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NATURAL HISTORY OF SCRIPTURE.
THE CUCKOO. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word shachaph is translated "cuckoo," (Leviticus xi. 16, and Deut. xiv. 15.) Neither the sound nor the derivation of the original word helps us to a reliable idea of the bird intended. But the cuckoo frequents Palestine; and the Arabs, mimicking the sound of its voice, give it the same name that we use. Dr. Tristram, who is a skilful ornithologist, observed that two species of cuckoo visit Palestine in the summer,—our own common species, named Cuculus canorus, and another, still more common there, the great spotted cuckoo, Oxylophus glandarius. The cuckoo is better known to us by its voice than by its appearance. • No bird in a state of nature (it has been remarked) utters a note approaching so closely the sound of the human voice as the cuckoo.” The circumstance of the familiar notes issuing from the copse or the wood, while the bird itself is concealed, is referred to by Wordsworth:
“ Thrice welcome, darling of the spring!
Even yet thou art to me
A voice, a mystery.” And who can listen to its simple song of two notes (which, by the way, a musical critic describes as being invariably E flat and C natural, “forming not a perfect musical interval, but something between a minor and a major third ")* without pausing to recall the words of Michael Bruce, in the finest tribute, beyond comparison, which poetry has ever paid to the unseen minstrel :
“The school-boy wandering in the woods
To pluck the flowers so gay,
And imitates thy lay.”
“Sweet bird ! thy bower is ever green,
Thy sky is ever clear;
No winter in thy year.
We'd make, with social wing,
Companions of the spring.” The cuckoo arrives in this country about the middle of April, and departs in July, the young birds remaining till October. During its
The cuckoo begins early in the season with the interval of a minor third, the bird then proceeds to a major third, next to a fourth, then a fifth ; after which his voice breaks without attaining a minor sixth.—Transactions of Linn. Soc., vol. vii. sojourn with us, the cuckoo leads a sort of vagrant, homeless life, building no nest, and frequenting no particular locality; shewing no ill-will to birds of any other kind, but not much affection for its own. The males are rather quarrelsome when they meet; and single combats betwixt them are not infrequent. The cuckoos do not pair; and the male and the female bird are seldom seen in company. The male is, however, frequently followed by a small bird of another kind, the pipit, titlark, or titling, the companionship familiarly known in Scotland as that of the gowk and the titling.". In May and June the female cuckoo lays her eggs, from five to twelve in number, each being deposited separately in the nest of another bird, that of the pipit being the most frequent; but the nests of the sparrow, robin, linnet, skylark, chaffinch, wagtail
, blackbird, and several others, share also in the distribution. Some of these nests being so peculiar in regard to structure and position, as to render it impossible for so large a bird to deposit its egg in the ordinary manner, it is inferred, with probability, that the egg is always laid at some distance from the nest, and borne thither in the bird's bill; a task of no difficulty, as the cuckoo has a wide gape, and its egg is remarkably small, as compared with its own size. The bird takes care to select a nest in which one egg, or more, has already been deposited, and lays down her burden in the absence of the rightful owner of the nest. The exceptional smallness of the cuckoo's egg is not without an obvious reason. Were it much larger than those belonging to the nest, suspicion would be excited, and it would be either ejected, or the nest would be deserted; besides, a large egg would require a longer period of incubation than the others, and would either fail to be hatched, or produce a young cuckoo at a time when his foster-brothers had grown strong enough to thwart his evil designs.—(Jones.) It is affirmed, that only those nests are selected in which the young cuckoo is secure of being fed with insects; in other words, the nests are those of birds which are strictly insectivorous. Beyond this necessary provision for their upbringing, the hen cuckoo pays no more attention to her callow young, than the roving male. The language which Job applies to the ostrich may be transferred to the female cuckoo. “She is hardened against her young ones, as though they were not her's; because God hath deprived her of wisdom, neither hath He imparted to her understanding."
KINDNESS IN THE SABBATH SCHOOL.—In the model Sabbath school everybody is kind to everybody, because everybody loves everybody for Jesus' sake, who cares for us all with such an infinite tenderness. Everybody's face reflects the beaming of His kindliness in a way that is altogether good and pleasant—" like the dew of heaven when the Lord commanded His blessing, even life for evermore.” Children are specially susceptible to these influences, which attract them as certainly as do pretty clothes, dainty food, bright flowers, or sweet music, They know intuitively whether your cordiality is sincere, or you are condescending and kind from a sense of duty. Only the plenitude of the love of Jesus can make Sabbath school workers genuinely social.—The Independent.
PROPOSED INTERNATIONAL SCHEME OF SABBATH SCHOOL LESSONS. SOME time since we received from an old and esteemed friend, the Rev. George D. Mathews, formerly a minister of the United Presbyterian Church in Stranraer, and now the pastor of Jane Street U. P. Church, New York, the following communication, recommending a uniform system of Sabbath school lessons in the United States and this country, -- which is also the subject of an article in the Christian Worker, of New York, edited by Mr. Mathews, and briefly noticed in another part of the present number. The following is the principal portion of our friend's letter:
“We have in this country as many 'uniform schemes of lessons and notes' for our Sabbath school teachers as there are centres of Sabbath school activity. These schemes and notes are always published in some Magazine; and for the teachings of the Magazine, or notes, there is no person responsible save the proprietor. An immense amount of very sad teaching is thus scattered over the land. To remedy this, it has been proposed by some of our leading Sabbath school men, to prepare a National Scheme—the notes to be prepared by each denomination for the use of its own schools. The scheme to be printed separately from the notes. This idea has been warmly approved of by Mr. Vincent, secretary of the Methodist Sabbath School Union, Dr. John Hall, Dr. Howard Crosby, and other leading men in this city. It has been suggested that this National Scheme might be made an International one, were our friends in the old country to take part with us in the preparing of the scheme,—the notes, of course, for your use would be prepared, as at present, by yourselves. I have been requested to ask your co-operation in securing the support of the Glasgow Sabbath School Union for this movement. Would it not be a pleasant thought for our teachers, that whilst they in one country were teaching from a certain portion of Scripture, teachers through all English-speaking Protestantdom were using at the same time the same passage? We enjoy the
communion of saints which we partake of during the week of prayer. Would not this be a still grander communion ? May I ask you, therefore, to bring this proposal before the committee of your Glasgow Union; and if its members be willing to look favourably on it, a correspondence could easily be opened. Some of your Sabbath school men will likely visit this country this autumn, and attend the meetings of the Evangelical Alliance; the whole matter might be well considered then.”
In the Worker, published subsequently to the date of this letter, it is mentioned, respecting the proposal :
Already, we believe, the support of our leading Sabbath school men has been obtained for it, and a correspondence opened with the Unions of Great Britain. So soon as the plan has been fully matured, we shall have great pleasure in submitting it to our readers, with a series of notes and illustrations suitable for the United Presbyterian Church.”
At the writer's request, we respectfully submit the proposal to the Directors of the Sabbath School Union, who, in common with the other Unions consulted, will, no doubt, give it due consideration.
BEACONS OF WARNING IN THE AMERICAN SABBATH SCHOOL SYSTEM. We are always happy to take advantage of any opportunity of referring to the exemplary aspects of Sabbath school work in the United States, from which we in this country have a good deal to learn, both as to the estimation in which the institution is held in the Christian Church, the high place it occupies amongst religious organizations, and the sacrifices made by congregations for its comfortable accommodation. But as there are spots in the sun, so we are warned occasionally by the turning up of a new “notion," how the best of objects will run to seed when guided by a zeal without discretion. Whatever may be our faults and shortcomings, we are happily free of such wretched puerilities as the following, which actually threatens to become “popular” on the other side:
“In a recent number of a Sabbath school periodical is an article suggesting, as one of the Sabbath-day exercises, a Post-office for the interchange of letters, books, &c., &c., between the scholars and teachers. The writer states it as his experience, that nothing elicits greater attention from the scholars than when the postmaster, with a tap of the bell, announces, “ Mail's in. The editor of the periodical warmly endorses the plan. (!!)”
All this we call tomfoolery. The mission of the Sabbath school is something infinitely higher than to create such" attention" as this proceeding might awaken. Hold up a lottery-bag in the school, declaring prizes for several scholars, and you will have as much stillness as you please, and precisely the same kind of attention called forth as by this post-office. The attention is that which springs from the hope of receiving a gift, and is in no sense spiritual. When those letters are opened by their recipients, there will be great eagerness to know from whom the letters come, and what was in them—simply, of course, as a matter of curiosity, and to compare them with what they had sent or received. Read in privacy, those letters may be fitted to do good; but interchanged in this ostentatious manner, their moral power must be greatly weakened. “Let not thy right hand know what thy left hand doeth."
Besides, will not "a Post-office in Sunday school" soon prove itself to be “a School for a Sunday Post-office?”
We are sorry to learn, from notices elsewhere, that this suggestion threatens to be popular, and that schools are adopting it. In our eyes, it is worse than nonsense.- New York Christian Worker.
THE TEACHER's Part.-Do we desire to have the dead raised, Lazaruslike, from the sepulchre of their cold indifference and unbelief, and made alive in Christ? Then we must, Mary and Martha-like, bring Christ to them in His living power to save. We may, indeed, have some stone to roll away even then, before the command will be given, and the dead come forth alive to our embrace; but that is only part of the same great work of bringing together the Saviour and those we desire to have Him THE LATE MR. ROBERT BARCLAY. THOSE of our readers who knew the late worthy Mr. Barclay, who, amongst the activities of a Christian life, proved himself so ardent and successful a defender of the Sabbath, will not be displeased with the insertion, although now somewhat out of date, of the following extract from a sermon preached by the Rev. J. Edwards on the occasion of his death last autumn :
"No threatened infraction of the sacred day in any quarter of the empire escaped his notice, whether in the
high places of Parliament, or at the Boards of our public companies. Especially did he recognise the value of the Sabbath to the working-man; and in standing up so manfully for its defence, he shewed himself one of the best friends of those who earn their bread by the sweat of their brow; and who need above all others the rest and refreshment of the day which God has made.' And I am happy to say, that in recompense for this, a Sabbath's blessing seemed to rest upon his closing days and his death-bed experiences, for they were peaceful and tranquil, a kind of type and foretaste of the great Sabbath— the rest that remains for the people of God.' His calm serenity of countenance, his strong trust in God, his perfect peace of mind, continued with him to the last moment of his life. When asked if he felt no darkness obscuring the objects of his faith, his instant reply was, ' No; there is no darkness where there is the presence of God. In this clear and realizing vision of God he may be said to have lived during his long life; and in the full enjoyment of its radiance he seems to have closed his eyes in death. 'Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright, for the latter end of that man is peace;' and let us strive to be followers of those who, through faith and patience, are now inheriting the promises.'
TRAIN YOUR CHILDREN TO A HABIT OF Giving.There is no sin to which human nature is so prone as that of covetousness. Multitudes bow down to money with as much devotion as the heathen does to his ido). Men give themselves no rest until they acquire wealth. How careful, then, ought Christian parents to be, in order to form in their children a liberal disposition ! "It will be in vain that you expect noble things of your children, if your entire conversation and conduct have a direct tendency to crush the generous impulses of their young
hearts. You can make your child a miser, or you can make him a generoushearted benefactor of his race. Form in your children a habit of giving. Cultivate the kindly impulses of the heart. See that they share with their companions whatever good thing they may have. Have a missionary box in your home, and explain to them the object and reasons of giving. Encourage them to give whenever a collection
is taken up in the Sabbath school. Put them in a way of making money of their own for the purpose of giving.-Rev. A. H. Holloway.