true gardener would touch; but by keeping them sharp and bright like his
own steel blade, which is warranted to cut through any sod.  Yes, keep
the powers of your mind strong and active through diligent application
at school, and the faculties of your soul responsive by kindness,
obedience, and prayer, and you will find that this is no mean part of
the wisdom that will enable you to succeed in life.  For at school, in
business, and in religion, we have need of sharp tools.

                    II.—THE WISDOM OF EARLY RISING.

If any one wishes to see or catch a coney, he must be up with the dawn.
For, like the rabbit, it is generally to be found feeding in the early
morning or at sunset; while a sentry, which is commonly an old male, is
said to be posted to give warning by a short squeaking bark, at which
signal they all scuttle away before one can obtain a glimpse of them.
After all, it is the early bird that catches the early worm, and the
coney has long since decided that it is the early coney that enjoys the
sweetest aromatic shrubs.  And therefore, if any aspiring sportsman
wishes to bag _Hyrax Syriacus_ (for that is its Latin name), he must be
up and abroad with the dawn.

Indeed, the sharpest tools will avail us but little if the best hours of
the morning are idled away in bed.  The old adage cannot be repeated too
often, that "he who would thrive must the white sparrow see."  The lazy
farmer who got up at daybreak to try and get a sight of this _rara avis_
was not long in discovering the cause of his diminished fortunes.
Everything was wrong at the beginning of the day.  Dishonest servants
came to their work an hour late, and others were helping themselves to
everything they saw. On his farm, alas! there was neither an early bird
nor an early worm.  They were all late together, and he, the latest of
them all, was simply being gobbled up by such birds as he had.  Poor
lie-a-bed had certainly got a glimpse of the white sparrow, and from the
day he saw it his fortunes began to mend.

"I never had any faith in luck," says John Ploughman, "except that I
believe good luck will carry a man over a ditch if he jumps well, and
will put a bit of bacon into his pot if he looks after his garden and
keeps a pig."  Exactly. Solomon Slow will never be up in time to catch
the coach, and then he will waste the rest of the day in blaming the
hardness of his luck.  But there is no luck about it.  It is only
downright laziness. And boys cannot learn the golden text too soon, that
"drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags."


"The conies are but a feeble folk, yet make they their houses in the
rocks."  They cannot fight with the lion, and they don’t try.  They run
from the least appearance of evil, and so ought we.  It is often
one-half, and sometimes the whole, of the victory to know our own
weakness. Discretion is always the better part of valour.

How many there are who have not this wisdom of the coney!  They are
feeble as he is, and yet they do not pray, "Lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil."  They cannot turn aside the fiery darts of
the evil one, and yet they carelessly play into his hands by dallying
with that which is not good. But

    "This is hypocrisy against the devil,
    They that mean virtuously, and yet do so,
    The devil their virtue tempts, and they tempt heaven."

Far better to act as young Gareth acted when he lived among the
"kitchen-knaves" of King Arthur’s palace—

      "If their talk were foul,
    Then would he whistle rapid as any lark."

The pure-minded lad refused to listen to it, and he had his reward.
They mocked him at first, but afterwards they turned and reverenced him.
A like testimony was borne to John Milton when he entered Christ’s
College, Cambridge, at sixteen years of age.  Because of his virtuous
conduct he was ridiculed by his fellow-students, and nicknamed "the lady
of Christ’s."  But the future author of "Paradise Lost" could afford to
let them sneer.  He had the testimony of a good conscience, and "they
who honour Me, I will honour."  And all those who are tempted to-day
must draw their succour from a similar divine source.  With the wisdom
of the coney they must betake themselves to the safety of the hills, and
say, "Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I."  And in that strong
Rock of Ages all feeble ones will be eternally safe, for neither foe nor
tempest can reach them there.  Flee, then, as a bird to your mountain,
or in the language of your hymn—

    "Yield not to temptation, for yielding is sin,
    Each victory will help you some other to win,
    Fight manfully onward, dark passions subdue,
    Look ever to Jesus, He will carry you through."

                           *The Ass’s Colt.*

"And Jesus, when He had found a young ass, sat thereon."—John xii. 14.

Two varieties of the ass exist in Bible lands, namely, the domesticated
and the wild ass.  But whether these are two different kinds, or simply
variations of the same species, is not yet a settled question.  On the
assumption that they are one, it would still be disputed whether the
wild ass is to be regarded as an emancipated domestic ass, or the latter
a reclaimed wild one. But into the merits of this question we have no
call to enter.

We may say at the outset, however, that when speaking of the ass of the
Bible, we are dealing with a very different animal from the poor
weather-beaten, stunted, and half-starved beast of our commons.  The
coldness of our climate, and the life of hardship endured by the ass in
this country, have, no doubt, operated largely in the decay of the
breed.  But the Arabian ass is quite different.  A well-bred Syrian ass
will fetch forty pounds. It is well formed and muscular, well cared for
and fed, and is altogether a finer and nobler animal than the spiritless
and degraded creature so familiar to us.

Consequently, when we read of Jesus riding upon an ass’s colt, there
would seem to be some ground for the statement that "there was no
humility in the case. He rode upon an ass as any prince or ruler would
have done who was engaged on a peaceful journey" (Wood).  In fine, Jesus
came riding on the universal saddle animal of the East.

But turning to the ass’s colt, I want you to note three things about it.

                            I.—ITS WILDNESS.

The colt of the wild ass is really the most untamable and intractable of
animals.  Even when captured very young it can scarcely ever be brought
to bear a burden or draw a vehicle.  Its wild nature is constantly
breaking out, and like the asses which Saul the son of Kish went to
seek, it is always in danger of going astray.

Love of freedom and hatred of restraint are its main characteristics,
and Zophar the Naamathite reminded Job that something very similar is
true of man.  "Vain man is void of understanding, yea, man is born _as a
wild ass’s colt_" (Job xi. 12).

Of course, there is wildness _and_ wildness.  If boys are merely running
over with fresh animal spirits, like the young lambs trying to jump over
their mother’s head, we cannot think there is any great harm in their
mirth.  It is thus that lungs are exercised and limbs made strong, and
the whole body and mind kept healthy and happy.  Black care, alas! will
leap into the saddle behind them soon enough. And therefore, while the
days of youth last, let all the young people run and jump like the wild
ass’s colt.  Buoyancy of fresh young life is not to be regarded as
exuberance in sin.

If the wildness, however, is inclined to pass over into what is called
"a sowing of wild oats," the circumstances are altered. Innocent
pleasures are good, but pleasures which are forbidden are quite another
thing.  And if the young life is in danger of drifting into the latter,
the sooner the curb or drag is applied, the better for all concerned.
If one could sow his wild oats and then run away and leave them, it
wouldn’t so much matter; but alas! a reaping-time is sure to be treading
on the heels of the sowing.  And as no one ever yet gathered grapes of
thorns or figs of thistles, it will not do for any of you young people
to expect to gather fruit where you have only sown weeds.  No, no, this
is a kind of wildness which ought not to be tolerated.  This is a piece
of folly which must either be tamed or punished.  And if we would only
introduce the custom they have in Palestine of clipping a bit out of the
ear of those asses that go astray, a fresh clip for every new offence,
it might then be seen that the wildness which means mischief is not so
pleasant an experience after all, and perhaps not a few sowers of wild
oats would be found who had scarcely an ear on their head.  Some
punishment like this is sorely needed, for while mere exuberance of
spirits is not sinful, the exuberance that leads to forbidden pleasures
ought firmly to be condemned.

                          II.—ITS USEFULNESS.

Merchants in the East carried their riches on the shoulders of young
asses (Isa. xxx. 6), and it is added in verse 24 that young asses and
oxen were yoked together in tilling the ground.  But the chief service
rendered by the young ass was its frequent use in riding.  In the Book
of Judges we read of one judge who had "forty sons and thirty sons’ sons
that rode on threescore and ten ass colts, and he judged Israel eight
years."  Both in merchandise, in agriculture, and in riding, the ass’s
colt was a most useful animal.

And this is the test which must be applied to a boy’s pleasures.  He
must not allow them to interfere with his usefulness.  The games that
make him neglect his lessons, the pursuits that render it difficult for
him to learn his trade, the companions that tempt him to desecrate the
Christian Sabbath, or the habits that lead him to lose respect for his
parents or reverence for his God—all these must be freely but firmly
laid aside; for when judged in the light of the influence they exert,
they stand self-condemned.  Pleasure is never to be taken as the
touchstone of duty, but duty as the touchstone of pleasure.

It is this that gives the evangel of Jesus its inestimable value.  He
can tame our wildness into usefulness, and make duty itself our
pleasure.  He can teach us the secret of His own example, and then all
work is a joy, every duty is an inspiration. "I _delight_ to do Thy
will, O my God."  The secret is love.  That is the new commandment He
writes upon the heart, and then the yoke He lays upon the neck is
fur-lined—it is easy; and the burdens given us to bear are not grievous,
they are light.  No service can compare with His service.  Any pleasure
that would make us think lightly of His love is not pleasure, but wanton
folly; and any liberty that would tempt us away from His yoke is not
liberty but license.  Therefore let every young heart learn this second
lesson from the example of the ass’s colt, that wildness must be tamed
into usefulness.


If wildness is tamed into usefulness, this in turn is followed by
honour.  The ass’s colt had the high dignity conferred on it of being
used by Jesus in His triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

The incident itself is full of meaning. Jesus was entering Jerusalem for
the last time.  On reaching the Mount of Olives He sent two of His
disciples into the nearest village.  He told them that there, "in a
place where two ways met," they would find a colt tied "whereon never
man sat."  If the owner objected to his removal, they were to say "the
Lord hath need of him," and straightway the man would be willing to let
him go.  And when the two disciples departed to do as they were bidden,
they found it even as Jesus had said.

But how did Jesus know that the owner of the colt would consent to this
arrangement?  And why must the colt itself be one on which never man had
sat?  These two questions are deeply significant, and we may do well to
try and answer them. As regards the first, Jesus knew that the man would
agree to what He had said, because, in all probability, this was not the
first time that he and Jesus had met. On some former occasion the man
had come under the spell of Christ’s teaching and example, and although
he had not been added, like Peter or John, to the number of the twelve,
he had nevertheless become in heart and life a true and devoted friend.
And, no doubt, it was the man himself who informed Jesus that there, on
the little bit of common "where two ways met," his ass would generally
be found grazing; and if ever the Master required it to carry Him a
day’s journey, He could come and get it for the taking. It was not a
great thing he had to offer, but such as it was the Lord was welcome to
it.  And I think I see the eye of Jesus filling with a strange moisture
as He heard the quaint proposal of this humble villager. It was like
holding a cup of cold water to Christ’s thirsty lips.  And the young
people cannot possibly misread the lesson. Little things, when done for
the sake of Jesus, become great things.  This man had done _what he
could_, and love made it immortal.  "Wheresoever this gospel shall be
preached, this also that this man hath done shall be told for a memorial
of him."

On the other hand, the colt itself must be one on which _never man had
sat_.  Does this not remind us of what is said regarding Joseph’s new
tomb?  It was "a new sepulchre _wherein was never man yet laid_."  Why a
young colt and why a new tomb?  Surely to teach us that even in His
humiliation, Jesus the Son of God was worthy of special honour; and
perhaps to teach this further truth, that in everything He was "separate
from sinners."  He who came riding on an ass’s colt was still the King
of Glory, and although He was "numbered with the transgressors," He was
still "holy, harmless, and undefiled."  "Behold, thy King cometh unto
thee, meek, and riding upon an ass’s colt."  Let every child run, as the
children of Jerusalem ran, and hail Him with the happy acclaim,
"Hosanna, blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord."  And this
will be _your_ highest dignity. Wildness will be tamed into usefulness,
and usefulness will be crowned with honour. "Them that honour Me I will

                            *The Redbreast.*

"The household bird with the red stomacher"—a bird that should be in the
Bible, but isn’t.  We must give it a page here.

    Look! there on a sprig of holly,
      Like a bunch of berries red,
    He sits, wee bumptious Robin,
      Cocking his little head.

    Let us ask the little fellow,
      Why he comes so late to sing,
    For the autumn leaves are falling
      In a whirling fairy ring.

    Where did you go in summer
      With that little purple vest?
    Not away to the woods and hedges
      To conceal a tiny nest?

    Oh, you did! you sought the bracken,
      Where the flowers are wet with dew,
    And we never heard you singing,
      You had something else to do.

    You were feeding five wee Robins,
      And they kept you on the wing;
    But now that they’ve grown to _Red_breasts,
      You can well afford to sing.

    So you can, you little wise-head,
      There is truth in what you say;
    And may every lad apply it,
      _That after work comes play_.

                               *The Bee.*

"And the Amorites, which dwelt in that mountain, came out against you,
and chased you, as bees do."—Deut. i. 44.

Israel had determined at all hazards to storm the strongholds of the
Amorites.  But as those who disobey God can never stand before their
enemies, the Israelites were no match for those hardy mountaineers of
Seir.  Like infuriated bees rushing out from their nest, the Amorite
hordes swept out from their mountain fastnesses, and utterly overwhelmed
the hosts of Israel.  They "chased you, as bees do, and destroyed you in
Seir, even unto Hormah."

This is the only sense in which the bee is referred to in Holy
Scripture.  The ant may be introduced as an emblem of industry and
instinct; but the bee is always regarded as one of the scourges of
mankind.  It recalls an incident in the African travels of Mungo Park.
"Some of his people having met with a populous hive, imprudently
attempted to plunder it of its honey.  The swarm rushed out in fury and
attacked the company so vigorously that man and beast fled in all
directions. The horses were never recovered, and several of the asses
were so severely stung that they died the next day."  The bee was
clearly a savage and dangerous annoyance.  They "chased you, as bees

But turning to the bee itself, let us note the three principal materials
it uses in its hive.


Nothing can be done in the furnishing of the hive until a sufficient
quantity of wax has been provided.  And this, like the gossamer threads
of the spider, is drawn from the insect’s own body.  The process of
secretion, as it is called, may last for some twenty-four hours; and
when it is completed the wax projects from between the segments of its
body in the form of thin plates.  The material is then taken up into the
mouth and undergoes a process of mastication, until at last it issues
from the mandibles in the form of a small white ribbon.

This is the material with which they build up their hexagonal or
six-sided cells; and marvellous is the skill they show in the ingenious
arrangement.  Like Plato, they might fitly inscribe over their portal,
"Let no one ignorant of geometry enter here," for the bee is entitled to
a first place in the ranks of the geometricians. It is even asserted on
the authority of the Rev. J. G. Wood that the angles of the bee-cell are
so mathematically correct that by their measurement an error in a book
of logarithms was detected; and Mr Darwin himself admits that "the comb
of the hive-bee is absolutely perfect in economising labour and wax."

The form of the cell has three distinct advantages.  It combines the
greatest strength, the largest storage, and the least expenditure of
material and labour; and "the little busy bee," as if acquainted with
these strict mathematical principles, has followed them so accurately
that it easily steps into the first rank as a born mathematician.

But how is this fact to be accounted for?  What is the explanation of
these inimitable architectural powers?  "Without thought or even the
organ of thought, the bee can produce work which embodies thought."  But
to whom does this thought belong?  Can there be thought without a
thinker?  Can there be the marks of intelligence without an original and
creative mind?  No! at the building up of a bee-cell, just as at the
framing of a world, the thoughtful soul is face to face with Him whose
mind is stamped on every part of creation—with Him who is the great and
faithful Creator, whose tender mercies are over all His works.


After the construction of the cells comes the gathering of the honey.
Honey, as every boy knows, is the thick, sweet fluid which bees gather
from the cups of flowers. Or in the language of myth and fable, it is
the veritable nectar of the gods.  The mouth of the bee is framed for
the purpose.  It is so constructed that it forms a sort of proboscis or
tongue by means of which the insects suck up the nectarine juice.  It
serves both as a mouth and a pump through which the liquid passes into
the first stomach, and thus is carried to the hive.

The abundance of honey is frequently mentioned in Holy Scripture.
Palestine itself is described as "a land that floweth with milk and
honey."  And we remember that on one occasion Jonathan, the Son of Saul,
was faint and weary, and when he saw honey dripping on the ground from
the abundance and weight of the comb, he took it up on the end of his
staff, and ate sufficient to restore his strength (1 Sam. xiv. 27).
John the Baptist also was evidently in no danger of starving from lack
of food, when the wild bees afforded him a plentiful supply of the very
material which was needed to correct the deficiencies of the dried
locusts which he used instead of bread.  His food was locusts and wild

There is only one connection in which we find honey prohibited.  It was
to have no place in the Jewish meat offering (Lev. ii. 11).  Everything
liable to _fermentation_ was excluded from the altar; and "the same
principle covers the prohibition of honey" (Smith’s "Religion of the
Semites").  "The effect of honey is similar to that of leaven, since it
easily changes to acid" (Oehler).  Honey then was forbidden on the same
principle as an animal with any kind of blemish was forbidden. There
must be no defect in the sacrificial lamb, and there must be no
fermentation in the meat offering.  The offering brought by man must be
clean—a spotless sacrifice (and God’s Lamb is such), an honest heart,
and an earnest, unfeigned prayer.  Only the pure in heart shall see God.


Honey is not the only substance that bees carry home to the hive.  They
also collect in considerable quantities the fecundating dust or pollen
of flowers.  If the long tongue is specially adapted for sucking up the
one, the hind legs, supplied with a brush of hair, are equally fitted
for collecting and conveying the other. When the bee visits the flower
in question it dives deep down among the dust-like powder, and comes out
again, all covered from head to foot, like a miller well dusted with his
meal.  But applying the brush of hair which it carries for the purpose,
it speedily brushes the pollen all down in the form of a tiny ball, and
carries it home on its hind legs to be used in the economy of the hive.

But what is it for?  To make _bee-bread_ for the young bees.  The
hexagonal cells are not all used for the storage of honey. A very large
proportion of the comb is set apart for the hatching of the young ones.
And these infant bees are voracious eaters. Like other little children,
they have to be carefully nursed and attended to, and the sagacious
nurses have quite enough to do in providing them with the right kind of
food.  Ordinary honey is too strong for their infantile digestion, and
therefore the honey is mixed with the pollen to render it a fit
nourishment for these fastidious babies.

This is the only object the _bees_ have in collecting the pollen; but it
is not the only end they serve in the plan of the great Creator.
Unknown to themselves they are doing a great work in the propagating of
flowers.  The fertilising dust of one flower must be conveyed to the
corresponding organs of another; and the bee like a village postman, is
brought in to convey the necessary love-tokens.  Apart from this service
rendered by the bee, the wild flowers that deck the fields and highways
would soon be conspicuous by their absence.

We cannot, then, go back to the point from which we started, and say
that the bee can only be regarded as a savage and dangerous annoyance.
It fills a very important place in the economy of nature. As the maker
of wax it is the prince of mathematicians; as the gatherer of _honey_ it
is the bringer of many choice blessings; and as the collector and
distributer of _pollen_ it is at once a sagacious nurse, and one who
dispenses a harvest, "sowing the To-be."  Well may we sit at its hive
and learn wisdom.

                             *The Swallow.*

"As the bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying, so the curse
causeless shall not come."—Prov. xxvi. 2.

The swallow is the bird of the summer.  Like the coming of the cuckoo
itself, the arrival of the swallow is anxiously waited for as the
harbinger of warmer days.  And thus we have the beautiful fancy
connected with the little flower Celandine.  The name means "a swallow,"
and was applied to the tiny plant because it was supposed to open its
petals when the swallows appeared in spring, and to close them and die
when they disappeared in autumn.  Whether the flowers hasten to welcome
the little bird or not, there are many human hearts that leap up with
joy at the sight of the airy wanderer, and hail it as the bird of
freedom—the herald and pledge of the summer.

                     I.—IT IS THE BIRD OF FREEDOM.

This is the meaning of its Hebrew name, and surely no more fitting title
could be applied to so unfettered and freedom-loving a bird.  Tennyson,
in his great poem, "In Memoriam," speaks of

    "Short swallow-flights of song that dip
    Their wings ... and skim away."

Who does not love to see it darting through the sunshine, skimming along
the surface of a stream, or wheeling away in airy circles on its swift,
untired wings!  It is a thing of beauty and a joy for ever—happy as the
summer light, free and untamable as the breeze.

And we set this down as the first law of bird-life—that every songster
of the field and wood _should be free_.  This is its birthright and
blessing, and no one has the right to rob it of its liberty.  The green
fields and the blue sky have been given to it as its heritage, and the
barbarous custom of binding its wandering wing and shutting it up in a
cage should be censured and condemned by all healthy minds.  The
swallow, indeed, cannot be thus tamed and domesticated. She who claims
the whole earth as her fatherland refuses to be imprisoned in a cage.
She will die rather than yield. And all young hearts cannot learn the
lesson too soon that the feathered tribes of the woodland ought to be
left to their God-given liberty.

                    II.—IT IS THE BIRD OF OBEDIENCE.

Another lesson taught by the swallow is that _liberty is not license_.
Freedom to wander from land to land does not mean freedom from all
control.  Our text speaks of the law of its migration.  Like the stork,
the crane, or the turtle dove, the swallow knows the time of its coming.

In France it is spoken of as "the Jew," because of its wandering habits;
and in the science of heraldry it was used as a crest by the crusader
pilgrims to symbolise the fact that they too were strangers in a strange
land.  But to the swallow no land is strange. The whole earth is its
fatherland.  And while it _does_ wander to and fro over land and sea, it
always observes its appointed seasons.  All its wandering is guided by a
purpose.  Its freedom is regulated by unfailing instinct.  It may speed
its flight to far distant climes, but it comes back to the same nest.
This is the law of its migration; and in obedience to it, the swallows
appear in April and disappear in October with all the regularity of the
seasons or the ebb and flow of the tide.  The cause is there, and the
effect follows.  The bird of freedom is a slave to its own higher

And so ought we.  Freedom to wander is not so great a boon as obedience
to a higher, diviner law.  Like the needle trembling to the pole, or the
swallow returning to the same old nest, our hearts ought to hark back to
the sacredness of home and to the God and faith of our fathers.  "There
is an instinct in the new-born babes of Christ, like the instinct that
leads birds to build their nests" (Rutherford).  And this instinct, like
the law of migration, makes us the children of _obedience_.  There is no
license in the liberty of Christ.  We are only free to _serve_.

                    III.—IT IS THE BIRD THAT BUILDS
                       ITS NEST IN GOD’S TEMPLE.

"Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for
herself, where she may lay her young, even Thine altars" (Ps. lxxxiv.

Swallows sometimes build their nests in the most extraordinary places—on
a picture frame, on a lamp-bracket, on a door-knocker, in a
table-drawer, and between the handles of a pair of shears hung on the
wall.  James Gilmour, in his missionary travels through Mongolia, found
that they actually entered his tent and built their nests within reach
of his hand.  And so fully do the little birds confide in man’s
protection, that they will even take up their abode in his places of
worship.  The heathen temples, the Mohammedan mosques, and the Christian
churches are all inhabited by the swallow, and here, in the
eighty-fourth Psalm, it is spoken of as having sought and found a home
in the courts of the Jewish temple.

The Psalmist, detained at home, envied the little birds that built their
nests under the eaves of the priests’ houses, and thought of the very
sparrows that were allowed to pick up the crumbs in the temple courts.
It reminds us of Samuel Rutherford when a prisoner in Aberdeen.  He
often looked back to his country church and manse near the shore of the
Solway Firth, and sighed, "I am for the present thinking the sparrows
and swallows that build their nests at Anwoth blessed birds."  These
men, as Spurgeon would say, "needed no clatter of bells" to bring them
to church; they carried a bell in their own bosoms; holy appetite is a
better call to worship than a full chime.

And the lesson is for the young people no less than for their parents.
For the Psalmist adds that the nest of the swallow was for "her young."
The swallow reared her young brood in the temple courts.  And this is
the duty and privilege of all Christian parents.  The house of God may
be a nest for their little ones.  How beautiful to see parents and
children coming Sabbath by Sabbath to the same family pew!  In
after-years will not these little ones find their way back to the same
old nest?  Yes, "train up a child in the way he should go, and even when
he is old he will not depart from it."  Or if, perchance, they are
called upon to suffer, and are not able, like the Psalmist, to come to
God’s house, the spirit will still be willing though the flesh be weak,
and they will sit and sing like another great sufferer—

    "A little bird I am,
      Shut from the fields of air,
    And in my cage I sit and sing
      To Him who placed me there,
    Well pleased a prisoner to be,
    Because, O God, it pleaseth thee.

    "Nought else have I to do,
      I sing the whole day long,
    And He whom most I love to please,
      Doth listen to my song.
    He caught and bound my wandering wing,
    But still He bends to hear me sing."

                             *The Spider.*

"The hypocrite’s hope shall perish, ... whose trust shall be a spider’s
web."—Job viii. 13, 14.

What is hypocrisy?  It is a bird of evil omen that builds its nest on
the tree of religion. It is a kind of homage that vice pays to virtue.
Were there no virtue there would be no need to simulate it.  Every act
of hypocrisy is a tacit acknowledgment of its greatness.  O Virtue! how
great thou art, when even the bad and the vile are constrained to do
thee homage!  No one becomes a hypocrite when he pretends to be
different from what he is, but when he pretends to be _better_ than he
is.  In spite of himself he is paying a high tribute to thy greatness
and goodness!

The attempt to conceal the evil heart, however, shall not always be
successful. "The day is coming when hypocrites will be stripped of their
fig-leaves" (Matthew Henry).  Their trust shall be as frail as a
_spider’s web_.  Could any language be more expressive?  In Eastern
lands the flimsiness of the spider’s web is proverbial. "He shall lean
upon his house (on that light _gossamer_), but it shall not stand: he
shall hold fast thereby, but it shall not endure."  The material is so
frail, that the least violence destroys it; and the hypocrite’s hope is
so flimsy, that it shall not stand in the judgment.  "They weave the
spider’s web, but their webs shall not become garments, neither shall
they cover themselves with their works" (Isa. lix. 6).

But turning to the spider itself, we may learn various lessons.

                       I.—ITS SKILL AS A WEAVER.

Like Hogarth’s good apprentice, it has made admirable use of its trade.
Its web, however frail, is really a marvellous production.  It is
distinguished by beauty of design, fineness of texture, nicety and
sensitiveness of touch, reminding us of Pope’s couplet—

    "The spider’s _touch_, how exquisitely fine,
    Feels at each thread and lives along the line."

And when we add to this that the whole fabric is spun out of its own
body—a part of its very life—it is not difficult to see that the
spider’s work must be of the finest order, and well worthy of the study
and imitation of every young apprentice.

Every lad in going forward to the work of his life should set up a high
ideal.  In all that he does he ought to aim at perfection.  Like the
spider’s web, his work, whatever it is, should be a bit of
himself—steeped in his own thought and shaped by his own effort.  He may
only be a weaver, but he must aspire to be a _good_ one—one who plans as
well as labours, and reads as well as plans.  For in the race of life,
muscle is no match for mind, and skill will always outstrip
slovenliness—just as the great Goliath must go down before the alert son
of Jesse, and the pigmies of the African forest can easily outmatch and
out-manoeuvre the lion.  Let every young life go and examine the
perfection of the spider’s web, and seek to do likewise.

                      II.—ITS PROWESS AS A HUNTER.

Popular prejudice has always been against the spider; and it must be
admitted that there is a good deal to sanction the poet’s unfavourable
verdict when he says regarding it—

    "_Cunning_ and _fierce_, mixture abhorr’d."

Its cunning and craft have passed into a proverb; and all the children
know that its apparent treachery, in decoying the little fly into its
parlour, has been suitably expressed in verse.  Its fierceness also is
quite equal to its cunning, and when the thought of its hairy-looking
appearance is added to the fact of the poison-fangs which it buries in
the bodies of its victims, there would seem to be enough to warrant the
general dislike with which the spider has at all times been regarded.

On the other hand, we must not forget these two things—(1) That the
spider is only fulfilling the instinct which an all-wise God has
implanted in it; and (2) that it is of great service to man in
diminishing the swarms of insects by which he is molested.  Thomas
Edward, the Banffshire naturalist, calculated that a single pair of
swallows would destroy 282,000 insects in one year while rearing their
two broods, and sometimes they rear three.  And if this be the service
rendered by a single pair of birds, what may not be accomplished by
those innumerable spiders that weave their gummy webs on every bush and
hedge-row, and spend the entire day, and sometimes the whole night, in
trapping and ridding the atmosphere of those annoying pests.  Bereft of
these wily hunters, we should be like the Egyptians in the time of
Moses—plagued and eaten up of flies: so that in spite of prejudice and
general dislike the spider is occupying a real sphere of usefulness in
the world.  And so may we.  We can afford at times to pause and study
the hunter’s skill, and do something to imitate its prowess.

                      III.—ITS FAME AS A TEACHER.

It teaches us how to spin and how to weave, how to hunt and how to
snare. And as one has expressed it, it has solved many a problem in
mathematics before Euclid was born.  Look at the spider’s web, and see
whether "any hand of man, with all the fine appliances of art, and
twenty years’ apprenticeship to boot, could weave us such another."
Nay, if we think of the _water_-spider, which bottles up air, and takes
it under water to breathe with, it is not too much to say, that if
people had but "watched water-spiders as Robert Bruce watched the
cottage spider, diving-bells would have been discovered hundreds of
years ago, and people might have learnt how to go to the bottom of the
sea and save the treasures of wrecks."

The name of King Robert the Bruce suggests one special lesson.  If all
history be true, the spider will always be known in Scotland as the
teacher of _perseverance_—

    "If at first you don’t succeed,
    Try, try, try again."

Once, twice, thrice, nay, six times over the tiny creature, like a
swinging pendulum, had swung towards the opposite rafter in that little
cottage, but always without success; and the eyes of the defeated and
almost hopeless hero of Scotland watched its repeated struggles. But
however often it had failed, it was in no wise beaten nor discouraged;
but gathered up all its energies for another and more strenuous effort.
"England, Scotland, Spiderland expects every one to do his duty," and
with one supreme push it swung out and won at last.  "Bravo!" exclaimed
the Bruce, as he recalled how he himself had been defeated six times,
and might read in the triumph of the spider the promise and pledge of
his own. Little did the cottage spider think how a mighty courage had
been rekindled by its tiny struggles, and how a brilliant page in
history would be opened by the memory of its splendid success.  Yet so
it was. Great results have sometimes sprung from small causes, and the
champion of Scottish liberties arose from his pallet bed to deliver and
consolidate his kingdom.

And little do children in any age think how great an influence _they_
might wield, if only in devotion to what is right they would follow and
obey Christ’s gospel. Many a tiny seed has grown into a great tree.  And
Jesus Himself has said, "Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou
hast perfected praise" (Matt. xxi. 16).

                               *The Fly.*

"Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a
stinking savour."—Eccles. x. 1.

Both of these terms, "apothecary" and "ointment," need to be explained.
In Hebrew they have no reference to anything _medical_, whether it be to
the person of a chemist or the contents of a chemist’s shop.  The
ointment means the various perfumes in use among the Jews—both in the
anointing of the living and in the embalming of the dead; and the
apothecary meant the perfumer who prepared and sold these perfumes,
whether as cosmetics for the toilet or as spices for the tomb.

If, therefore, the perfumes were carelessly stored or insecurely
protected, the flies managed to gain admittance, and the priceless
treasure became corrupted by the odour of their dead bodies.  For "the
fly that sips treacle is lost in the sweets."  And the lesson drawn by
the preacher is sufficiently telling, "So doth a little folly him that
is in reputation for wisdom."  The man himself is the ointment, his
reputation is the perfume, the little folly is the dead fly, and his
disgrace is the stinking savour.  Ah! little foxes spoil the vines, and
sometimes little follies lead to great sins.  "It is very cold," said
the camel in an Eastern fable, "and I would be so thankful to you,
Mister Tailor, if you would only let me put my nose inside your door."
And the good man consented.  But soon the camel had thrust in his head
as well as his nose, then his neck and his forefeet, and last of all his
whole body, which completely filled up the tailor’s little shop. It was
no use now pleading that there was no room for both.  The camel coolly
replied that in that case the tailor could go outside.  It was the
beginning of the evil that wrought the mischief.  It was allowing the
_nose_ that did it.  "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump," just as
a tiny spark will kindle a great fire, or little snowflakes become a
dreaded avalanche.  Let every young heart shun the least appearance of
evil.  Dead flies corrupt the costly spikenard.

But the fly itself will repay attention from two points of view.

                           I.—ITS STRUCTURE.

Were we in search of design in nature, or an illustration of the wonders
of the microscope, no better example could be suggested to us than the
form and structure of a fly.  Its tiny body is even more wonderful than
the body of a man.  Take, for instance, its marvellous power of walking.
It can walk anywhere or anyhow, setting every principle of gravitation
at defiance by promenading head downwards along the ceiling, or skipping
up and down the glittering window-pane, pursuing objects that to us are
quite invisible. How is the feat accomplished?  What peculiarity has its
little foot that the daring acrobat can keep itself suspended in that
dizzy and foolhardy position? The microscope gives us the answer. The
foot consists of two pads covered with innumerable short hairs, and
these hairs are hollow, having trumpet-shaped mouths filled with gum.
This gum becomes so hard when exposed to the air, that it will not
dissolve in water, so that at every step the fly glues itself to the
ceiling, and there it would remain unless it knew how to lift its feet.
It lifts them in a slanting direction while the gum is still moist, just
as you would remove a moist postage stamp by taking hold of one corner
and gently drawing it back.  And think of the creature’s eye. It can
observe everything in four-fifths of the circle round it, so that to
compete with a fly we would require two more pair of eyes, one at the
side and another at the back of our head.  But in no sense can we
compete with these aerial nomads.  They have three sets of brain instead
of one.  They have wings, which we have not.  They have six legs instead
of two; and their proboscis or trunk is as far beyond that of an
elephant "as a railway engine is beyond a wheelbarrow."

As seen under a powerful microscope, the structure of a common fly is a
perfect marvel of design, and it may well excite our curiosity and call
forth our admiration. It points us to the greatness and wisdom of Him
whose works are as perfect in the tiniest insect as in the brightest
star, whose power is as manifest in the humblest sea-shell as in the
huge leviathan that makes the ocean its playground—

    "All are but parts of one stupendous whole,
    Whose body Nature is, and God the soul."

                          II.—ITS USEFULNESS.

Instead of usefulness, one might almost be tempted to say that the first
law of their nature is to _torment_ people; but the service they render
to the world at large must not be lightly esteemed.

1. The very torment of which they are so capable may be turned into a
visitation of _judgment_.  When Isaiah refers to the scattering of the
Ten Tribes, he exclaims, "The Lord shall hiss for the fly that is in the
uttermost part of the rivers of Egypt, and for the bee that is in the
land of Assyria" (Isa. vii. 18).  And the children will remember that
the ten plagues which fell upon Egypt included "swarms of flies" in all
the houses of the Egyptians.  These little insects were used as the
scourges of mankind to wreak the vengeance of a broken law on the heads
of the transgressors.  And especially is this the case with the law of
cleanliness. The one sin that the fly will not tolerate is the sin of
laziness and dirt. Wheresoever the filth is, there will the flies be
gathered together.  Those who despise this first law of their being will
not offend with impunity; and if no other scourge be available, that
little torment—the common fly—will be commissioned to undertake the

2. But the sword they wield is double-edged. It not only flays the
law-breakers, it also slays the infection and the fever which have
followed in their train.  They are _the scavengers of the atmosphere_.
They do for the air what the pariah dogs of the East do for the
earth—they gather up and remove everything that offends, everything that
occasions or breeds disease.  Let no one say that the swarms of flies
bring the cholera and the fever.  They are the camp-followers who tread
on the heels of those dreaded foes, and they feed upon and do their best
to remove the foulsome odours.  We need not grudge the spider his
savoury morsel, but it will be a dark hour for the earth if he should
gain the mastery.  If he should prove too much for the fly, we shall be
left to the miasmas and pestilences from which the presence of the fly
relieves us.

3. Even in its death the fly renders a most substantial service.  It
forms the food of innumerable song-birds, which, apart from the fly,
would never be found in our land at all.  How dull and lifeless would
the months of the summer be without the swallow, the willow-warbler, and
the fly-catcher.  And yet these feed almost entirely on flies.  "And if
the trout had not discovered what a savoury morsel the fly is that
dances on the stream, what a very dull, stupid amusement would fishing
be!  Many a schoolboy would lose the greatest treat of a summer holiday
if there were no flies, and no trout that appreciated them."

The niche filled by the fly is therefore a very important one.  It
neither lives a useless life nor dies a useless death.  Its sphere of
usefulness is as striking and suggestive as the wondrous delicacy of its
form and structure, and they both point us to the Great Creator whose
greatness and goodness are manifested through all His works—

    "Who sees with equal eye, as God of all,
    A hero perish, or a sparrow fall."

And if the boy be the father of the man, we may justly emphasise another
lesson—that the law of kindness ought to rule in the least as well as in
the greatest—that he who begins by torturing a fly may end with
something far more solemn—_a human heart_.

                          *The Pearl-Oyster.*

"Neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under
their feet."—Matt. vii. 6.

The disciples of Jesus are here told not to talk too freely of their
spiritual enjoyments before men of debased tastes.  Religion is brought
into contempt, and its professors insulted, when it is forced upon those
who cannot value it and will not have it.  "Throw a pearl to a swine,"
says Matthew Henry, "and he will resent it, as if you threw a stone at
him; _reproofs_ will be called _reproaches_."  Such men cannot
appreciate the jewels of Christianity, and like swine, which prefer peas
to pearls, they will trample them under their feet and turn again and
rend you.

On the other hand, this caution is not to be carried too far.  We are
not to set down all our neighbours as dogs and swine, and then excuse
ourselves from trying to do them good on this poor plea.  The Saviour’s
golden rule shows us a more excellent way: "Whatsoever ye would that men
should do to you, do ye even so to them; for this is the law and the
prophets."  We are to deal with each other as God deals with us.  He
does not judge us uncharitably; but still less does He give that which
is holy to the dogs.  He gives to each what is suitable to each.  He
sends His _rain_ on the just and on the unjust; but He keeps His _love_
for those who worship and love His Son (John xiv. 21).  And that is His
example to you and me.  We must seek His Spirit to guide us in all
things, that being made wise with His wisdom, we may ourselves possess
the pearl of great price and not cast our pearls before swine.

                        I.—BUT WHAT IS A PEARL?

It is a well-known gem found in several shell-fish, such as the common
mussel and the oyster.  How it came to be there was long a puzzle to
man.  In ancient times they imagined it was formed from the dew of
heaven.  The sparkling dewdrops and the shining pearls were so like each
other that they adopted the beautiful fancy that the pearl was begotten
from the dew.  To explain the shining lustre of the gem this other
detail was added, that just at the moment when the conception was taking
place there was a vivid flash of lightning, and the pearl caught
something of the fiery gleam.  All these fancies are read together by
one ancient writer, when he says regarding the pearl of great price,
"This Pearl is Jesus, whom the virgin conceived from the divine

But all this, of course, is pure fancy.  A pearl is not formed from the
dew, and still less is its lustre derived from the lightning. Science
would describe it as the result of an accident.  It is "an _accidental_
concretion of shelly matter deposited within the shell of certain
mollusca."  If you open an oyster-shell you find the inside of _it_ all
covered over with a bright smooth covering of shelly matter.  This is
laid on in innumerable layers, the one above the other, and the thinner
and more transparent the layers, the more perfect is the lustre.  Now,
if any hard substance like a grain of sand gets inside the shell, this
shelly matter begins to gather round it, coat after coat, which harden
as they gather, until the pearl is fully formed.  It is said the Chinese
take advantage of this fact to get the little creatures to make
imitation pearls.  They insert round pellets between the valves of the
mussel, and in a short time the creature deposits a coating of this
pearly substance upon them, and they can scarcely be detected from true

A pearl, then, is a grain of sand transformed into a precious gem.  It
began as a kind of thorn in the flesh, and ended in a jewel so valuable
that thousands of pounds cannot buy it.  The unwelcome intruder was
really an angel in disguise.  The pain became a pearl.

And do not all human pearls come in the same way?  Is there any gain
without pain? or is there any perfection without the fire of suffering?
No.  The fruit-tree does not flourish apart from the pruning-knife, and
the fruit is not ripened apart from the scorching heat of the sun.  Iron
is not hammered into shape until it has been thrust into the furnace,
and character does not glisten like a gem until it has been polished by
the lapidary.  And thus we find the poets saying that they learn in
suffering what they teach in song; and the young people will not forget
that even Jesus—the Pearl of great price—was made "perfect through
sufferings" (Heb. ii. 10). So that Carlyle was well within the mark when
he wrote: "Thought, true labour of any kind, highest virtue itself, is
it not the daughter of pain?"  Yes, every thorn may be a blessing in
disguise.  Every pain may become a pearl.

There is one gem in the character of Jesus that all you young people
would do well to imitate.  I mean the _pearl of obedience_.  Though He
knew that God was His Father, and the temple was His Father’s house, He
went down to Nazareth with Joseph and Mary, and was "_subject unto
them_."  That was the keynote of His life.  To obey was better than
sacrifice; and even at the tragic close He was "obedient unto death."
Is that the ornament, children, with which you are trying to adorn your
character?  Are you in loving subjection to your parents on earth, and
are you learning to be in subjection to your Father in heaven?  That can
only be obtained in one way—the way Jesus won it—the way of
self-sacrifice and self-denial.  Every pearl is the product of a pain.
Jesus _learned obedience_ by the things which He _suffered_ (Heb. v. 8).

                        II.—THE VALUE OF PEARLS.

The most valuable pearl-fisheries are to be found in the Persian Gulf
and on the western coast of Ceylon.  The annual produce of the former is
said to be over £200,000; while that of the latter is set down at even a
higher sum.  The value of single pearls has sometimes been enormous.
Those who have read Rider Haggard’s books will remember the graphic way
in which he describes an incident in the life of Cleopatra.  That
unscrupulous woman, at a supper with Mark Antony, took from her ear one
of a pair of pearls of the value of £80,000, and having dissolved it in
vinegar, swallowed the absurdly precious draught; and she would have
done the same with its fellow had it not been rescued from her wanton

But however valuable pearls may be, there are other things more valuable
still. Holy Scripture mentions three.

(1.) *Wisdom*.—"No mention shall be made of coral or of pearls; for the
price of wisdom is above rubies" (Job xxviii. 18). The wisdom here
referred to is the divine wisdom—the plan or purpose of God exhibited in
the universe.  But the same truth applies to human wisdom—the gaining of
knowledge and discretion in human affairs.  The price of this is far
above rubies.  It is not to be had for pearls.  How then shall a boy get
it? Only by hard work and diligent application. He must shun the company
of the idle and the frivolous, and give his time and thought to the
companionship of books.  He must show diligence at school, obedience in
the home, and reverence in the church.  All his lessons must be
faithfully learned, every task must be faithfully performed.  And if he
learn thus early to sow well in youth, a harvest of intelligence and
wisdom will be the reward.  And this will be a possession more valuable
than pearls, for

    "Just experience shows in every soil
    That those who _think_ must govern those who _toil_."

(2.) *Good Works*.—"In like manner, that they adorn themselves ... not
with gold or pearls, but with good works" (1 Tim. ii. 9).  The wisdom
must show itself in outward action.  If the fountain be pure, so also
must the flowing stream.  The hand must follow the heart.

And all this in the way of adornment—the adornment of a good woman; and
girls especially will not miss the lesson that broidered hair and golden
trinkets are not the only kind of ornaments.  Peter speaks of the
ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of
great price; and Paul points us here, in 1st Timothy, to the beauty and
excellency of good works. She who is arrayed in meekness and
kind-hearted generosity has no need of flounces and finery.  She may
even say of all other ornaments, "Unadorned, adorned the most."

(3.) *Salvation* (Matt. xiii. 46).—Both wisdom and good works must show
themselves in religion.  The beginning of wisdom is the fear of God, and
the best of good works is to believe on Him whom He hath sent (John vi.
29).  Till this is done, we are like the merchant man seeking goodly
pearls.  He found a great many; for this beautiful world in which we
live has many precious secrets to reveal to the earnest seeker.  But not
until we find salvation through Jesus does the great _Eureka_, "I have
found it," burst from our lips.  This is the treasure which all the
wealth of the world cannot buy.  Not all the thousands of Cleopatra
could lay it at her feet.  And yet, wonder of wonders, it is given to
the penitent soul without money and without price.  Jesus says, "Buy of
me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayst be rich; and white raiment,
that thou mayst be clothed."  "He that hath no money, come ye, buy and
eat, yea come, buy wine and milk without money and without price."  This
is true wisdom, and this is the soundest morality, to come and find in
the salvation of Jesus _the Pearl of Great Price_.

                          *Some Other Shells.*


    Happy sunlight on the sea,
    Sparkling diamonds, all for me;
    Wavelets chasing for the land,
    There to kiss the golden sand.

    See! a floating, straying shell,
    Run! it has a tale to tell;
    Children, with their eager eyes,
    Splash the water, seize the prize.

    Hold it to the little ear,
    List and tell me what you hear..
    Music?  Yes, for you and me,
    That’s the music of the sea.

    Down below the water blue,
    There it lived and there it grew,
    Gazing through its watery dome,
    Happy in its ocean home.

    List’ning there both night and day,
    Hearing what the wild waves say,
    Watching sea-weed float along,
    There it learned the ocean’s song.


    But the children never still,
    See them leap like mountain rill,
    Ringing out their laughter sweet,
    Sending forth their little fleet.

    Full of mirth, but leaving me
    Musing by another sea,
    Casting with its angry swell
    At my feet another shell.

    There upon the sand to rest,
    With a babe upon her breast,
    Came a mother, not a wife,
    Tossed upon the sea of life.

    As she sat and sat alone,
    Did she hear another moan?
    Waves that smiled, then swept the deck,
    Till they left this shattered wreck?

    Yes, while tear-drops rose and fell,
    There I heard the murmuring shell;
    Strange the tale it brought to me,
    Moaning echoes of the sea.

    Round and round the eddying world
    Had this straying shell been whirled;
    Round and round lay blackest night—
    Moths see nothing but the light.

    Tossed by sin and idle care,
    Pain and anguish found her there,
    Young and mirthful, fair but frail,
    There she learned the ocean’s wail.


    Hold it to the little ear,
    Children, tell me what you hear.
    Nothing?  No, you cannot know
    All this human tide of woe.

    Would I be a child again,
    Not to know another’s pain?
    Mourn like some for childhood’s hours,
    Gathering nought but summer’s flowers?

    No.  I want the power to tell,
    Power to hear the murmuring shell,
    Power to catch the rising moan,
    Power to make its wail my own.

    Learning thus to feel with pain,
    I shall be a child again,
    But a child experience taught,
    Child in heart—a man in thought.

    Then I’ll hear the echoing swell
    In the murmur of each shell,
    And with touch of friendship warm,
    Try to lull the raging storm.

    Lulled to rest, its song shall be,
    Murmurs of _another_ sea—
    Heavenly love shall thrill and dwell
    In the murmur of the shell.

                     *      *      *      *      *

    Of that higher sea to tell,
    Make me, Lord, an echoing shell,
    That the world may hear in mine
    Echoes of the love divine.

                              *The Calf.*

"Ye shall go forth and gambol as calves of the stall."—Mal. iv. 2

Malachi is known as "the last of the prophets."  With him the sun of a
thousand years was sinking in the west.  It had its rise in the
prophetical school of Samuel, its zenith in the glowing visions of
Isaiah, and its setting in the earnest appeals of Malachi.  But before
it loses all its glory in the gathering twilight, it gives the fair
promise of another and better sun. Malachi is led to write—"Unto you
that fear My name shall the _Sun of righteousness_ arise with healing in
His wings; and ye shall go forth and gambol as calves of the stall."  He
had frequently seen the young calves let loose in the morning sunshine,
and as he stood and watched their happy gambols, they became a kind of
illustration to him of far higher joys. They led him to think of the
coming "day of the Lord," when, in the brightness of that better Sun,
those that feared His name would rejoice with joy unspeakable and full
of glory.  They too would go forth like the beasts of the field and skip
and play in the sunshine.

    "To hail Thy rise, Thou better Sun,
      The gathering nations come,
    Joyous, as when the reapers bear
      The harvest treasures home."

The Bible imagery of the calf, however, has much more to tell us than
this, and I propose to-day to direct your attention to three points.

                        I.—THE CALF AS AN IDOL.

In Exodus xxxii. we have the story of the _golden calf_.  It was a
solemn hour in the history of the Hebrews.  Moses was up on Mount Sinai
communing with God, and all the people were waiting in the plain.  They
had watched their leader ascend the hill and disappear within the cloud;
and for well-nigh forty days they had been waiting for his return.  But
evidently they were waiting in vain.  Day by day they had expected the
cloud to lift and pass away, but there it was still lying on the rocky
summit, brooding and dark as ever.  They began to lose heart.  They
gradually grew impatient, and finally they broke out in actual
rebellion.  They turned to Aaron and said, "Up, make us gods which shall
go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of
the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him."

And then follows the sad story of Israel’s idolatry.  Moses on the hill
was receiving a new revelation.  He was receiving from Jehovah the two
tables of stone.  And these were the first two lines inscribed upon
them: "_Thou shalt have no other gods before Me_."  "_Thou shalt not
make unto thee any graven image_."  And lo! at the very moment that
these words were being written, the chosen people at the foot of the
hill were breaking off their golden earrings and making a molten calf.
They were renouncing the worship of Jehovah and setting the worship of
Egypt—the worship of the _bull_, Apis, in its place.

When Moses came down and beheld this idol, he was completely overcome.
In a great outburst of grief and anger he dashed the tables out of his
hand and break them beneath the mount. Israel had sinned a great sin.
They were a stiff-necked and rebellious people.  And the anger of the
Lord was kindled against Israel, "and there fell of the people that day
about three thousand men."

It is the same taproot of sin which is the cause of all our sorrows.
We, too, have sinned against the Lord.  We have made some kind of golden
calf, and set it in the place of Jehovah.  And unless we are saved from
the awful consequences of our sin, we also will suffer, as those
rebellious Hebrews suffered, because of the idol which we have made.
This is the first lesson that we may learn from the Bible imagery of the
calf.  It sets before us the true nature and the terrible consequences
of sin.

                      II.—THE CALF AS A SACRIFICE.

The stain of sin may be deep, but the power of redemption is deeper.
Moses said unto Aaron, "Take thee a bull calf for a sin offering, and
offer it before the Lord" (Lev. ix. 2).  Not indeed that the blood of
calves could take away sin.

    "Not all the blood of beasts
      On Jewish altars slain,
    Could give the guilty conscience peace,
      Or wash away the stain."

But that was the Old Testament way of setting forth the great fact of
redemption. The offering of the bull calf was a picture of the sacrifice
of Jesus.  For as we read in Hebrews ix. 11, "Christ having come a high
priest of good things to come, not through the blood of goats and
calves, but through His own blood, entered in once into the holy place,
having obtained eternal redemption for us."  This is the hope and plea
of every poor sinner.  "The blood of Jesus, His Son, cleanseth us from
all sin."

And as a sacrifice, the bull calf _could not be redeemed_.  The
first-born of man might be redeemed, as also the firstling of any
unclean animal; but not so the firstling of an ox.  It was a _clean_
animal, and its blood must be sprinkled upon the altar (Num. xviii. 17).
In this way it shadowed forth the sacrifice of Christ, of whom it was
said, "He saved others; Himself He cannot save."  As our Divine Isaac He
came to Mount Moriah, but there was no ram found there to take His place
as the sacrifice.  He alone was a perfect offering.  He alone was clean;
and therefore He alone as the Great High Priest offered Himself as the
victim.  He poured out His soul unto death.  And it is to this Saviour
that all you young people must look.  "Neither is there salvation in any
other: there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we
must be saved."  Looking unto Jesus, loving Him, and resting on Him—that
is the way we enter into life.  "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh
away the sin of the world."

This is the second lesson we learn from the Bible imagery of the calf.
Sin is followed by sacrifice.  The molten calf gives place to the calf
that was slain.

                       III.—THE CALF AS A FEAST.

You remember the story of the Prodigal Son contained in the Gospel of
Luke.  In that pearl of parables we have the mention of the "_fatted
calf_."  This was considered a great delicacy among the Jews. Large
numbers were carefully selected and fattened for the purpose.  And this
is what we are to understand by "calves of the stall."  Even the witch
of Endor had "a _fat_ calf" in her house, which she killed and dressed
for King Saul (1 Sam. xxviii. 24).  And Abraham ran unto the herd, and
fetched "a calf _tender and good_," and prepared it for the three angels
who had visited him in the plains of Mamre (Gen. xviii. 7).  This was
hospitality worthy of both kings and angels; and this is the kind of
entertainment which is set before every returning prodigal. They feed on
angels’ food.  They eat of the finest of the wheat.  They are brought
into Christ’s banqueting house, and His banner over them is love.

Did ever any one sin a more grievous sin than the prodigal?  Was ever
any one visited with a sadder and sorer punishment?  Like the silly
sheep, he had strayed away into the far-off country; and there, in that
distant land, he found himself in penury and rags.  He would fain have
filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat.  But the
Shepherd found the sheep.  The poor wanderer came to himself in that
distant land, and found his way back again to his father’s house.  And
what was the result?  His home-coming was celebrated by a feast.  The
father said unto the servant, "Bring hither the _fatted calf_ and kill

    "A day of _feasting_ I ordain,
      Let mirth and song abound,
    My son was dead, and lives again,
      Was lost, and now is found.

    Thus joy abounds in paradise,
      Among the hosts of heav’n,
    Soon as the sinner quits his sins,
      Repents and is forgiven."

The sin, the sacrifice, the feast.  The golden calf, the slain calf, the
fatted calf. The first is ours, the second is Christ’s, and the third is
designed for _both_. "Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man
hear My voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup
_with him_, and he _with Me_."  Nay, Jesus Himself is both sacrifice and
feast.  He could turn to the Jews and say, "Whoso eateth My flesh, and
drinketh My blood, hath eternal life."  "I am the living bread which
came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for

We must repent of the sin, we must trust in the sacrifice, and we must
feed upon the feast.  Not till then shall we be fired with the hope and
filled with the joy of the last of the prophets—"Unto you that fear My
name, shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in His wings:
and ye shall go forth and _gambol_ as calves of the stall."

                               *The Bat.*

"In that day a man shall cast his idols to the moles and the bats."—Isa.
ii. 20.

The bat is only mentioned three times in the Bible, and it cannot be
said at a first reading that the references are very flattering.  They
seem to justify the kind of horror which most people feel when they
encounter a bat; for it is generally regarded as "a creature of such
ill-omen that its very presence causes a shudder, and its approach would
put to flight many a human being."

Moses speaks of it as one of the unclean animals—a creature neither to
be eaten as food nor offered in sacrifice; while Isaiah describes it as
a fit companion for the mole, or rather the mole-rat, which crawls away
from the sunshine, and seems to love the darkness rather than the light,
because its deeds are evil. Clearly the little "night-flier" has a good
deal to contend with in winning for itself a place among the world’s
favourites.  It has enough against it to crush an Atlas, not to speak of
a bat; and if it rise to a position of honour after all, it does so in
spite of the incubus of general dislike and loathing which the ignorance
of superstition has heaped upon it.  But all true bats, like all true
boys, but seek to rise above any such reputation.

                       I.—THE JEWISH PROHIBITION.

The bat was regarded as unclean.  Two reasons may be given for
this—corresponding to the two classes of bats which are known to have
existed in Bible lands. We have first the _insectivorous_ bats, which,
both in habits and appearance, are so repugnant that no one would ever
dream of regarding them as food, or as fit objects for sacrifice.  They
were rejected on the principle that nothing repulsive or hideous is to
be eaten or offered; for this would offend the _horror naturalis_ which
is so great a safeguard in human life.  And indeed, if these were the
only bats known to the Jews, the prohibition as thus applied would seem
to be needless.  But these were not the only bats.  We have also the
large _frugivorous_ bats which have been used as food in various parts
of the world; and they may have been so used by the Jews themselves when
sojourning in the land of Egypt.  The Egyptian monuments show that these
large fox-headed bats were not at all uncommon in the valley of the
Nile; and Canon Tristram secured two fine specimens even in Central
Palestine, which measured twenty and a half inches from wing to wing.
Now if surrounding nations ate these bats as a common article of diet,
would not this be a sufficient reason why the Jews should not be allowed
to touch them?  I think it would.  Israel as a nation was set apart to
Jehovah.  They were His peculiar people.  They were His chosen and
purchased possession; and therefore even in their food there must be a
separation in which this reference to Jehovah was expressed.  They must
be made to feel that even in the prohibition of the bat and other
animals, the divine command had been addressed to them, "Come out from
among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord."

And yet one cannot but think that all this was rather hard on the bat.
"It is said that the African negroes depict and describe _their_ evil
spirits as white; and that in consequence, the negro children fly in
consternation if perchance a white man comes into their territory.  Yet
a white man is not so very horrid an object after all, if one only dare
look at him, and the same remark holds good with the bats." (J. G.
Wood.)  A very pretty and useful creature is the bat, and it is quite
qualified to teach us many valuable lessons.

                           II.—WHAT A BAT IS.

How are we to describe this little puzzle?  Are we to call it a bird or
a beast, or is it both of these rolled into one? The possession of wings
would seem to argue that it must be a bird; but then its sharp teeth and
mouse-like body would as clearly prove that it must be a beast; so that
the simple question whether the bat is a bird or beast is not so simple
as it looks.

The common name, "_Flitter-mouse_," exhibits the same difficulty; and so
also does Æsop in his amusing description of the battle of the beasts
and birds.  The bat, availing himself of his combination of fur and
wings, did not join himself to either party.  He hovered over the field
of battle, and waited to see which side was going to be victorious.  He
was determined in the final issue to be on the side of the victors.  But
in this little game he was entirely unsuccessful; for when they saw the
tactics of the little traitor, he was scouted by both parties, and has
been compelled ever since to appear in public only at night.  It is
quite evident that when Æsop wrote this fable, he was not sure what to
call the bat—whether to describe it as a bird because it had wings, or
to place it among the beasts because it had fur.  But what then is the
tiny creature?  A mammal, of course.  A whale is not a fish because it
swims in the sea, and the bat is not a bird because it flies in the air.
They both suckle their young, and therefore are true mammals.  Nay,
Linnæus has actually placed the bat in the highest order of the
mammals—in that of the primates beside the monkey and the man. Indeed,
in one essential particular it has easily excelled both.  It has grown
for itself a pair of wings—not a mere parachute like that of the flying
squirrels or the flying fish, but a real pair of wings which enable it
to laugh to scorn all the flying machines and balloons ever invented by
man.  How clumsy all these inventions are in comparison with a bat’s
wing.  Four of its fingers are drawn out like the ribs of an umbrella,
and then covered over with its own skin like the web of a duck’s foot;
and thus furnished with the necessary means of competing with the birds,
it sails out like the swallow in pursuit of its prey.  The remaining
finger or thumb is used as a hook to suspend it from the roof or rafters
where it takes up its abode.  Here then is the high position to which
the bat has attained.  It is the only mammal that flies.

                        III.—WHAT THE BAT DOES.

Let no one say that it lives a useless life.  It is one of the most
useful animals we have.  It vies with the swallow in destroying the
swarms of insects that infest the atmosphere.  They divide the day of
twenty-four hours between them. The bat begins the work where the
swallow lays it down; and ruthlessly pursues the insect prey all through
the night.  From dark to dawn, and sometimes far into the day, it does
yeoman service in this important connection.  The present writer
remembers a pair of bats in Perthshire, which were found in company with
the swallows even at the hour of noon.  It was the month of September,
and perhaps they felt they must now make haste in preparing for the
winter’s hibernation.  For the bat is not able, like the swallow, to
migrate to a warmer clime when the supply of insect food begins to fail.
It must find another way of spending the long months of the winter. It
must pass into a deep death-like slumber, from which it is awakened, as
the flowers in spring are awakened, by the returning life of the summer.
But the traces of a wise design are seen everywhere. The marks of a good
and faithful Creator are found through all His works. If one creature
has the power of migrating, another has the power of hibernating; and
thus even in the mode of existence pursued by a bat, there is abundant
evidence of the wisdom and goodness of God.

And how is the bat able to thread its way through the darkest caverns
where the sharpest eyes are rendered useless? It is not blind, like
Tibbie Dyster in "Alec Forbes"; and yet it might say, as she did when
congratulated on her fine spinning, "I wadna spin sae weel gin it warna
that the Almichty pat some sicht into the pints o’ my fingers ’cause
there was nane left i’ my een."  The bat has indeed a marvellous power
of sight in "the pints o’ its fingers."  Prof. Mivart can only compare
the sensitiveness of its _touch_ to a state of inflammation; and it is
this extreme sensibility that enables them to direct their flight in
these dark caverns. This is another coign of vantage reached by the bat.
It is the only mammal that possesses wings, and these wings, in turn,
are the very perfection of the delicate sense of touch.

But we go back to the point from which we started, and say that, however
useful and wonderful the bat may be, it is not to be eaten as food or
offered in sacrifice. It is _unclean_.  This, indeed, is a principle
which is full of gospel teaching.  A thing may be good and useful in its
own place, and yet be quite unfit as an offering when we appear before
God.  Good thoughts, kind words, and brave deeds are all needed.  They
are all necessary for the adornment of our Christian character; but for
the forgiveness of our sins, and the reception of "so great salvation,"
there is no sacrifice which can be mentioned save one: "Behold the Lamb
of God, which taketh away the sin of the world."  To Jesus then must
every boy and girl look, saying in the language of the hymn—

    "Just as I am, _without one plea_,
    _But that Thy blood was shed for me,_
    And that Thou bid’st me come to Thee,
      O Lamb of God, I come."

                              *The Eagle.*

"Doth the eagle mount up at thy command, and make her nest on high?"—Job
xxxix. 27.

Jehovah is answering Job out of the whirlwind.  He brings before him a
grand panorama of external nature—the earth and sea, snow and hail, the
Pleiades and the lightning—the wild goat, the wild ass, the ostrich, the
hawk, and the eagle; and as the glorious pageant defiles before his
eyes, he forces him to face and answer the question: Shall mortal man be
more just than God?  Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct
Him?  He that reproveth God, let him answer.  And Job’s answer is all
that could be desired: "Behold, I am vile: what shall I answer Thee?  I
will lay mine hand upon my mouth."  The greatness of God in nature has
taught man his own utter insignificance.

Doth the eagle mount up at _thy_ command?  No.  All these pictures point
man to God.  They combine to illustrate the mind and thought of Him who
formed them and cares for them.  So that the conclusion of Ruskin is
more than justified that the universe is not a mirror that reflects to
proud self-love her own intelligence.  It is a mirror that reflects to
the devout soul the attributes of God.


"She dwelleth and abideth on the rock, upon the crag of the rock and the
strong place" (ver. 28).  It is to this that Obadiah refers when he
takes up his parable against the Edomites.  They too were rock-dwellers,
who had made for themselves houses and founded cities in the rocky
fastnesses of Mount Seir.  But they are reminded that the impregnable
and inaccessible heights to which they have resorted will be no defence
against Jehovah: "Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle, and though
thou set thy nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down, saith
the Lord."  It is even added that Edom would become utterly desolate:
"As thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee, ... and there shall not
be any remaining of the house of Esau."  And if the testimony of modern
travellers may be accepted, the desolation is mournful enough.  In 1848
Miss Harriet Martineau visited Petra, the chief of these rock-cities,
and describes it as follows: "Nowhere else is there desolation like that
of Petra, where these rock doorways stand wide—still fit for the
habitation of a multitude, but all empty and silent except for the
multiplied echo of the cry of the eagle, or the bleat of the kid.  No;
these excavations never were all tombs. In the morning the sons of Esau
came out in the first sunshine to worship at their doors, before going
forth, proud as their neighbour eagles, to the chase; and at night the
yellow fires lighted up from within, tier above tier, the face of the
precipice" ("Eastern Life," vol. iii. 5).

The Edomite, alas, is gone, though the eagle is still left, and she
fixes her habitation on the dizzy crag.


"From thence she seeketh the prey, and her eyes behold afar off" (ver.
29). The eye of a bird is a marvellous structure.  It is a telescope and
microscope combined.  It has the power of compressing the lens to adapt
it to varying distances; and is larger in proportion than the eye of
quadrupeds.  The kestrel hawk, for instance, feeds on the common field
mouse; but this tiny creature is so like the colour of the soil, that a
human eye could scarcely detect it at the distance of a few yards.  The
kestrel, however, has no such difficulty.  Her telescopic eye sees it
from the sky overhead, and like a bolt from the blue, she swoops down
upon the helpless prey.  No mistake is made as she nears the ground.
Swiftly and almost instantaneously the telescope is compressed into the
microscope, and the daring freebooter could pick up a pin.

The same power is possessed by the Griffon vulture or "eagle" of Holy
Scripture.  "_Her eyes behold afar off_."  A dozen eagles may be soaring
upwards in the sunlight, until they become mere specks against the blue
of heaven, but they are carefully watching each other in their wheeling
circles, and diligently scanning the desert below in the hope of
discovering some prey.  The moment the object is sighted, and even one
bird has made a swoop downwards, the movement is detected by the one
nearest, which immediately follows; while the second is followed by a
third, and the third by a fourth, until in a few minutes, "wheresoever
the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together."  Their vast
power of wing and acuteness of sight have led them to the prey.

And the lesson is not far to seek.  In the Carlyle use of the word it
emphasises the need of being able to _see_.  "To the poet, as to every
other, we say first of all, _see_.  If you cannot do that, it is of no
use stringing rhymes together and calling yourself a poet, there is no
hope for you."  And in religion it is the pure in heart that see God.
If the inner eye be single, the whole body shall be full of light.  The
aged _seer_ on Patmos saw into the heaven of heavens.  Like Paul, he
heard words not lawful to be uttered; and thus in the symbolism of the
Christian Church, he is known as the New Testament _eagle_.  He was the
one who "saw more and heard more, but spake less than all the other
disciples."  But all the saints of God may soar and _see_ in some
measure as he did—

    "On eagles’ wings, they mount, they soar,
      Their wings are faith and love,
    Till past the cloudy regions here
      They rise to heaven above."

                     III.—THE EAGLE AND HER YOUNG.

"Her young ones also suck up blood, and where the slain are, there is
she" (ver. 30).

The eagle is one of the most rapacious of birds, and her terrible
instincts are transmitted to her young, which "_suck up blood_."  This
is heredity in its most awful form, and is well fitted to shadow forth
the grim heritage of woe which is handed down to _their_ children by the
drunkard, the libertine, and the thief.  But in any form the thought is
a solemn one, forcing even the Psalmist to wail, "Behold, I was shapen
in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me."  The fountain of the
life is polluted, as well as the streams—"Her young ones also suck up

But this is not the only way in which the eagle influences her young.
Allusion is frequently made to the way in which she supports them in
their first essays at flight.  When the tired fledgeling begins to
flutter downwards, she is said to fly beneath it, and present her back
and wings for its support.  And this becomes a beautiful illustration to
the sacred writers of the paternal care of Jehovah over Israel: "As an
eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad
her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: so the Lord alone did
lead them, and there was no strange god with them" (Deut. xxxii. 12).
"I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto Myself" (Exod. xix.

Let ours be the holy ambition to be worthy of that care.  Let us try,
like the young eagles, to soar and _see_ for ourselves. Let us gaze upon
the Sun of righteousness and rejoice in the fulness of His light,
remembering the promise, that "they who wait upon the Lord shall renew
their strength: they shall mount up with wings as eagles: they shall run
and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint."

    "What is that, mother?  The eagle, boy!
    Proudly careering his course with joy.
    Firm on his own mountain-vigour relying,
    Breasting the dark storm, the red bolt defying:
    His wing on the wind, and his eye on the sun:
    He swerves not a hair, but bears onward, right on.
      Boy, may the eagle’s flight ever be thine,
      Onward and upward, true to the line."
        —G. W. DOANE.

                              *The Lion.*

"He went down also and slew a lion in the midst of a pit in time of
snow."—2 Sam. xxiii. 20.

This text treats of the way in which lions were hunted in Bible lands
before the introduction of firearms. A deep pit was dug in the woods,
and carefully covered over with withered leaves, and when the monarch of
the forest came out in search of his prey and stumbled into the trap, he
was easily secured by the wily hunters, or forthwith despatched with
their long-pointed spears.  Benaiah, however, did a more valiant deed
than this.  He went down single-handed to the bottom of the pit and slew
the lion in the depth of winter. Evidently he was one of those muscular
giants whom all young Britons will delight to honour—a very Samson in
sheer herculean valour, a brave and dauntless warrior, who was well
worthy of a place among King David’s mighty men.

David himself, as a young shepherd, had gone after a lion and a bear,
and rescued a lamb out of their teeth.  And Samson, when going down to
the vineyards of Timnath, had also slain a young lion which came out and
roared against him.  But both of these encounters had taken place in the
open, where there was a fair field and no favour; whereas Benaiah met
his antagonist in the most dangerous circumstances—in the middle of
winter, when the lion was ravenous with hunger, and at the bottom of a
lion-trap, where there was no possibility of escape.  Clearly this man
was a hero who would neither flinch nor fear: "He slew a lion in the
midst of a pit in time of snow."

*Brave and fearless*—that is the lesson which is written large for all
healthy and noble-minded boys, and it is taught by the character of the
lion, no less than by the courage of the lion-slayer.  There are few
books in the Bible that do not contain some reference to this majestic
animal, and it is always introduced as an emblem of strength and force,
whether used for a good purpose or abused for a bad one.  Jesus Himself
is spoken of as the Lion of the tribe of Judah, and our adversary the
devil is described by Peter as a roaring lion walking about and seeking
whom he may devour.


(1.) It is the incarnation of *strength*. Size for size, it is one of
the strongest of beasts.  It can kill a man or an antelope with one blow
of its terrible paw; and so powerful are the muscles of the neck, that
it has been known to carry away in its mouth an ordinary ox.  Well may
its name signify in the Arabic language "the strong one."

(2.) It is also celebrated for *courage*.  A lioness is simply the most
terrible animal in existence when called upon to defend her cubs.  We
all know how a hen, when concerned about her chicks, will beat off both
the fox and the hawk by the reckless fury of her attack.  And it may be
imagined what the fury of a lioness will be when she has to fight for
her young ones.  She cares little for the number of her foes or the
nature of their weapons.

(3.) Another marked feature is that "in the dark there is no animal so
*invisible* as the lion.  Almost every hunter has told a similar story
of the lion’s approach at night, of the terror displayed by the dogs and
cattle as he drew near, and of the utter inability to see him, though he
was so close that they could hear his breathing."

(4.) The main characteristic, however, is the lion’s *roar*.  This is
said to be truly awful.  Gordon Gumming speaks of it as being "extremely
grand and peculiarly striking.  He startles the forest with loud,
deep-toned, solemn roars, repeated five or six times in quick
succession, each increasing in loudness to the third or fourth, when his
voice dies away in five or six low, muffled sounds, very much resembling
distant thunder."  It is to this Amos refers when he speaks of his own
prophetic call: "The lion hath roared: who will not fear? The Lord God
hath spoken: who can but prophesy?"

                     II.—TWO LESSONS FROM THE LION.

(1.) _It is glorious to have a lion’s strength, but it is inglorious to
use it like a lion_. When this is not attended to, heroism degenerates
into big-boned animalism, and courage into selfishness and ferocity.
What might have been the glory of our expanding manhood and a tower of
defence to the weak and defenceless becomes the Titanian arrogance of
the bully and the senseless boast of the braggart.  This is to imitate
the lion in a bad sense, and "I’d rather be a dog and bay the moon than
such a Roman."  This is to walk in the footsteps of those Assyrian
monarchs who took the lion as their favourite emblem, and counted it
their greatest glory to lash the nations in their fury.  But all this is
selling oneself to do wickedness in the sight of the Lord, and becoming
willing captives to him who walketh about as a roaring lion seeking whom
he may devour.

(2.) _It is glorious to have a lion’s strength, if the strength be the
measure of our gentleness_. It is in this sense that Jesus is the Lion
of the tribe of Judah.  He conquers by stooping.  His other name is the

You remember how beautifully this is illustrated in Æsop’s Fables.  A
lion asleep in the wood one day was awakened by a little field-mouse,
and quick as lightning he laid his terrible paw on the tiny intruder,
and forthwith would have sentenced it to death.  But the trembling
captive implored him to show mercy, and the great beast was softened,
and allowed it to escape. And that gentleness was twice blessed—it
blessed him that received and him that gave.  A few days after this the
same lion was caught in a strong net which the hunters had set for him,
and struggle as he might, he could not set himself free.  But the little
field-mouse heard his terrible voice, and came to the rescue.
Patiently, thread by thread, it gnawed through the stout rope, and the
monarch of the forest was free.  And no doubt, as he stood and shook his
bushy mane before plunging into the depths of the forest, he thought
within himself, saying, "My former gentleness hath made me great."

Yes, "he that is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he that
ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city."  Even a lion may be
tamed.  Even a lion may become a lamb; and it is glorious to have a
lion’s strength when it is tempered and tamed into gentleness.

                          *The Cock-crowing.*

"And one shall rise up at the voice of the bird."—Eccles. xii. 4.

Youth and age are strangely blended in this chapter.  With a pathetic
reference to old age, the young heart is called upon to remember its
Creator in the days of its youth. The days of youth are the choice—the
choosing days.  They are full of temptation, but they are also blessed
with many great advantages; and no better season could be mentioned for
resisting the one and improving the other than the moulding season of
what the paraphrase calls "life’s gay morn."  Old age, like a sick-bed,
has enough to do with itself.  There are many discomforts that beset the
path of the aged.  For one thing, they cannot sleep so soundly as young
people do. "_They rise up at the voice of the bird_."  The first twitter
of the swallow under the eaves, or the first crowing of the cock, is
quite sufficient to break their night’s repose, for their light and
fitful slumbers are very easily disturbed.  And old age is soon followed
by death.  The silver cord is loosed, and the golden bowl is broken; the
pitcher is broken at the fountain, and the wheel broken at the cistern.
And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns unto
God who gave it.  How foolish then to neglect religion until a time of
decay like that!  It is worse than foolish: it is suicidal.  The whole
life ought to be given to God, and not the mere dregs of the cup.
"Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come
not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in

    "Deep on thy soul, before its powers
      Are yet by vice enslaved,
    Be thy Creator’s glorious name
      And character engraved."


We are so accustomed nowadays to clocks and watches, that the ancient
difficulty of marking the time may never have occurred to us.  We listen
to our time-pieces striking the hours and think no more about it.  But
the Jew had no such time-piece.  He had no other way of knowing the hour
than by listening to the voices of nature.  The starry heavens stretched
above him like a great clock, and he could read its face every night.
The clear ringing voice of chanticleer was also heard, reminding him of
the advent of the dawn.  And listening to these and such like voices,
and dividing the night by means of them, he was able in a rough and
general way to tell the advance of the hours.  He made the night to
consist of four watches—"the even" from sunset to about nine o’clock,
"midnight" from nine to twelve, "cock-crowing" from twelve to three, and
"morning" from three to sunrise (see Mark xiii. 35).

The Rabbis used to say that David, the sweet singer of Israel, had a
harp hung over his bed, which sounded at midnight of its own accord, and
woke the king to prayer. And the children may remember that our own King
Alfred is reported to have used graduated candles to measure the hours
of the night.  But until the advent of the pendulum, the accurate
measurement of time was impossible.  The face of the sky or the crowing
of the cock could not give an exact chronometry.

Nevertheless it had one clear advantage. It kept man in touch with
nature.  It made him listen reverently to the voices of the night.  And
that was an education which we can ill afford to disregard.  We are not
made richer by its loss.  We may only have lost our reverence for the
sake of our mathematics.  Influenced by it, the pious Jew responded to
every voice of nature by uttering a blessing on the divine name.  Even
when the crow of the cock fell on his ear he was instructed to say,
"Blessed is He who hath given wisdom to the bird."  If our modern
chronometry has abolished that, perhaps we have paid too dear for our
clocks and watches.  To have time-pieces that go to the minute is a
great deal; but to hear voices that keep us in touch with God is a great
deal more.  "Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth."  Rise up
and pray at "_the voice of the bird_."  We are even told that God giveth
_songs_ in the night (Job xxxv. 10).

    "They err who say that music dwells
      Alone within the halls of light;
    In anthems loud it also swells
      Within the temple of the night.

    The happy birds that soar and sing
      May all be mute when day is done,
    The hum of insects on the wing
      May sink to silence with the sun.

    But when the sounds of toil are o’er,
      And silence reigns beneath the stars,
    A murmur runs along the shore,
      Where ocean smites his sandy bars.

    Its echo floats upon the wind,
      Beneath the moonbeam’s mystic light,
    And stealing o’er the listening mind,
      Produces music in the night.

    While far among the stars, as runs
      The legend through a thousand years,
    Amid the rolling of the suns
      Is heard the _music of the spheres_.

    The roll of ocean and of star
      Dispensing music through the night;
    The one behind its sandy bar,
      The other in the realms of light.

    But both to teach the human breast
      That He who guides the star and wave
    Can also breathe a psalm of rest
      Around the portal of the grave.

    The night of grief, of sin, of death,
      Is not impervious to His power;
    It feels the influence of His breath,
      Like springtime come to woo the flower.

    It melts in music o’er the soul,
      For grief has caught the glorious light,
    And rolling as the billows roll,
      _His_ songs are heard within the night."


"Verily I say unto thee, Before the COCK crow _twice_, thou shalt deny
Me thrice" (Mark xiv. 30).  But why twice?  There is no mention of this
detail in the other three gospels.  No; but Mark got his information
from Peter himself.  The pain of the degradation had sunk so deeply into
Peter’s soul that he had no difficulty in recalling each separate
particular.  His self-confidence had been so great that he would _not_
deny his Lord, and his subsequent profanity had been so awful after he
had once entered on the downward course, that not one warning was
sufficient to show him his danger, but a warning repeated and repeated
again, before he was rudely awakened from the terrible stupor of his
sin.  The first crowing of the cock at midnight, and the second
crowing-time about three o’clock, were both alike needed to arouse and
humble him in the dust; and thus with painful accuracy he was able to
recall the very words of the Master, "Before the cock crow _twice_, thou
shalt deny Me thrice."

On the other hand, his self-confidence was a measure of his sincerity.
Matthew Henry has well said, that Judas said nothing when Christ told
_him_ he would betray Him.  There was no protesting on his part.  "He
sinned by contrivance, Peter by surprise: he devised the wickedness,
Peter was overtaken in this fault."  In the language of "Baxter’s Second
Innings," "It was a _swift_ that bowled out Peter, the night the cock
crowed."  And the same author adds, "The best of boys are sometimes
taken by swifts."  But, swift or slow, it was clearly Peter’s duty not
to wait even for the first crowing of the cock, before he laid to heart
the solemn warning of the Master.  It would have been his wisdom to say,
"Lord, Thou knowest my nature better than I do; and if Satan desires to
have me, that he may sift me as wheat, take Thou charge of my life, lead
me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil."  That would have been
Peter’s wisdom and safety.  But this he didn’t do.  He planted his feet
on the shifting sand of his own self-confidence, and fell into the awful
quagmire of denying his Lord.  He would not believe the pointed warning
of his Master, and therefore he was left to start up at the voice of the
bird, and to go out and weep bitterly.  The cock-crowing may come to one
man as the summons to praise and prayer; but it comes to another as the
very trump of God, calling him to penitence or—judgment.


"Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house
cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cock-crowing, or in the
morning" (Mark xiii. 35). There is here a large element of uncertainty.
Not the uncertainty of the event, for the second coming of Jesus is one
of the things that cannot be shaken, but the uncertainty of the _time_.
"Of that day or that hour knoweth no man, not even the angels in heaven,
neither the Son, but the Father."  The time of His coming has not been
revealed, to the end that we should be always ready.

And yet, in that early age, the second advent was believed to be nigh at
hand. Jesus spake of it as "_a little while_."  "Behold, I come
_quickly_, and My reward is with Me, to give every man according as his
work shall be."  And James, the Lord’s brother, wrote, "Be patient,
therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord, for the coming of the
Lord draweth nigh."  If the little while has now stretched out into
centuries, and the crowing of the cock has not yet been heard, it is not
because the Saviour has forgotten His promise, but because the
godlessness of men and the worldliness of the Church have raised up
innumerable obstacles in His way.  Oh, if men would but repent and turn
again to Him, those times of refreshing would not be long delayed. God
would send Jesus, whom the heavens must receive until the times of
restoration of all things (Acts iii. 19-21, R.V.).

What a coming that will be to all those who love His appearing!  At
midnight, or at the cock-crowing, the cry will be heard, "Behold, the
Bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet Him."  And they who are ready will
rise up at "the voice of the bird," and go in with Him to the marriage
supper of the Lamb.  But the foolish virgins will be shut outside.  They
too will rise up at the voice of the bird; but for them, alas! it will
be no "bird of the _dawn_."  Like Judas, they will go out into the
darkness—a darkness that has no morning; and there will be the weeping
and the woe.

But that day, or rather that night, has not yet arrived.  It has not yet
come for you young people.  With you it is still the time of _choosing_;
and if you choose Jesus, if you remember your Creator in the days of
your youth, that evil day will never come at all.  The cock-crowing will
still be to you the trump of God; but it will call you to happiness and
not to misery.  It will proclaim to you the advent of the eternal dawn;
and you will rise up at the voice of the bird to exclaim, "Even so,
come, Lord Jesus."


"Then had thy peace been as a river."—Isa. xlviii. 18.

    I sat alone in the pinewood,
      And mused with the falling leaves;
    And the Autumn breath like a requiem
      Hymned low for the garnered sheaves.

    And the pensiveness of the Autumn,
      Like the ocean rocked to rest,
    Found a fitting shell-like murmur
      In the heavings of my breast.

    For a something came from the stillness,
      It had touched me oft before,
    Sometimes in the hush of pinewood,
      Sometimes on the lonely shore.

    It came and it touched my being,
      Laid its finger on my brain,
    And there alone in the pinewood
      I could _pray_ as a child again.

    It was not the spell of memory
      Cast around me its soothing power,
    Nor the magic of thought that held me
      Entranced in that silent hour.

    The rarest and deepest impressions
      Come from fingers, but not our own,
    From music unbarred and unmeasured,
      From language unuttered, unknown.

    They come, the unnamed and the dateless,
      They come as the waves of light,
    Like the murmuring breath of the pine-woods,
      Like the voices of the night.

    And they leave their deep impressions
      In the tidemarks of the soul,
    Those pulses that come as in secret,
      And roll as the billows roll.

    It may be in yon far region,
      Far above the remotest star,
    My glowing and growing vision
      May find what those pulses are.

    May find in the land of the morning,
      In the brightness beyond the flood,
    That the pensive hush of the woodland
      Was a breath of the _peace_ of God.

    Till then I will seek the pinewoods,
      I will muse with the falling leaves,
    And watch the design in symbols
      That the silent finger weaves.

    And catch from the fleeting river,
      And the ocean so vast and broad,
    From the Autumn quiet and the pinewoods,
      How to know and worship God.

           *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *

                      *THE "GOLDEN NAILS" SERIES*


                        ADDRESSES TO THE YOUNG.

       _Post 8vo size.  Neat Cloth Binding.  Price 1s. 6d. each._

"Messrs Oliphant, Anderson, & Ferrier’s ’Golden Nails’ Series is one of
the happiest of recent enterprises in book-publishing. Every volume has
had a good reception, and every new volume increases one’s admiration
for the enterprise."—_Expository Times_.

GOLDEN NAILS, and Other Addresses to Children.  By the Rev. GEORGE

PLEASANT PLACES.  Words to the Young.  By the Rev. R. S. DUFF, D.D.

PARABLES AND SKETCHES.  By ALFRED E. KNIGHT. With Illustrations by the

SILVER WINGS.  Addresses to Children.  By the Rev. ANDREW G. FLEMING.

THREE FISHING BOATS, and Other Talks to Children. By the Rev. JOHN C.

LAMPS AND PITCHERS, and Other Addresses to Children.  By the Rev. GEORGE

A BAG WITH HOLES, and Other Talks to Children. By the Rev. JAS.

KINGLESS FOLK, and Other Addresses on Bible Animals.  By the Rev. JOHN

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Kingless Folk" ***

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