Psalm 84:4
The sparrow and the swallow told of here are apt types of those servants of God who find in him what these birds found in the temple. The comparison of the soul of one of God's people to a bird is not unusual (see Psalm 11.). Note -

I. SOME OF THEIR CHARACTERISTICS.

1. Such as are negative. They are not distinguished, like the eagle and many others, but of a very humble and lowly sort; nor powerful and strong; nor beautiful; nor valuable - "Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing?" - nor numerous, that is, in comparison with the vast multitude of birds generally; nor, in themselves, attractive and beloved, like the dove. But neither are they cruel like the eagle, nor "foul like the vulture, nor greedy as the cormorant, nor bloodthirsty as the hawk, nor hardhearted as the ostrich, nor depending upon men for support as the fowls of the farmyard, nor loving darkness like the owl" (Spurgeon). All these negative qualities suggest the opposite ones in those who delight in God. But there are also:

2. Such as are positive. They are the lowly ones, restless till they find their home; seekers, - they "find" the rest they desire; true to their homes; trustful, - in what strange places their nests are often found, under the eaves of cottages, and in all manner of accessible places, where any one could reach them, but they seem to trust that no one will harm them! Are not these characteristics like those of the souls of whom these birds are the types?

II. THEIR ENCOURAGEMENTS.

1. There are the altars of God for them; they have not to provide such home.

2. When they come they are never driven away.

III. THEIR DISCOVERIES. They find:

1. A habitation, strong, comfortable, abiding.

2. A home. The Church is a home for the soul.

IV. THEIR YOUNG. Their home is in the courts of the Lord. So will the faithful servants of God seek that their offspring shall find their home in the Church of God. "Children should be housed in the house of God. The sanctuary of God should be the nursery of the young." Happy those children whose parents seek for this above all else! - S.C.







Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house: they will be still praising Thee.
1. The means of grace are prized in proportion to the difficulty or danger in the way of their enjoyment. The Scottish Covenanters would not be absent from public worship, although to be present at a conventicle was to brave not only oftentimes winter cold and storm under the open sky, but as well the cruel death that threatened them as law-breakers. Shall we not appear to our less favoured brethren to be the spoilt children of too many mercies?

2. The psalmist's utterance also illustrates the universal disposition among men to think they see in the lot assigned to others benefits and advantages greater than anything they themselves enjoy. Much of this discontent and murmuring has no better justification than an erroneous estimate of the prosperity and happiness of others. A little reflection would show it to be unworthy and mean-spirited. Instead of saying, "Happy are those others," and allowing discontent to embitter our spirit, let us look around, and, seeing what others lack and suffer, say gratefully, "Happy are we." Not envy, but loving, self-forgetting sympathy will be the passion stirred in our hearts. The pilgrim is not justified in supposing that those who remain in God's house are so much better off religiously than himself. After all, it is not constant and close association with sacred things that makes a man blessed. The following three verses (5-7) effectively enforce this lesson. They are best understood as the reply of the Temple ministers to the pilgrim's exclamation, "Happy are they that dwell in Thy house!" These do not seek to make out that they are not happy, but with quiet dignity they perform the useful and needful service of drawing the man's attention to his own happiness. "Nay," say they, "not only those who dwell in God's house are happy. Happy is every man whose strength the Lord is, and very specially such as are pilgrims on the highways with. gladness in their heart." The pilgrim limits the conditions of happiness unduly. All who put their trust in God, pilgrims like himself, are as fortunate as they. Happy is the priest and happy is the pilgrim!

(A. S. Laidlaw, B. D.)

I. THERE IS A PLACE PECULIARLY DISTINGUISHED AS THE HOUSE OF GOD. Jehovah planned, built, furnished and inhabits it.

II. THERE ARE PERSONS WHO FIND AN ABIDING RESIDENCE IN IT. This implies —

1. The most ardent attachment to it.

2. Constant attendance upon it.

3. The greatest enjoyment in it.

III. SUCH CHARACTERS ARE TRULY BLESSED.

1. From the nature of their employment. Praise.

2. From its perpetuity.

(T. Spencer.)

I. A SACRED SCENE. What though wealth may have poured no tribute to enrich it? what though art may have conferred no labour to adorn it? what though nobility may have allowed no patronage to sanction it? what though royalty may have pronounced no decree to exalt it? what though there be no ceremonial of gorgeous pomp to decorate its ritual, and no thrilling notes of scientific harmony to reverberate through long-drawn aisles and lofty domes, melting the passions by its charm, and swaying the senses on the side of salvation? — yet let there be the open voice of inspiration, let there be the prayer of the penitent and the hymn of the grateful, let there be the voice of the living ministry "declaring the whole counsel of God," and expounding the Gospel of His grace — and there angel bands descend and hover, the "ministering spirits" of the place, and there God pronounces, as of old, in solemn approval, "This is my rest for ever, here will I dwell, for I have desired it."

II. A DELIGHTFUL FACT. The house of God is the scene of —

1. Instruction.

2. Comfort.

3. Fellowship with God.

4. Preparation for heaven.Here it is, you plume your souls for "the glory, which is yet to be revealed in you"; and it is but a trifling distance that separates you from the consummation, when you shall stand in the presence of God. "Blessed," then, "are they that dwell in His house."

III. As APPROPRIATE ENJOYMENT. "Still praising "God —

1. When you tell verbally of His goodness.

2. As you render personal consecration to His service.

3. By advocating with others the claims of His house and cause.

(J. Parsons.)

It is early morning. A party of pilgrims are drawing nigh to the Holy City. They have come from afar to pay their vows in the house of the Lord. They catch sight of the golden sheen from the eastern front of the Temple as it flashes in the morning light, and break out into song. "O how lovely are Thy dwellings, O Lord of hosts." But as the pilgrim still toils on his way and climbs the long ascent, hot, wearied, travel-stained, his throat choked with the sands of the desert, his tongue parched with thirst, he cannot help contrasting his position with that of the fortunate servants of the Temple. There they are constantly and without effort where he can be but once or twice in his life, and then only at great sacrifice of time, energy, comfort. It takes him days of wearisome and exhausting travel to come and pay his vows, while the priest, and even the doorkeeper have nothing to do but to tumble out of bed at the last minute and they are on the spoil He can only stay amid these delightful scenes a few days at the most, and must then return to the tents of wickedness, where it is so hard to keep a conscience void of offence. The Temple servants, on the other hand, can hardly fail to be good. They dwell always in the gracious and heavenly atmosphere of the Temple courts, and continually engage in sanctifying and delightful duties. How enviable their lot! "Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house, they are constantly praising Thee." The priest, the Levite, and the doorkeeper are at their customary duty. The pilgrim song strikes on their car. They cannot help pausing a moment. How fresh and sincere it sounds! What genuine and holy passion! "My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord." And now again that note of exaltation and rapture, "My King and my God!" The old doorkeeper looks at the aged priest. They are both in their fortieth year of service. They have never departed from the Temple, each engaged in his same round of duties all the time. They read and share each other's thoughts. "Ah!" sighs the priest, "for the pilgrim's experience! He is visiting the holy spot, not because he has to be here, but because he has a strong desire to come. What adventures he has had on the way! What perils confronted and difficulties surmounted! And now he is here, and sees everything for the first time. All is fresh, full of novelty and interest, reality and zest. I, poor wight, have been doing these same duties for forty years! And I am bound to fulfil them, whether in the mood or not. It is long enough since I had a new idea, or felt the breath of a fresh inspiration. Behold what a weariness in the monotonous reiteration of even holy duty! Would I could change places with these pilgrims!" "Blessed is the man who finds such strength in Thee, who has it in his heart to make a pilgrimage to Zion." So it is all the world over, in religious and in daily life! We see the desirable things of the lot of another and the hardships of our own. "To this side of the river," says the Hindu proverb, "that side looks green." But cross the river and see! Have you not in walking along a street after a heavy shower of rain often noticed that the other side was far drier than the puddly pavement you were treading? So to avoid walking in the water you have crossed the road, but your feet got wet nevertheless! Many a young Christian, harassed and tempted at his daily work, thinks how fine it must be to be a minister. Well, so it is. But the position must not be judged by the parade day. It might be a good thing for him to be a minister just for one week. Lots are more equally divided than we think, and it is well that we should be initiated into the secret of St. Paul, who had learnt in whatsoever state he was therein to be content. For we may be well assured that if we are not content in our own lot we never should be in that of any one else. From the opinion of others we may learn some of the advantages our own calling possesses. The pilgrim tells the Temple servant for what he envies him, the Temple servant can show the pilgrim the compensation of his position. And the wise-hearted will heed the criticism. The sage bids us not to leave the ills we have to fly to those we know not of. The pilgrim must see the grand compensation of his lot. He cannot always be engaged offering the sacrifices of the sanctuary. But let him remember that life's redeeming and renewing ministry is not confined to the hours or places of worship. "Look," says the priest, surveying the wilderness which the pilgrim has sorrowfully trodden; "passing through the valley of weeping they make it a place of springs." In the wilderness of the world, through which God's people pass as strangers and pilgrims, their struggles are sacrificial, their tears life-giving. They wander in the wilderness in a desert way, hungry and thirsty, their souls faint in them, but as they go through it they turn the wilderness into a pool of water and the dry land into a spring of water. All that come after them bless God for the sighs and tears, the struggles and pains of those that went before, for they find that the desert has rejoiced and blossoms as the rose. You bewail the wickedness of your generation or the neighbourhood in which you live, or the business place you work in. You sigh and say, Woe is me that I dwell in the tents of wickedness; I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord. Already you are a doorkeeper of the house of the Lord. If ever the people among whom your lot is east are to hear of Christ and see the Kingdom of Heaven opened, it is by your witness and Christly ministry among them. Christ is the Door, and, if I may so say, you are the Door-keeper. That is your privilege, your great opportunity. You may be the only one on the pilgrimage in your neighbourhood, or family, or place of business. But you will not long be. For as you pass oh your way your cheery courage, your prayers, your sorrows and struggles shall, by God's grace, avail to change the face of the dark spot in the midst of which He has placed you and to make the wilderness into a fruitful field.

(F. L. Wiseman.)

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