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49. Sparrows and Swallows
Yea, the sparrow hath found a house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars,
O Lord of hosts, my King, and my God. Psalm 84:3
DAVID, as an exile, envied the birds which dwelt around the house of the Lord. So the Christian, when debarred the assembly of the saints, under spiritual desertion, will pine to be once more at home with God.
These birds found in the sanctuary what we would find in God.
I. HOUSES FOR THEMSELVES.
That they should find houses in and around the Lord's house is remarkable, and David dwelt on it with pleasure.
1. Consider what they were. Sparrows.
- Worthless creatures. Five for two farthings.
- Needy creatures, requiring both nests, food, and everything else.
- Uninvited guests. The temple did not need them; it might have been all the better without them.
- Numerous creatures; but none were driven away.
2.Consider what they did: "Found a house," a comfortable, suitable, permanent abode.
3. Consider what they enjoyed?
- They looked for it, or they could not have been described as having found it.
- It was there already, or they could not have found it.
- They appropriated it. Their right lay in discovery; they found a house and occupied it without question. O for an appropriating faith!
All this in the house of God, hard by his altars.
Thus do believers find all in Christ Jesus.
And so, secondarily, they find the same things in the assembly, of the saints, in the place where God's honor dwelleth.
- We come to the house of the Lord with joy.
- We remain in it with delight.
- We sit and sing in it with pleasure.
- We commune with our fellow-songsters with much content.
It is not every bird that does this. The eagle is too ambitious. The vulture too foul. The cormorant too greedy. The hawk too warlike. The ostrich too wild. The barn-door fowl too dependent upon man. The owl too fond of darkness. These sparrows were little and loving.
II. NESTS FOR THEIR YOUNG.
Some persons are not so much in need of a house for themselves, for, like swallows, they live on the wing, and are active and energetic; but they need a nest for their young, for whom they are greatly anxious. They long to see the young people settled, happy, and safe in God.
Children should be housed in the house of God. The sanctuary of God should be the nursery of the young.
1. They will be safe there, and free there. The swallow, the "bird of liberty," is satisfied to find a nest for herself near the altars of God. She is not afraid of bondage there either for herself or her young.
2. They will be joyful there. We should try to make our little ones happy in God, and in his holy worship. Dull Sabbaths and dreary services should not be mentioned among us.
3. They are near the blessing, when we bring them near the house of the Lord.
4. They are in choice society; their companions will be the companions of Jesus.
5. They are likely to return to the nest as the swallows do; even as the young salmon return to the rivulet where they were hatched. Young folks remember their first impressions.
6. Children truly brought to Christ have every blessing in that fact.
The second blessing of a nest for our young often follows on the first, or getting a house for ourselves.
- They are rich: they dwell in God's palace.
- They are educated: they abide in the Lord's temple.
- They are safe for time and eternity.
- But it needs prayer, example, and precept. Children do not take to religion as ducks to water; they must be led and trained with earnest care.
- Are you sighing after Christ for yourself and your children?
- Are you content without Christ? Then you are not likely to care about your children.
- Do you already possess a home in Jesus? Rest not till all yours are housed in the same place.
Sir Thomas More used to attend the parish church at Chelsea, and there, putting on a surplice, he would sing with the choristers at matins and high mass. It happened, one day, that the Duke of Norfolk, coming to Chelsea to dine with him, found him at church thus engaged As they walked home together arm-in-arm after service, the duke exclaimed, "My Lord Chancellor a parish clerk! A parish clerk! You dishonor the King and his office!" "Nay," he replied, smiling, "your Grace cannot suppose that the King, our master, will be offended with me for serving his Master, or thereby account his office dishonored:"
"I'm only a little sparrow,
A bird of low degree;
My life is of little value,
But the dear Lord cares for me."
Tennyson plaintively refers to the song of the linnets:
"I do but sing because I must,
And pipe but as the linnets sing,
And one is glad her note is gay
For now her little ones have ranged;
And one is sad her note is changed
Because her brood is stolen away.
The feeling of the linnets may serve as an analog. Christian parents have a gay note when their little ones have ranged at their sweet will in the paths of duty; but their note must be one of sadness when the brood is stolen away from truth and righteousness. W. Norris.
"God fails not," as one has beautifully said, "to find a house for the most
worthless, and the nest for the most restless of birds." What confidence this should give us! How we should rest! What repose the soul finds that casts itself on the watchful, tender care of Him who provides so fully for the need of all His creatures! We know what the expression of "nest" conveys, just as well as that of "a house." Is it not a place of security, a shelter from storm, a covert to hide one's self in, from every evil, a protection from all that can harm, "a place to rest in, to nestle in, to joy in?" Things New and Old
A custom, existing among several nations of antiquity, is deemed capable of illustrating the present passage. For birds whose nests chanced to be built on the temples, or within the limits of them, were not allowed to be driven away, much less to be killed, but found there a secure and undisturbed abode. W. K. Clay
As a rule, the children of godly parents are godly. In cases where this is not the case there is a reason. I have carefully observed and detected the absence of family prayer, gross inconsistency, harshness, indulgence, or neglect of admonition. If trained in God's ways, they do not depart from them.
Charles Hadden Spurgeon
50. Angelic Protection in Appointed Ways
For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. Psalm 91:11
The Lord gave his people shelter in the time of pestilence, for he had promised, "There shall no evil befall thee; neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling." The former verses celebrate the Passover of those who dwell in God.
After the Passover came a journey to Canaan; and the promise of the covenant angel and his keeping them in all their ways, fitly follow upon the rescue from the plague.
We, too, are pilgrims on our way to Canaan. He who set us free by the Passover deliverance also provides for our journey to the land which floweth with milk and honey. All the way to the promised land is covered by this divine safe conduct.
I. THERE ARE WAYS WHICH ARE NOT IN THE PROMISE.
"Skil thy ways" are mentioned; but some tracks are not to be followed by children of God, and are not their ways.
1. Ways of presumption. In these men court danger, and, as it were, defy
God. "Cast thyself down," said Satan to our Lord, and then urged this promise (Matt. 4:6).
II. THERE ARE WAYS IN WHICH SAFETY IS GUARANTEED.
l. The way of humble faith in the Lord Jesus.
2. Ways of sin, dishonesty, lying, vice, worldly conformity, etc. We have no permit to bow in the house of Rimmon (Eph. 5:12).
3. Ways of worldliness, selfishness, greed, ambition. The ways by which men seek personal aggrandizement are usually dark, and crooked, and are not of God (Prov. 28:22; 1 Tim. 6:9).
4. Ways of pride, self-conceit, boastful promisings, pretended perfection, etc. "Pride goeth before destruction."
5. Ways of will worship, willfulness, obstinacy, fancy, day-dreaming, absurd impulse, etc. (Jer. 2:18).
6. Ways of erroneous doctrine, novel practice, fashionable ceremonial, flattering delusion, etc. (2 Tim. 3:5).
2. The way of obedience to divine precepts.
3. The way of childlike trust in providential guidance.
4 The way of strict principle, and stern integrity.
5. The way of consecrated service, and seeking God's glory.
6. The way of holy separation, and walking with God.
III. THESE WAYS LEAD US INTO VARIED CONDITIONS.
1. They are changeful and varied: "all thy ways."
2. They are sometimes stony with difficulty: "foot against a stone."
3. They may be terrible with temptation.
4. They may be mysteriously trying. Devils may throng the path, only to be met by holy angels.
5. They are essentially safe, while the smooth and easy roads are perilous.
IV. BUT WHILE WALKING IN THEM ALL BELIEVERS ARE SECURE.
1. The Lord Himself concerns Himself about them: "He shall give his angels charge over thee." He will personally command those holy beings to have an eye to His children. David charged his troops to spare Absalom, but his bidding was disregarded. It is not so with God.
2. Mysterious agencies protect them: angels bear them up in their hands, as nurses carry little children. Wonderful tenderness and power! Angels acting as servants to men!
3. All things are on their side, both visible and invisible. Command is laid on all to protect the saints. "Thou hast given commandment to save me" (Ps. 71:3).
4. Each one is personally watched over. "Charge over thee to keep thee (Isa. 13:6; Gen. 28:15).
5. That watchfulness is perpetual "All thy ways" (Ps. 121:3-4).
6. This guard also confers honor. How noble a thing to have the courtiers of heaven for a corps de garde!
7. All this comes to them by Jesus, whose the angels are, and whom they serve (Isa. 43:4).
- See how the lowest employment is consistent with the highest enjoyment. Keeping guard over the Lord's stumbling children is no discredit to angels.
- How cheerfully we should watch over others! How vigorously should we hold them up whenever it is in our power! To cast off a stumbling brother is not angelic, but the reverse.
- How safe we ought to feel, how fully trustful we ought to be! Alexander slept soundly, "for;' said he, "Parmenio wakes."
- How holy we should be with such holy ones for watchers! Great privileges involve heavy responsibilities.
Whilst King William, at a battle in Flanders, was giving orders in the thickest of the fight, he saw to his surprise among his staff one Michael Godfrey, a merchant of London, and Deputy Governor of the Bank of England, who had thus exposed himself in order to gratify his curiosity. The king, riding up to him, said, "Sir, you ought not to run these hazards; you are not a soldier, you can be of no use here)' "Sire;' answered Godfrey, "I run no more hazard than your majesty)' "Not so," said William, "I am here where it is my duty to be, and I may, without presumption, commit my life to God's keeping; but you " The sentence needed no completion, for at that very moment a cannon ball laid Godfrey lifeless at the king's feet. He had been wise had he restricted himself to the ways of his calling and duty.
Old Humphrey has a good paper against wandering from the path of duty, suggested by a notice at the entrance of a park: "Take notice. In walking through these grounds, you are requested to keep the footpath." Bunyan has supplied the same theme for solemn warning, in the pilgrim straying into Bye-path meadow. Bowes
Angels our servants are,
And keep in all our ways;
And in their watchful hands they bear
The sacred sons of grace:
Unto that heavenly bliss
They all our steps attend;
And God himself our Father is,
And Jesus is our Friend. Wesley
A dying saint asked that his name should be put upon his tombstone with the dates of his birth and death, and the one word, "Kept."
Our protection is in other hands than our own. In the way of duty we are as safe as in heaven. Not alone in great dangers, but in little ones we are secure if we are in the right way, for we are kept from stumbling-stones as well as from fiery darts. Our guards are such as no enemy, can resist, for they are strong; such as no evil can escape, for they are swift; such as no weariness can tire, for they are never weary. We have a body-guard of Immortals, each one of them invincible, unflagging, loyal, loving, and full of fire. Each angel may truly say, "A charge to keep I have."
Keep it he will till the Lord Himself shall receive our spirit. No angel will give in his account with sorrow, saying, "I could not keep him; the stones were too many, his feet too feeble, the way too long." No, we shall be kept to the end; for in addition to angels, we have the safeguard of their Lord: He keepeth the feet of His saints (1 Sam. 2:9).
Charles Hadden Spurgeon
51. Living Praise
The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence. But we will bless the Lord from this time forth and for evermore. Praise the Lord. Psalm 115:17-18
The living God should be adored by a living people. A blessing God should be blessed by a blessing people. Whatever others do, we ought to bless Jehovah. When we bless him we should not rest till others do the same: we should cry to them, "Praise the Lord." Our example and our persuasion should rouse them to praise.
I. A MOURNFUL MEMORY. "The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence." This reminds us:
1. Of silenced voices in the choirs of Zion. Good men and true who neither sing nor speak among us any longer.
II. A HAPPY RESOLUTION. "But we will bless the Lord."
In heart, song, testimony, action, we are resolved to give the Lord our loving praise, because
2. Of our own speedy silence: so far as this world is concerned, we shall soon be among the dead and silent ones.
3. Of the ungodly around us, who are already spiritually dead, and can no more praise the Lord than if they were dumb.
4. Of lost souls in hell. Never will these bless the Lord.
1. We live. Shall we not bless him who keeps us in being?
III. AN APPROPRIATE COMMENCEMENT. "We will bless the Lord from this time forth."
2. We live spiritually, and this demands perpetual thanksgiving.
3. We are blessed of the Lord: shall we not bless him?
4. He will bless us. More and more will he reveal his love to us: let us praise him more and more. Be this our steadfast vow, that we will bless the Lord, come what may.
1. When the heathen ask, "Where is now their God?" (verse 2), let us reply courageously to all atheistic questions, and meet infidelity with joyous adoration.
2. When under a sense of mercy, we are led to sing "The Lord hath been mindful of us" (verse 12), let us then bless him.
3. When spiritually renewed and comforted. When the four times repeated words, "He will bless? have come true in our experience, and the Lord has increased us with every personal and family blessing (verses 12-14), then let all that is within us bless the holy name of the Lord.
4. When led to confess Christ. Then should we begin the never-ending life-psalm. Service and song should go together.
5. When years end and begin New Years' days, birthdays, etc., let us bless
Let us from this very moment magnify the name of the Lord. Let our hearts turn each beat into music as we inwardly bless him. We have robbed him of his glory long enough.
IV. AN EVERLASTING CONTINUANCE. "From this time forth and for evermore."
- Sin of the year forgiven.
- Need of the year supplied.
- Mercy of the year enjoyed.
- Fears of the year removed.
- Hopes of the year fulfilled.
1. Weariness shall not suspend it. We will renew our strength as we bless the Lord.
2. Final falling shall not end it: the Lord will keep our soul in his way, and make us praise him all our days.
3. Nor shall death so much as interrupt our songs, but raise them to a purer and fuller strain.
4. Nor shall any supposable calamity deprive the Lord of our gratitude. "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord" (Job 1:21).
One by one the singers in the consecrated choir steal away from us, and we miss their music: let us feel as if baptized for the dead.
Will no one here engage in the choir, and rehearse on earth the sonnets of heaven?
Praise is the highest function that any creature can discharge. The Rabbis
have a beautiful bit of teaching buried among their rubbish about angels. They say that there are two kinds of angels, the angels of service and the angels of praise, of which two orders the latter is the higher, and that no angel in it praises God twice; but having lifted up his voice in the psalm of heaven, then ceases to be. He has perfected his being, he has reached the height of his greatness, he has done what he was made for; let him fade away. The garb of legend is mean enough, but the thought it embodies is that ever true and solemn one, without which life is naught: "Man's chief end is to glorify God." Dr. Maclaren
There is no heaven, either in this world, or in the world to come, for people who do not praise God. If you do not enter into the spirit and worship of heaven, how should the spirit and joy of heaven enter into you? Selfishness makes long prayers, but love makes short prayers, that it may continue longer in praise. Pulsford
King of glory, King of peace,
I will love thee:
And that love may never cease,
I will move thee.
Seven whole days, not one in seven,
I will praise thee.
In my heart, though not in heaven,
I can raise thee.
Small it is, in this poor sort
To enroll thee:
Even eternity is too short
To extol thee.
On Thursday evening, March 29th, 1883, for above an hour all who had
occasion to use the telephone in Chicago found it vibrating to musical tones.
Private and public telephones, and even the police and fire-alarm instruments,
were alike affected. The source of the music was a mystery until the following
day, when it was learned that a telegraph wire, which passes near most of the-telephone wires, was connected with the harmonic system, that tunes were being played over it, and that the telephone wires took up the sounds by induction. If one wire carrying sweet sounds from place to place could so affect another wire by simply being near to it, how ought Christians, in communication with their Father in heaven, to affect all with whom they come in contact in the world! The divine music of love and gentleness in their lives should be a blessing to society. The Pulpit Treasury, New York
When we bless God for mercies we prolong them, and when we bless him for miseries we usually end them. When we reach to praise we have compassed the design of a dispensation, and have reaped the harvest of it. Praise is a soul in flower, and a secret, hearty blessing of the Lord is the soul fruit-bearing. Praise is the honey of life, which a devout heart sucks from every bloom of providence and grace. As well be dead as be without praise: it is the crown of life.
Charles Hadden Spurgeon