Amos 9:6: "It is he that buildeth his stories in the heaven."
That is radiant poetry from Amos, the herdsman. He thrummed a lyre that has sounded through twenty-six centuries. While guarding his flocks at night, he watched the heavens. He saw stars above stars, and the universe seemed to him like a great mansion many stories high, silver room above silver room, silver pillars beside silver pillars, and windows of silver and doors of silver, and turrets and domes of silver rising into the immensities; and the prophet's sanctified imagination walks through the great silver palace of the universe, through the first story, up through the second story, up through the third story, up through the twentieth story, up through the hundredth story, up through the thousandth story, and realizing that God is the architect and carpenter and mason of all that upheaved splendor, he cries out in the words of the text: "It is he that buildeth his stories in the heaven."
It is time that we widened out and heightened our religious thoughts. In our pulpits and Sabbath classes and Christian work of all sorts we ring the changes on a few verses of Scripture until they excite no interest. Many of the best parts of the Bible have never yet been preached from or indeed even noticed. Hence, I now begin a series of sermons on God Everywhere: the Astronomy of the Bible, or God among the Stars; the Conchology of the Bible, or God among the Shells; the Ornithology of the Bible, or God among the Birds; the Ichthyology of the Bible, or God among the Fishes; the Precious Stones of the Bible, or God among the Amethysts; the Pomology of the Bible, or God among the Orchards; the Geology of the Bible, or God among the Rocks; the Botany of the Bible, or God among the Flowers and among the Gardens of the Sea; the Sculpture of the Bible, or God among the Coral Reefs; the Chronology of the Bible, or God among the Centuries; the Lightning of the Sea, and so on, as I may think it edifying and useful.
The fact is that we have all spent too much time on one story of the great mansion of God's universe. We need occasionally to go upstairs or downstairs in this mansion; downstairs and in the cellar study the rocks, or upstairs and see God in some of the higher stories, and learn the meaning of the text when it says: "It is he that buildeth his stories in the heavens."
Astronomy was born in Chaldea. Its mother was Astrology, or the science of foretelling events by juxtaposition of stars. The Orientals, living much out of doors and in a very clear atmosphere, through which the stars shone especially lustrously, acquired the habit of studying the night heavens. In the hot seasons, caravans journeyed chiefly at night, and that gave travelers much opportunity of stellar information. On the first page of the Bible the sun and moon and stars roll inï¿½the sun, a body nearly three million miles in circumference and more than twelve thousand times as large as our earth; the moon, more than two thousand miles in diameter. But God is so used to doing things on such an omnipotent scale that he takes only one verse to tell of this stellar and lunar manufacture. Yea, in three words all the other worlds are thrown in. The record says, "The stars also!" It takes whole pages for a man to extol the making of a telescope or microscope or a magnetic telegraph or a threshing machine, or to describe a fine painting or statue, but it was so easy for God to hang the celestial upholstery that the story is compassed in one verse: "God made two great lights, the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night. The stars also!" Astronomers have been trying to call the roll of them ever since, and they have counted multitudes of them passing in review before the observatories built at vast expense, and the size and number of those heavenly bodies have taxed to the utmost the scientists of all ages. But God finishes all he has to say about them in three words, "The stars also!" That is, Mars with its more than fifty-five million square miles, and Venus, with its more than one hundred and ninety-one million square miles, and Saturn with its more than nineteen billion square miles, and Jupiter with its more than twenty-four billion square miles, and all the planets of our system of more than seventy-eight billion square miles; and these stars of our system, when compared with the stars of other systems, as a handful of sand compared with all the Rocky Mountains and all the Alps. "The stars also!" For brevity, for ponderosity, for splendor, for suggestiveness, for sublimity piled on sublimity, these words excel all that human speech ever uttered or human imagination ever soared after: "The stars also!" It is put in as you write a postcriptï¿½something you thought of afterwards, as hardly worth putting into the body of a letter. "The stars also!"
Read on in your Bible, and after a while the Bible flashes with the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights, that strange illumination, as mysterious and undefined now as when, in the book of Job, it was written: "Men see not the bright light which is in the clouds. Fair weather cometh out of the North." While all the nations supposed that the earth was built on a foundation of some sort, and many supposed that it stood on a huge turtle, or some great marine creature, Job knew enough of astronomy to say it had no foundation, but was suspended on the invisible arm of the Almighty, declaring that "He hangeth the earth upon nothing." While all nations thought the earth was level, the sky spread over it like a tent over a flat surface, Isaiah declared the world to be globularï¿½circularï¿½saying of God: "He sitteth upon the circle of the earth." See them glitter in this scriptural skyï¿½Arcturus, Orion, the Pleiades, and the "Bear with her young."
While running your fingers among the leaves of your Bible with the astronomical thought in your mind, you see two worlds stopï¿½the sun and the moon. But what does that Christian know about that miracle who does not understand something of those two luminaries? Unless you watch modern astronomy put those two worlds in its steelyards and weigh them, you are as ignorant as a Hottentot about the stupendousness of that scene in the life of Joshua. The sun over three hundred thousand times as heavy as our earth and going thousands of miles the hour. Think of stopping that and starting it again without the shipwreck of the universe! But I can easily believe it. What confounds me is not that he could stop and start again those two worlds in Joshua's time, but that he could have made the wheel of worlds of which the sun and moon are only cogs, and kept that wheel rolling for thousands of yearsï¿½the flywheel of all eternity. If an engineer can start a long train, it is not surprising that he can stop it. If God could make and move the universe, which is an express train drawn by an omnipotent engine, I am not surprised that for a part of a day he could put down the brakes on two pieces of the rotating machinery. Infidelity is hard up for ground of complaint against the Scriptures when it finds fault with that cessation of solar and lunar travel. Here is my watch. I could not make a watch if I tried, but I can stop it and start it again. My difficulty is not that God could stop two worlds and start them again, but that he could make them at all as he did make them.
What pleases and astounds me more is that each one of the millions of worlds has a God-given name. Only a comparatively small number of them have names given them by scientists. If astronomers can give a name to a whole constellation or galaxy, they think they do we'll, but God has a name for each star in all immensity. Inspired David declares of God: "He telleth the number of the stars, he calleth them all by their names." They are not orphans that have never been christened. They are not waifs of the night. They are not unknown ships on the high seas of immensity. They belong to a family of which God is the Father, and as you call your child Benjamin or Mary or Bertha or Addison or Josephine, so he calls all the infant worlds and all the adult worlds by their first name, and they know it as well as though there were only one child of light in all the divine family. "He calleth them all by their names," and when he calls, I warrant they come.
Oh, the stars! Those vestal fires kept burning on infinite altars. Those lighthouses on the coast of eternity. The hands and weights and pendulum of the great clock of the universe. According to Herschel, the so-called fixed stars are not fixed at all, but each one a sun with a mighty system of worlds rolling round it, and this whole system with all the other systems rolling on around some other great centre. Millions and millions, billions and billions, trillions and trillions, quadrillions and quadrillions!
But what gladdens me, and at the same time overwhelms me, is that those worlds are inhabited. The Bible implies it, and what a small idea you must have of God and his dominion if you think it only extends across this chip of a world which you and I now inhabit. Have you taken this idea of all the other worlds being inhabited as human guesswork? Read Isaiah, 45th chapter, 18th verse: "Thus saith the Lord that created the heavens, God himself that formed the earth, and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited." Now, if he inhabited the earth so that it would not be created in vain, would he make worlds hundreds and thousands of times larger and not have them inhabited? Speaking of the inhabitants of this world, he says: "The nations are as the drop of a bucket." If all the inhabitants of this world are as a drop of a bucket, where are the other drops of the bucket? Again and again the Bible speaks of the host of heaven, and the word "host" means living creatures, not inert masses, and the expression "hosts of heaven" must mean inhabitants of other worlds. Again, the Bible says: "He has set thy glory above the heavens." And here my text comes in with its idea of a mansion of many stories: "It is he that buildeth his stories in the heaven." Is it possible that we who live on the ground floor of this many-storied building are the only tenants, and that the larger rooms and the more gorgeously upholstered rooms and the more brilliantly chandeliered rooms above it are uninhabited? Besides this we are positively told in the Bible that two other worlds are inhabitedï¿½the world angelic and the world diabolic. These two worlds added to our own make it positive that three worlds are inhabited. Why then stop with three worlds of living beings when there are not only millions but billions of worlds? Are they all standing like expensively furnished houses in time of financial panic marked "To Let" and no one to take them? "Waste not," God hath written all over this world of ours. And do you suppose that God would waste world-material in our solar system to the amount of what has been estimated as seven hundred trillion miles of solid contents, and that only a small part as compared with other systems which go to make up this many-storied mansion of the text, where it says: "It is he that buildeth his stories in the heaven"?
Without the use of telescope and without any observatory and without any astronomical calculation, I am convinced that the other worlds are inhabited, because my Bible and my common-sense tell me so. It has been estimated that in the worlds belonging to our solar system there is room for at least twenty-five trillion of population. And I believe it is all occupied or will be occupied by intelligent beings. God will not fill them with brutes. He would certainly put into those worlds beings intelligent enough to appreciate the architecture, the coloring, the grandeur, the beauty, the harmony of their surroundings. Yea, the inhabitants of those worlds have capacity of locomotion like ours, for they would not have had such spacious opportunity for movement if they had not powers of motion. Yea, they have sight, else why the light; and hearing, else how get on with necessary language, and how clear themselves from advancing perils. Yea, as God made our human race in his own image, he probably made the inhabitants of other worlds in his own image; in other words, it is as near demonstration as I care to have it, that while the inhabitants of other worlds have adaptations of bodily structure to the particular climate in which they dwell, there is yet similarity of mental and spiritual characteristics among all the inhabitants of the universe of God; and, made in his image, they are made wonderfully alike.
Now, what should be the practical result of this discussion founded on Scripture and common-sense? It is first of all to enlarge our ideas of God, and so intensify our admiration and worship. Under such consideration, how much more graphic the Bible question which seems to roll back the sleeve of the Almighty and say: "Hast thou an arm like God?" The contemplation also encourages us with the thought that if God made all these worlds and populated them, it will not be very much of an undertaking for him to make our little world over again, and reconstruct the character of its populations as by grace they are to be reconstructed.
What a monstrosity of criminal indifference that the majority of Christian people listen not to the voices of other worlds, although the Book says, "The heavens declare the glory of God," and, again, "The works of the Lord are great and to be sought out." How much have you sought them out? You have been satisfying yourself with some things about Christ, but have you noticed that Paul calls you to consider Christ as the Creator of other worlds, "by whom also he made the worlds?" It is time you Christians start on a world hunt. That is the chief reason why God makes the night, that you may see other worlds. Go out to-night and look up at the great clock of the heavens. Listen to the silvery chime of the midnight sky. See that your children and grandchildren mount the heavens with telescope for alpenstock, leaping from acclivity of light to acclivity of light. What a beautiful and sublime thing that John Quincy Adams, the ex-President, borne down with years, undertook at the peril of his life the journey from Washington to Cincinnati that he might lay the cornerstone of the pier of the great refracting telescopeï¿½there making his last oration! What a service for all mankind when, in 1839, Lord Rosse lifted on the lawn of his castle, eighty miles from Dublin, a telescope that revealed worlds as fast as they could roll in, and that started an enthusiasm which this moment concentres the eyes of many of the most devout in all parts of the earth on celestial discovery! Thank God that we now know where our own world is, bounded on all sides by realms of glory, instead of being where Hesiod in his poetry described it to be, namely, half-way between heaven and hell, an anvil hurled out of heaven taking ten days to strike the earth, and hurled out of earth taking ten more days to strike perdition:
From the high heaven a brazen anvil cast,
Nine days and nights in rapid whirls would last;
And reach the earth the tenth; whence strongly hurled,
The same the passage to th' infernal world.
I thank God that we have found out that our world is not half-way between heaven and hell, but it is in a sisterhood of light; and that this sisterhood joins all the other sisterhoods of worlds, moving round some great homestead, which is no doubt heaven, where God is, and our departed Christian friends are, and we ourselves, through pardoning mercy, expect to become permanent residents.
Furthermore, I get now from all this an answer to the question which every intelligent man and woman since the earth has stood has asked, receiving no answer. Why did God let sin and sorrow come into the world, when he could have prevented them from coming? I wish reverently to say I think I have found the reason. To keep the universe loyal to a holy God, it was important in some world somewhere to demonstrate the gigantic disasters that would come upon any world that allowed sin to enter. Which world should it be? Well, the smaller the world, the better; for less numbers would suffer. So our world was selected. The stage was large enough for the enactment of the tragedy. Enter on the stage Sin, followed by Murder, Pain, Theft, Fraud, Impurity, Falsehood, Massacre, War and all the abominations and horrors and agonies of centuries. Although we know comparatively little about the other worlds, lest we become completely dissatisfied with our own, no doubt the other worlds have heard and are now hearing all about this world, in the awful experiment of sin which the human race has been making. In some way interstellar communication is open and all worlds, either by wing of flying spirits or by direct communication from God, are learning that disloyalty and disobedience doom and damn everything they touch, and the spectacle practically says to all other worlds: "Obey God, keep holy and stay in the orbit where you were intended to swing, or you will suffer what that recreant world out yonder has been suffering for thousands of years." It is no longer to me a mystery why so small a world as ours was chosen for the tragedy. A chemist can demonstrate all the laws of earth and heaven in a small laboratory, ten feet by five, and our world was not too small to demonstrate to the universe the awful chemistry of unrighteousness, its explosive and riving and consuming power.
On the tower of Pharos at Alexandria, Egypt, a metallic mirror was raised which reflected all that occurred both on land and sea for a distance of three hundred miles, and so Egypt was informed of the coming of her enemies long before their arrival. By what process I know not, but in some way this ship of a struggling earth I think is mirrored to distant worlds. Surely this one experiment of a world unloosing itself from God will be enough for all worlds and all eternities.
But notice that as other worlds rolled into the first book of the Bible, the Book of Genesis, they also appear in the last book of the Bible, the Book of the Revelation. They will take part in the scenes of that occasion which shall be the earth's winding up, and a tremendous occasion for you and me personally. My father was on the turnpike road between Trenton and Bound Brook, New Jersey. He was coming through the night from the Legislative halls, where he was serving his State, to his home, where there was sickness. I often heard him tell about it. It was the night of the 12th and the morning of the 13th of November, 1833. The sky was cloudless and the air clear. Suddenly the whole heavens became a scene never to be forgotten. From the constellation Leo meteors began to shoot out in all directions. For the two hours between four and six in the morning it was estimated that a thousand meteors a minute flashed and expired. It grew lighter than noonday. Arrows of fire; balls of fire; trails of fire; showers of fire. Some of the appearances were larger than the full moon. All around the heavens explosion followed explosion. Sounds as well as sights. The air filled with uproar. All the luminaries of the sky seemed to have received marching orders. The heavens ribbed and interlaced and garlanded with meteoric display. From horizon to horizon everything in combustion and conflagration. Many a brain that night gave way. It was an awful strain on strongest nerves. Millions of people fell on their knees in prayer. Was the world ending, or was there some great event for which all heaven was illuminated? For eight momentous hours the phenomenon lasted. East, west, north, south, it looked as though the heavens were in maniac disorder. Astronomers watching that night said that those meteors started from 2,200 miles above the earth's surface and moved with ten times the speed of a cannon-ball. The owner of a plantation in South Carolina says of that night scene: "I was suddenly awakened by the most distressing cries that ever fell on my ears. Shrieks of horror and cries for mercy I could hear from most of the negroes on three plantations, amounting in all to about six or eight hundred. While earnestly listening for the cause, I heard a faint voice near the door calling my name. I arose, and taking my sword, stood at the door. At this moment I heard the same voice still beseeching me to rise, and saying, 'Oh, my God! the world is on fire!' I then opened the door, and it is difficult to say which excited me the most, the awfulness of the scene or the distressed cries of the negroes. Upward of one hundred lay prostrate on the ground; some speechless and some uttering the bitterest cries, but most with their hands raised, imploring God to save the world and them. The scene was truly awful, for never did rain fall much thicker than the meteors fell toward the earth." But the excitement thus described by the Southern planter ran among the whites as well as the blacks, among the intelligent as well as the superstitious. The spectacle ceased not until the rising sun of the November morning eclipsed it, and the whole American nation sat down exhausted with the agitations of a night to be memorable until the earth itself shall become a falling star. The Bible closes with a scene of falling lights, not only frivolous meteors, but grave old stars. St John saw it in prospect, and wrote: "The stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs when she is shaken of a mighty wind." What a time that will be when worlds drop! Rain of planets. Centripetal force let loose her grip on worlds. Constellations flying apart. Galaxies dissolved. The great orchard of the universe swept by the last hurricane, letting down the stars like ripened fruit. Our old earth will go with the rest, and let it go, for it will have existed long enough to complete its tremendous experiment. (But there will be enough worlds left to make a heaven out of, if any more heaven needs to be built. That day finding us in Christ, our nature regenerated, and our sins pardoned, and our hope triumphant, we will feel no more alarm than when in September passing through an orchard you hear the apples thump to the ground, or through a conservatory and you hear an untimely fig drop on the floor. You will only go upstairs into another story of the House of many mansions, a better lighted story, a better ventilated story, a better pictured story, and into a story where already many of your kindred are waiting for you, and where prophets and apostles and martyrs will pay you celestial visitation, and where, with a rapture beyond the most radiant anticipation, you shall bow before him that "buildeth his stories in the heaven."
Exodus 30:34: "And the Lord said unto Moses, Take unto thee sweet spices, stacte, and onycha."
You may not have noticed the shells of the Bible, although in this early part of the sacred Book God calls you to consider and employ them, as he called Moses to consider and employ them. Behold and wonder and worship. The onycha of my text is a shell found on the banks of the Red Sea, and Moses and his army must have crushed many of them under foot as they crossed the bisected waters, onycha on the beach and onycha in the unfolded bed of the deep. I shall speak of this shell as a beautiful and practical revelation of God, and as true as the first chapter of Genesis and the last chapter of the Revelation or everything between. Not only is this shell, the onycha, found in the Red Sea, but in the waters of India. It not only delectates the eye with its convolutions of beauty, white and lustrous and seriate, but blesses the nostril with a pungent aroma. This shell-fish, accustomed to feed on spikenard, is redolent with that odorous plant, redolent when alive and redolent when dead. Its shells, when burnt, bewitch the air with fragrance. In my text, God commands Moses to mix this onycha with the perfumes of the altar in the ancient Tabernacle, and I propose to mix some of its perfumes at the altar of our own tabernacle, as I now come to speak of the Conchology of the Bible, or God among the Shells.
It is a secret that you may keep for me, for I have never before told it to any one, that in all the realms of the natural world there is nothing to me so fascinating, so completely absorbing, so full of suggestiveness, as a shell. What? More entertaining than a bird, which can sing, when a shell cannot sing? Well, there you have made a great mistake. Pick up the onycha from the banks of the Red Sea, or pick up a bivalve from the beach of the Atlantic Ocean, and listen, and you hear a whole choir of marine voicesï¿½bass, alto, sopranoï¿½in an unknown tongue, but seeming to chant, as I put them to my ear, "The sea is his and he made it;" others singing, "Thy way, O God, is in the sea;" others hymning, "He ruleth the raging of the sea." "What," says some one else, "does the shell impress you more than the star?" In some respects, yes, because I can handle the shell and closely study the shell, while I cannot handle the star, and if I study it I must study it at a distance of millions and millions of miles. "What," says some one else, "are you more impressed by the shell than by the flower?" Yes, for it has far greater varieties and far greater richness of color, as I could show you in thousands of specimens, and because the shell does not fade, as does the rose leaf, but maintains its beauty century after century; so that the onycha which the hoof of Pharaoh's horse knocked aside in the chase of the Israelites across the Red Sea may have kept its lustre to this hour. Yes, they are so parti-colored and multicolored that you might pile them up until you would have a wall with all the colors of the wall of heaven, from the jasper at the bottom to the amethyst at the top. Oh, the shells! The petrified foam of the sea! The hardened bubbles of the deep! The diadems thrown by the ocean to the feet of the continent! How the shells are ribbed, grooved, cylindered, mottled, iridescent! They were used as coin by some nations, fastened in belts by others, made into handles of wooden implements by still others. Cowries are still used as coin in some parts of the world. Mollusks not only of the sea but mollusks of the land. Do you know how much they have had to do with the world's history? They saved the Church of God from extinguishment. The Israelites marched out of Egypt two million strong, besides flocks and herds. The Bible says "the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneading troughs being bound up in the clothes on their shoulders.... They are thrust forth out of Egypt and could not tarry, neither had they prepared for themselves any victuals." Just think of it! Forty years in the wilderness! Infidelity triumphantly asks: "How could they live forty years in the wilderness without food? You say manna fell. Oh, that was after a long while. They would have starved long before the manna fell." The fact is they were chiefly kept alive by the mollusks of the land or shelled creatures. Mr. Fronton and Mr. Sicard took the same route from Egypt toward Canaan that the Israelites took, and they give this as their testimony:
"Although the children of Israel must have consisted of about two million of souls, with baggage and innumerable flocks and herds, they were not likely to experience any inconvenience in their march. Several thousand persons might walk abreast with the greatest ease in the very narrowest part of the valley in which they first began to file off. It soon afterwards expands to above three leagues in width. With respect to forage, they would be at no loss. The ground is covered with tamarisk, broom, clover and sainfoin, of which latter, especially, camels are passionately fond, besides almost every variety of odoriferous plant and herb proper for pasturage. The whole sides of the valley through which the children of Israel marched are still tufted with brushwood, which doubtless afforded food for their beasts, together with many drier sorts for lighting fire, on which the Israelites could with the greatest ease bake the dough they brought with them on small iron plates, which form a constant appendage to the baggage of an oriental traveller. Lastly, the herbage underneath these trees and shrubs is completely covered with snails of a prodigious size and of the best sort, and however uninviting such a repast might appear to us, they are here esteemed a great delicacy. They are so plentiful in this valley that it may be literally said that it is difficult to take one step without treading on them."
So the shelled creatures saved the host of Israelites on the march to the Promised Land, and the attack of infidelity at this point is defeated by the facts, as infidelity is always defeated by facts, since it is founded on ignorance. In writing and printing, our interrogation point has at the bottom a mark like a period and over it a flourish like the swing of a teamster's whip, and we put this interrogation point at the end of a question; but in the Spanish language, the interrogation point is twice used for each question. At the beginning of the question the interrogation point is presented upside down, and at the close of the question right side up. When infidelity puts a question about the Scriptures, as it always indicates ignorance, the question ought to be printed with two interrogation points, one at the beginning and one at the close, but both upside down.
Thank God for the wealth of mollusks all up and down the earth, whether feeding the Israelites on their way to the land flowing with milk and honey, or, as we are better acquainted with the mollusks, when flung to the beach of lake or sea. If I should ask you to name three of the great royal families of the earth, perhaps you would respond, the House of Stuart, the House of Hapsburg, the House of Bourbon, but the three royal families of mollusks are the Univalve, or shell in one part; the Bivalve, or shell in two parts, and the Multivalve, or shell in many parts; and I see God in their every hinge, in their every tooth, in their every cartilage, in their every ligament, in their every spiral ridge, and in their adaptation of thin shell for still ponds and thick coatings for boisterous seas. They all dash upon me the thought of the providential care of God. What is the use of all this architecture of the shell, and why is it pictured from the outside lip clear down into its labyrinths of construction? Why the infinity of skill and radiance in a shell? What is the use of the color and exquisite curve of a thing so insignificant as a shell-fish? Why, when the conchologist, by dredge or rake, fetches the crustaceous specimens to the shore, does he find at his feet whole Alhambras and Coliseums and Parthenons and Crystal Palaces of beauty in miniature, and these bring to light only an infinitesimal part of the opulence in the great subaqueous world. Linnaeus counted twenty-five hundred species of shells, but conchology had then only begun its achievements. While exploring the bed of the Atlantic Ocean in preparation for laying the cable, shelled creatures were brought up from the depths of nineteen hundred fathoms. When lifting the telegraph wire from the Mediterranean and Red seas, shelled creatures were brought up from depths of two thousand fathoms. The English Admiralty, exploring in behalf of science, found mollusks at a depth of twenty-four hundred and thirty-five fathoms. What a realm awful for vastness!
As the shell is only the house and the wardrobe of insignificant animals of the deep, why all that wonder and beauty of construction? God's care for them is the only reason. And if God provide so munificently for them, will he not see that you have wardrobe and shelter? Wardrobe and shelter for a periwinkle; shall there not be wardrobe and shelter for a man? Would God give a coat of mail for the defence of a Nautilus and leave you no defence against the storm? Does he build a stone house for a creature that lasts a season, and leave without home a soul that takes hold on centuries and aeons? Hugh Miller found "The Footprints of the Creator" in the Old Red Sandstone, and I hear the harmonies of God in the tinkle of the sea-shells when the tide comes in.
The same Christ who drew a lesson of providential care from the fact that God clothes the grass of the field instructs me to draw the same lesson from the shells.
In almost every man's life, however well born and prosperous for years, and in almost every woman's life there comes a very dark time, at least once. A conjunction of circumstances will threaten bankruptcy and homelessness and starvation. It may be that these words will meet the ear or the eye of those who are in such a state of foreboding. Come, then, and see how God gives an ivory palace to a water creature that you could cover with a ten-cent piece, and clothes in armor against all attack a coral no bigger than a snowflake. I do not think that God will take better care of a bivalve than of one of his own children. I rake to your feet with the Gospel rake the most thorough evidences of God's care for his creatures. I pile around you great mounds of shells, that they may teach you a most comforting theology. Oh, ye of little faith, walk along these arbors of coralline, and look at these bouquets of shell fit to be handed a queen on her coronation day, and see these fallen rainbows of color, and examine these lilies in stone, these primroses in stone, these heliotropes in stone, these cowslips in stone, these geraniums in stone, these japonicas in stone. Oh, ye who have your telescopes ready, looking out on clear nights, trying to see what is occurring in Mars, Jupiter, and Mercury, know that within a few hours' walk or ride of where you now are there are whole worlds that you might explore, but of which you are unconscious; and among the most beautiful and suggestive of these worlds is the conchological world. Take this lesson of a providential care. How does that old hymn go?ï¿½
We may, like ships, by tempest be tossed
On perilous deeps, but cannot be lost;
Though Satan enrages the wind and the tide,
The promise assures us the Lord will provide.
But while you get this pointed lesson of providential care from the shelled creatures of the deep, notice in their construction that God helps them to help themselves. This house of stone in which they live is not dropped on them and is not built around them. The material for it exudes from their own bodies and is adorned with a colored fluid from the pores of their own neck. It is a most interesting thing to see these crustaceans fashion their own homes out of carbonate of lime and membrane. And all of this is a mighty lesson to those who are waiting for others to build their fortunes, when they ought to go to work and, like the mollusks, build their own fortunes out of their own brain, out of their own sweat, out of their own industries. Not a mollusk on all the beaches of all the seas would have a house of shell if it had not itself built one. Do not wait for others to shelter you or prosper you. All the crustaceous creatures of the earth, from every flake of their covering and from every ridge of their tiny castles on Atlantic and Pacific and Mediterranean coasts, say: "Help yourself, while God helps you to help yourself." Those people who are waiting for their father or rich old uncle to die and leave them a fortune are as silly as a mollusk would be to wait for some other mollusk to drop on it a shell-equipment. It would kill the mollusk, as, in most cases, it destroys a man. Not one person out of a hundred ever was strong enough to stand the possession of a large estate by inheritance dropped on him in a mass. Have great expectations from only two personsï¿½God and yourself. Let the onycha of my text become your preceptor.
But the more I examine the shells, the more I am impressed that God is a God of emotion. Many scoff at emotion, and seem to think that God is a God of cold geometry and iron laws and eternal apathy and enthroned stoicism. No! no! The shells with overpowering emphasis deny it. While law and order reign in the universe you have but to see the lavishness of color on the Crustacea, all shades of crimson from the faintest blush to blood of battlefield, all shades of blue, all shades of green, all shades of all colors from deepest black to whitest light, just poured out on the shells with no more order than a mother premeditates or calculates how many kisses and hugs she shall give her babe waking up in the morning sunlight. Yes! My God is an emotional God, and he says: "We must have colors, and let the sun paint all of them on the scroll of that shell; and we must have music, and here is a carol for the robin, and a psalm for the man, and a doxology for the seraphim, and a resurrection call for the archangel." Ay, he showed himself a God of sublime emotion when he flung himself on this world in the personality of a Christ to save it, without regard to the tears it would take or the blood it would exhaust or the agonies it would involve. When I see the Louvres and the Luxembourgs and the Vaticans of Divine painting strewn along the eight thousand miles of coast; and I hear, in a forest, on a summer morning, musical academies and Handel societies of full orchestras, I say God is a God of emotion; and if he observes mathematics, it is mathematics set to music, and his figures are written, not in white chalk on blackboards, but by a finger of sunlight on walls of jasmine and trumpet-creeper.
In my study of the conchology of the Bible, this onycha of the text also impresses me with the fact that religion is perfume. What else could God have meant when he said to Moses: "Take unto thee sweet spices, stacte and onycha"? Moses took that shell of the onycha, put it over the fire, and as it crumbled into ashes it exhaled an odor that hung in every curtain and filled the ancient Tabernacle, and its sweet smoke escaped from the sacred precincts and saturated the outside air. Perfume! That is what religion is. But, instead of that, some make it a malodor. They serve God in a rough and acerb way. They box their child's ears because he does not properly keep Sunday, instead of making Sunday so attractive the child could not help but keep it. They make him learn by heart a difficult chapter in the book of Exodus, with all the hard names, because he has been naughty. How many disagreeable good people there are! No one doubts their piety, and they will reach heaven, but they will have to get fixed up before they go there, or they will make trouble by calling out to us: "Keep off that grass!" "What do you mean by plucking that flower?" "Show your tickets!" Oh! how many Christian people need to obey my text, and take into their worship and their behavior and their consociations and presbyteries and general assemblies and conferences more onycha. I have sometimes gone in a very gale of spirit into the presence of some disagreeable Christians and in five minutes felt wretched, and at some other time I have gone depressed into the company of suave and genial souls, and in a few moments I felt exhilarant. What was the difference? It was the difference in what they burnt in their censers. The one burnt onycha; the other burnt asafï¿½tida.
In this conchological study of the Bible I also notice that the mollusks or shelled animals furnish the purple that you see richly darkening so many Scripture chapters. The purple stuff in the ancient Tabernacle, the purple girdle of the priests, the purple mantle of Roman emperors, the apparel of Dives in purple and fine linen, ay, the purple robe which, in mockery, was thrown upon Christ, were colored by the purple of the shells on the shores of the Mediterranean. It was discovered by a shepherd's dog having stained his mouth by breaking one of the shells, and the purple aroused admiration. Costly purple! Six pounds of the purple liquor extracted from the shell-fishes was used to prepare one pound of wool. Purple was also used on the pages of books. Bibles and prayer-books appeared in purple vellum, and may still be found in some of the national libraries of Europe. Plutarch speaks of some purple which kept its beauty for one hundred and ninety years. But, after a while, the purple became easier to get, and that which had been a sign of imperial authority when worn in robes, was adopted by many people, and so an Emperor, jealous of this appropriation of the purple, made a law that any one except royalty wearing purple should be put to death. Then, as if to punish the world for that outrage of exclusiveness, God obliterated the color from the earth, as much as to say: "If all cannot have it, none shall have it." But, though God has deprived the race of that shell-fish which afforded the purple, there are shells enough to make us glad and worshipful. Oh, the entrancement of hue and shape still left all up and down the beaches of all the continents! These creatures of the sea have what roofs of enameled porcelain! They dwell under what pavilions, blue as the sky and fiery as a sunset and mysterious as an aurora! And am I not right in leading you, for a few moments, through this mighty realm of God so neglected by human eye and human footstep? It is said that the invention of the harp and lute was suggested by the fact that in Egypt the Nile overflowed its banks, and when the waters retreated, tortoises were left by the million on all the lands, and these tortoises died, and soon nothing was left but the cartilages and gristle of these creatures, which tightened under the heat into musical strings that, when swept by the wind or touched by the foot of man, vibrated, making sweet sounds, and so the world took the hint and fashioned the harp. And am I not right in trying to make music out of the shells, and lifting them as a harp, from which to thrum the jubilant praises of the Lord and the pathetic strains of human condolence?
But I find the climax of this conchology of the Bible in the pearl, which has this distinction above all other gems, that it requires no human hand to bring out its beauties. Job speaks of it; and its sheen is in Christ's sermon; and the Bible, which, opening with the onycha of my text, closes with the pearl. Of such value is this crustaceous product, I do not wonder that for the exclusive right of fishing for it on the shores of Ceylon a man paid to the English government six hundred thousand dollars for one season. So exquisite is the pearl, I do not wonder that Pliny thought it was made out of a drop of dew, the creature rising to the surface to take it, and the chemistry of nature turning the liquid into a solid. You will comprehend why the Bible makes so much of the pearl in its similitudes if you know how much it costs to get it. Boats with divers sail out from the island of Ceylon, ten divers to each boat. Thirteen men guide and manage the boat. Down into the dangerous depths, amid sharks that swirl around them, plunge the divers, while sixty thousand people anxiously gaze on. After three or four minutes' absence from the air, the diver ascends, nine-tenths strangulated and blood rushing from ears and nostrils, and, flinging his pearly treasure on the deck, falls into unconsciousness. Oh, it is an awful exposure and strain and peril to fish for pearls, and yet they do so, and is it not a wonder that to get that which the Bible calls the Pearl of Great Price, worth more than all other pearls put together, there should be so little anxiety, so little struggle, so little enthusiasm. Would to God that we were all as wise as the merchantman Christ commended, "who, when he had found one Pearl of Great Price, went and sold all that he had and bought it."
But what thrills me with suggestiveness is the material out of which all pearls are made. They are fashioned from the wound of the shell-fish. The exudation from that wound is fixed and hardened and enlarged into a pearl. The ruptured vessels of the water-animal fashioned the gem that now adorns the finger or earring or sword hilt or king's crown. So, out of the wounds of earth will come the pearls of heaven. Out of the wound of conviction, the pearl of pardon. Out of the wound of bereavement, the pearl of solace. Out of the wound of loss, the pearl of gain. Out of the deep wound of the grave, the pearl of resurrection joy. Out of the wounds of a Saviour's life and a Saviour's death, the rich, radiant, the everlasting pearl of heavenly gladness. "And the twelve gates were twelve pearls." Take the consolation, all ye who have been hurt, whether hurt in body or hurt in mind or hurt in soul. Get your trouble sanctified. If you suffer with Christ on earth, you will reign with him in glory. The tears of earth are the crystals of heaven "Every several gate was of one pearl."
Matthew 6:26: "Behold the fowls of the air."
There is a silence now in all our January forests, except as the winds whistle through the bare branches. The organ-lofts in the temple of nature are hymnless. Trees which were full of carol and chirp and chant are now waiting for the coming back of rich plumes and warbling voices, solos, duets, quartets, cantatas, and Te Deums. The difference between the forests in summer and the forests in winter is the difference between an academy of music with enchanted throngs listening to an inspired cantatrice and an academy of music empty. But the Bible is full of birds at all seasons, and prophets and patriarchs and apostles and evangelists and Christ himself employ them for moral and religious purposes. My text is an extract from the Sermon on the Mount, and perhaps it was at a moment when a flock of birds flew past that Christ waved his hand toward them and said: "Behold the fowls of the air." And so, in this course of sermons on God Everywhere, I preach to you this sermon concerning the Ornithology of the Bible, or God among the Birds.
Most of the other sciences you may study or not study, as you please. Use your own judgment, exercise your own taste. But about this science of ornithology we have no option. The divine command is positive when it says in my text, "Behold the fowls of the air!" That is, study their habits. Examine their colors. Notice their speed. See the hand of God in their construction. It is easy for me to obey the command of the text, for I was brought up among this race of wings, and from boyhood heard their matins at sunrise and their vespers at sunset. Their nests have to me a fascination, and my satisfaction is that I never robbed one of them, any more than I would steal a child from a cradle; for a bird is a child of the sky, and its nest is the cradle. They are almost human, for they have their loves and hates, affinities and antipathies, understand joy and grief, have conjugal and maternal instinct, wage wars and entertain jealousies, have a language of their own and powers of association. Thank God for the birds!
It is useless to expect to understand the Bible unless we study natural history. Five hundred and ninety-three times does the Bible allude to the facts of natural history, and I do not wonder that it makes so many allusions ornithological. The skies and the caverns of Palestine are friendly to the winged creatures, and so many fly and roost and nest and hatch in that region that inspired writers do not have far to go to get ornithological illustration of divine truth. There are over forty species of birds recognized in the Scriptures. Oh, what a variety of wings in Palestine! The dove, the robin, the eagle, the cormorant or plunging bird, hurling itself from sky to wave and with long beak clutching its prey; the thrush, which especially dislikes a crowd; the partridge, the hawk, bold and ruthless, hovering head to windward while watching for prey; the swan, at home among the marshes and with feet so constructed it can walk on the leaves of water-plants; the raven, the lapwing, malodorous and in the Bible denounced as inedible, though it has extraordinary headdress; the stork, the ossifrage, that always had a habit of dropping on a stone the turtle it had lifted and so killing it for food, and on one occasion mistook the bald head of ï¿½schylus, the Greek poet, for a white stone and dropped a turtle upon it, killing the famous Greek; the cuckoo, with crested head and crimson throat and wings snow-tipped, but too lazy to build its own nest and so having the habit of depositing its eggs in nests belonging to other birds; the blue jay, the grouse, the plover, the magpie, the kingfisher, the pelican, which is the caricature of all the feathered creation; the owl, the goldfinch, the bittern, the harrier, the bulbul, the osprey, the vulture, that king of scavengers, with neck covered with repulsive down instead of attractive feathers; the quarrelsome starling, the swallow, flying a mile a minute and sometimes ten hours in succession; the heron, the quail, the peacock, the ostrich, the lark, the crow, the kite, the bat, the blackbird, and many others; with all colors, all sounds, all styles of flight, all habits, all architecture of nests, leaving nothing wanting in suggestiveness. At the creation they took their places all around on the rocks and in the trees and on the ground to serenade Adam's arrival. They took their places on Friday, as the first man was made on Saturday. Whatever else he had or did not have, he should have music. The first sound that struck the human ear was a bird's voice.
Yea, Christian geology (for you know there is a Christian geology as well as an infidel geology), Christian geology comes in and helps the Bible show what we owe to the bird creation. Before the human race came into this world, the world was occupied by reptiles and by all styles of destructive monsters, millions of creatures loathsome and hideous. God sent huge birds to clear the earth of these creatures before Adam and Eve were created. The remains of these birds have been found imbedded in the rocks. The skeleton of one eagle has been found twenty feet in height and fifty feet from tip of wing to tip of wing. Many armies of beaks and claws were necessary to clear the earth of creatures that would have destroyed the human race with one clip. I like to find this harmony of revelation and science, and to have it demonstrated that the God who made the world made the Bible.
Moses, the greatest lawyer of all time and a great man for facts, had enough sentiment and poetry and musical taste to welcome the illumined wings and the voices divinely drilled into the first chapter of Genesis. How should Noah, the old ship carpenter, six hundred years of age, find out when the world was fit again for human residence after the universal freshet? A bird will tell, and nothing else can. No man can come from the mountain to invite Noah and his family out to terra firma, for the mountains were submerged. As a bird first heralded the human race into the world, now a bird will help the human race back to the world that had shipped a sea that whelmed everything. Noah stands on Sunday morning at the window of the Ark, in his hand a cooing dove, so gentle, so innocent, so affectionate, and he said: "Now, my little dove, fly away over these waters, explore, and come back and tell us whether it is safe to land." After a long flight it returned hungry and weary and wet, and by its looks and manners said to Noah and his family: "The world is not fit for you to disembark." Noah waited a week, and next Sunday morning he let the dove fly again for a second exploration, and Sunday evening it came back with a leaf that had the sign of having been plucked from a living fruit tree, and in that way the bird reported the world would do tolerably well for a bird to live in, but not yet sufficiently recovered for human residence. Noah waited another week, and next Sunday morning he sent out the dove on the third exploration, but it returned not, for it found the world so attractive now it did not want to be caged again, and then the emigrants from the antediluvian world landed. It was a bird that told them when to take possession of the resuscitated planet. So the human race was saved by a bird's wing: for attempting to land too soon they would have perished.
Ay, here come a whole flock of dovesï¿½rock-doves, ring-doves, stock-dovesï¿½and they make Isaiah think of great revivals and great awakenings when souls fly for shelter like a flock of pigeons swooping to the openings of a pigeon coop, and he cries out: "Who are these that fly as doves to their windows?" David, with Saul after him, and flying from cavern to cavern, compares himself to a desert partridge, a bird which especially haunts rocky places; and boys and hunters to this day take after it with sticks, for the partridge runs rather than flies. David, chased and clubbed and harried of pursuers, says: "I am hunted as a partridge on the mountains." Speaking of his forlorn condition, he says: "I am like a pelican of the wilderness." Describing his loneliness, he says: "I am a swallow alone on a housetop." Hezekiah, in the emaciation of his sickness, compares himself to the crane, thin and wasted. Job had so much trouble he could not sleep nights, and he describes his insomnia by saying: "I am a companion to owls." Isaiah compares the desolation of banished Israel to the owl and bittern and cormorant among a city's ruins. Jeremiah, describing the cruelty of parents toward children, compares them to the ostrich, who leaves its eggs in the sand uncared for, crying: "The daughter of my people is become like the ostriches of the wilderness." Among the provisions piled on Solomon's bountiful table, the Bible speaks of "fatted fowl." The Israelites in the desert got tired of manna and they had quailsï¿½quails for breakfast, quails for dinner, quails for supperï¿½and they died of quails.
The Bible refers to the migratory habits of the birds, and says: "The stork knoweth her appointed time and the turtle and the crane and the swallow the time of their going, but my people know not the judgments of the Lord." Would the prophet illustrate the fate of fraud, he points to a failure at incubation, and says: "As a partridge sitteth on eggs and hatcheth them not, so he that getteth riches and not by right shall leave them in the midst of his days and at his end shall be a fool." The partridge, the most careless of all birds in choice of its place of nest, building it on the ground and often near a frequented road, or in a slight depression of ground, without reference to safety, and soon a hoof or a scythe or a cart-wheel ends all. So, says the prophet, a man who gathers under him dishonest dollars will hatch out of them no peace, no satisfaction, no happiness, no security. What vivid similitude! The quickest way to amass a fortune is by iniquity, but the trouble is about keeping it. Every hour of every day some such partridge is driven off the nest. Panics are only a flutter of partridges. It is too tedious work to become rich in the old-fashioned way, and if a man can by one falsehood make as much as by ten years of hard labor, why not tell it? And if one counterfeit check will bring the dollars as easily as a genuine issue, why not make it? One year's fraud will be equal to half a lifetime's sweat. Why not live solely by one's wits? A fortune thus built will be firm and everlasting. Will it? Ha! build your house on a volcano's crater; go to sleep on the bosom of an avalanche. The volcano will blaze and the avalanche will thunder. There are estates which have been coming together from age to age. Many years ago that estate started in a husband's industry and a wife's economy. It grew from generation to generation by good habits and high-minded enterprise. Old-fashioned industry was the mine from which that gold was dug, and God will keep the deeds of such an estate in his buckler. Foreclose your mortgage, spring your snap judgments, plot with acutest intrigue against a family property like that, and you cannot do it a permanent damage. Better than warrantee deed, and better than fire insurance is the defence which God's own hand will give it.
But here is a man, today as poor as Job, after he was robbed by Satan of everything but his boils; yet, suddenly, tomorrow he is a rich man. There is no accounting for his sudden affluence. He has not yet failed often enough to become wealthy. No one pretends to account for his princely wardrobe, or the chased silver, or the full-curbed steeds that rear and neigh like Bucephalus in the grasp of his coachman. Did he come to a sudden inheritance? No. Did he make a fortune on purchase and sale? No. Everybody asks: "Where did that partridge hatch?" The devil suddenly threw him up and the devil will suddenly let him come down. That hidden scheme God saw from the first inception of the plot. That partridge, swift disaster will shoot it down, and the higher it flies the harder it falls. The prophet saw, as you and I have often seen, the awful mistake of partridges.
But from the top of a Bible fir tree I hear the shrill cry of the stork. Job, Ezekiel, Jeremiah speak of it. David cries out: "As for the stork, the fir tree is her house." This large white Bible bird is supposed, sometimes, without alighting, to wing its way from the region of the Rhine to Africa. As winter comes, all the storks fly to warmer climes, and the last one of their number that arrives at the spot to which they migrate is killed by them. What havoc it would make in our species if those men were killed who are always behind! In Oriental cities the stork is domesticated and walks about on the street, and will follow its keeper. In the city of Ephesus, I saw a long row of pillars, on the top of each pillar a stork's nest. But the word "stork" ordinarily means mercy and affection, from the fact that this bird was distinguished for its great love to its parents. It never forsakes them, and even after they become feeble, protects and provides for them. In migrating, the old storks lean their necks on the young storks, and when the old ones give out the young ones carry them on their backs. God forbid that a dumb stork should have more heart than we. Blessed is that table at which an old father and mother sit! Blessed that altar at which an old father and mother kneel! What it is to have a mother they know best who have lost her. God only knows the agony she suffered for us, the times she wept over our cradle and the anxious sighs her bosom heaved as we lay upon it, the sick nights when she watched us, long after every one was tired out but God and herself. Her life-blood beats in our heart and her image lives in our face. That man is graceless as a cannibal who ill-treats his parents, and he who begrudges them daily bread and clothes them but shabbily, may God have patience with him; I cannot. I heard a man once say: "I now have my old mother on my hands." Ye storks on your way with food to your aged parents, shame him!
But yonder in this Bible sky flies a bird that is speckled. The prophet describing the church cries out: "Mine heritage is unto me as a speckled bird, the birds round about are against her." So it was then; so it is now. Holiness picked at. Consecration picked at. Usefulness picked at. A speckled bird is a peculiar bird, and that arouses the antipathy of all the beaks of the forest. The Church of God is a peculiar institution, and that is enough to evoke attack of the world, for it is a speckled bird to be picked at. The inconsistencies of Christians are a banquet on which multitudes get fat. They ascribe everything you do to wrong motives. Put a dollar in the poor-box, and they will say that he dropped it there only that others might hear it ring. Invite them to Christ and they will call you a fanatic. Let there be contention among Christians, and they will say "Hurrah! the church is in decadence." Christ intended that his church should always remain a speckled bird. Let birds of another feather pick at her, but they cannot rob her of a single plume. Like the albatross, she can sleep on the bosom of a tempest. She has gone through the fires of Nebuchadnezzar's furnace and not got burned, through the waters of the Red Sea and not been drowned, through the shipwreck on the breakers of Melita and not been foundered. Let all earth and hell try to hunt down this speckled bird, but far above human scorn and infernal assault, she shall sing over every mountain-top and fly over every nation, and her triumphant song shall be, "The Church of God! The pillar and ground of the truth. The gates of hell shall not prevail against her."
But we cannot stop here. From a tall cliff, hanging over the sea, I hear the eagle calling unto the tempest and lifting its wing to smite the whirlwind. Moses, Jeremiah, Hosea and Habakkuk, at times in their writings, take their pen from the eagle's wing. It is a bird with fierceness in its eye, its feet armed with claws of iron, and its head with a dreadful beak. Two or three of them can fill the heavens with clangor. But generally this monster of the air is alone and unaccompanied, for the reason that its habits are so predaceous it requires five or ten miles of aerial or earthly dominion for itself. The black-brown of its back, and the white of its lower feathers, and the fire of its eye, and the long flap of its wing make one glimpse of it, as it swoops down into the valley to pick up a rabbit, or a lamb, or a child, and then sweeps back to its throne on the rock, something never to be forgotten. Scattered about its eyrie of altitudinous solitude are the bones of its conquests. But while the beak and the claws of the eagle are the terror of all the travelers of the air, the mother-eagle is most kind and gentle to her young. God compares his treatment of his people to the eagle's care of the eaglets. Deuteronomy 32:11: "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 him." The old eagle first shoves the young one out of the nest in order to make it fly, and then takes it on her back and flies with it, and shakes it off in the air, and if it seem like falling, quickly flies under it and takes it on her wing again. So God does with us. Disaster, failure in business, disappointment, bereavement, are only God's way of shaking us out of our comfortable nest in order that we may learn how to fly. You who are complaining that you have no faith or courage or Christian zeal have had it too easy. You never will learn to fly in that comfortable nest. Like an eagle, Christ has carried us on his back. At times we have been shaken off, and when we were about to fall he came under us again and brought us out of the gloomy valley to the sunny mountain. Never an eagle brooded with such love and care over her young as God's wings have been over us. Across what oceans of trouble we have gone in safety upon the Almighty wings. From what mountains of sin have we been carried, and at times have been borne up far above the gunshot of the world and the arrow of the devil. When our time on earth is closed, on these great wings of God we shall speed with infinite quickness from earth's mountains to heaven's hills, and as from the eagle's circuit under the sun, men on the ground seem small and insignificant as lizards on a rock, so all earthly things shall dwin