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builds her nest in the roofs of our dwellings? Natural histo. rians mention two kinds of this bird one domestic, and the other wild. But the wild sparrow does not repair for shelter like her relative, mentioned by David, to the human dwelling; she never takes her station on the house top, but seeks a home in her native woods. If the allusion, therefore, be made to the sparrow, it must be to the domestic, not to the wild species. It is in vain to argue, that the domestic sparrow may be called solitary, when she is deprived of her mate; for she does not, like the turtle, when she loses her spouse, remain in a state of inconsolable widowhood, but accepts, without reluctance, the first companion that solicits her affections. Hence the Psalmist undoubtedly refers to some species of the owl, whose dreary note and solitary dispositions, are celebrated by almost every poet of antiquity.
The word is used by Solomon, in the general sense, in his affecting description of the wakeful debility of extreme old age: “He shall rise up at the voice of the bird.” In the Greek version, it is translated, the voice of the sparrow; but it is more natural to suppose, that the inspired writer alludes to the note of a larger bird ; probably to the crowing of the cock, which the God of nature has appointed to announce the approach of day. It is not easy to determine, which of these opinions is entitled to the preference; for the original term, as already observed, signifies birds of any size. It must be confessed, that it gives us a much more striking idea of the lowest ebb of human weakness, to refer the phrase to the feeble note of the sparrow, or the chirping of other small birds at the dawn of day : but “the voice of the bird” may with equal, perhaps with greater propriety, denote the shrill and powerful clarion of the cock, which rouses the slumbering world to the cares and exertions of active life.
Low in the scale of being as the sparrow has been placed by its creator, it is, according to the declaration of our Lord himself, the object of his unceasing care : “ Are not two sparrows
sold for a farthing ? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father *." In the gospel of Luke, the value of this little bird is represented as still less : “ Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God t." It neither attracts our notice by the beauty of its plumage, nor conciliates our esteem by the amia·bleness of its dispositions and manners; nor commands our regard by the benefits it bestows; yet this insignificant animal cannot perish without the express permission of its Maker. This truth was taught by the royal Psalmist, many ages before the coming of Christ: “ These all wait upon thee, that thou mayst give them their meat in due season.
That thou givest them, they gather; thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good. Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled ; thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust 1." In these quotations, it is not meant, that God, who is infinitely wise, values a sparrow as highly as a man, who is formed after his own image, and for whose use the lower animals were created in the beginning of time. He cannot but love his creatures, according to the nature and the degree of excellence which they possess; to do otherwise, would argue a defect of wisdom and goodness in his nature and character. The care of divine Providence, therefore, admits of various degrees: the great preserver does not take care of oxen in the same manner as he watches over the interests of men; but, according to Paul, makes a distinction in his providential management.
“For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen ?” It cannot, however, be doubted, that as well oxen as men, and even the meanest creatures, are equally subject to God, who disdains not to govern
the creatures which he condescended to create. We must beware of setting bounds to his providence, which the greatest of his works cannot burthen, nor the smallest escape. Who, that deserves the * Matth. X. 29. + Luke sü, 6.
* Psa. civ. 27,
name of Christian, can believe, that Jehovah knew not the number of the quails with which he supplied his people in the wilderness; or of the fishes which sported in the lake of Genesaréth, when, by the command of Christ, the apostle Peter cast his net into the sea ? Could he be ignorant how many frogs and locusts he would employ in executing his vengeance upon the oppressors of his people in Egypt? A general knows the numiber of the troops which he musters for the battle, and leads into the field; and can the omniscient God be ignorant of the numbers which swell the ranks of his army, and march under his banners ? Such a supposition is not more repugnant to the uniform declaration of Scripture, than to the light of nature, which taught the ancient heathens, That God not only took care of oxen, but also extended his protection to animals of every species *.
* Plutarch and Ælian.