Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing (epiphany) of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Titus 2:13
the Lord originally used both spheres as storehouses for the constituents of the bodies of the fifth day's creations. We will now turn our attention briefly to the world of fowl, by which we understand the winged, warm-blooded creation to be meant. These consist of the winged creatures that fly and that do not fly. The latter are mainly what we call domestic fowl, like chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, peacocks, guinea-fowl, etc. Ostriches are examples of fowl that do not fly and that are not domestic fowl. The fowl that fly we call birds, which are a fine part of the Creator's work.
Birds by their power of flying prove that a body heavier than air can overcome gravity to the extent that it can remain for long intervals above the earth in the air. It took man over 6,000 years before he could learn so to overcome gravity. There are perhaps 15,000 species of birds so far discovered and classified; and as man presses on in exploring hitherto unexplored or but scantily explored parts of the earth he still finds new species of the winged tribes. They range in size from the giant condor to the tiny humming bird. Design is shown in their bodily formation, adapting them to aerial flight—beginning at their middle they are wedge-shape, ending forward in a sharp bill and backward in a fanlike tail, whereby they glide through the air with a minimum of resistance. Their lightness, increased by their bones and certain other parts being filled with warm air, conduces to flight. Their flight is accomplished by the downward stroke of their outspread wings on the air, while they fold their wings as they raise them preparatory for another downward stroke, thus diminishing the resistance of the air. Those birds that get their food by diving into the water for it have a set of muscles that contract with great rapidity, expelling the air, which permits them to sink into the water, while those birds that do not have such an apparatus can no more sink than can a cork. The feathery covering given birds is adaptable to their purposes.
This is light, smooth, warm, beautiful and oiled. The oil preserves the other four qualities and keeps birds from becoming wet through and through. In birds we find the greatest diversity. All colors of the rainbow are represented in them as a whole, and usually several colors are seen in each representative of the feathered tribe. Many different forms are represented in this tribe, which we can readily recognize as we mentally run through them from the condor to the humming bird. Here, as well as in the domestic fowl, we see diversity and unity combined. They differ in their habits, habitats, food and social instincts. Each, however, is adapted to his own way of living. E.g., the beak is modified accordingly as to whether the bird is a swimmer, wader, runner, climber, percher, preyer or scratcher. So, too, their feet are adapted to their habits: those that swim are web-footed, those that walk are not web-footed but gifted with widespread and divided toes. Those that perch have feet-muscles that contract automatically so that they hold them steadily on their perches even while they sleep. Those that prey have long, sharp, rough and strong claws suitable to their mode of gaining their food. In these things we recognize the Creator's wisdom and power.
The principle of adaptation in birds is manifest in their internal organs. Grain-eating birds have crops and gizzards adapted to the digestive process working on grains, while birds of prey have a membranous stomach and strong gastric juices adapted to digesting their kind of food. Since their food need not be chewed, moistened or ground, they have no teeth, crops or gizzards. The muscles of birds in wing and tail are proportionately exceptionally strong, evidenced by their much flying. The ostrich can outrun the fastest of beasts. The condor and the eagle can fly higher than Mt. Everest. A falcon has been known to fly 1350 miles in a day. The swift can speed at the rate of 180 miles an hour. The frigate-bird is the fastest
of all. It can cross from North Africa to the U. S. in twelve hours. It has been mathematically demonstrated that a body falls fastest not in a perpendicular line, but in a curve called the cycloid, which is the mode of an eagle's descent from great heights to the earth. So, too, birds in sight, hearing and smelling excel all other animals. It is the eagle's keenness and length of sight that occasioned God to use it as a symbol of His wisdom. Birds of carrion can see and scent their food many miles away. The organs of hearing in birds are proportionately much larger and keener than those of any other animal.
In intelligence they are remarkable, as can be seen from their building their nests in the best and safest places, from their adapting their nests to the needs, comfort and development of their young, from their varying habits of migration, from their ability to learn tricks, such as canaries can do, from their habits of imitation of almost every sound of the human voice, such as mocking birds can do and from their habits of imitating human speech, such as the parrot can do, and that often in a way as to show considerable reason. One could say the Lord's prayer in Dutch. An authentic story is told of a gander that acted as a guide to a blind old lady in Germany by pulling her skirts with his bill in the required direction, habitually leading her from her home to the church Sundays, ushering her to her pew, then retiring from the church during the service, to feed on the church lawn, and returning at the conclusion of the service, would lead his charge from her pew to her home. The memory of birds is vivid. They will return to their former abodes left at the beginning of their migration, when it is ended, as they always migrate to the same locality. So, too, they excel in voice. Their vocal organs are remarkably organized to sing their varied songs. How the nightingale, the mocking bird, the canary and the lark have delighted human ears that rejoice in harmonious
and sweet songs! Who has not felt invigorated in body and mind by the choruses of the meadows and woods intoned by these happy songsters? Each variety of birds has its own peculiar song, which by variety lends all the more delight to the woodlands. And their evident joy in singing indicates that they have pleasure in one another's songs. Their voices have remarkable power for carrying, both in height and distance. The lark ascending in its spiral course can be heard long after it has disappeared from sight, and on the level its voice carries easily over half a mile, which means that they communicate circular waves to the air a mile in diameter! Where is the beast, not even the lion, that can make himself heard farther than this? It proves that perfect balance between the explosive power and nerve force issues from their throats, inasmuch as voice is the balanced proportion of air and nerve force exploding on the surface of the throat. Thus the Creator has worked out wonderfully the principle of design and adaptation in the various endowments of the feathered races. In this the creative wisdom and power of God is seen.
One of the most remarkable things in bird experience is their mating. Early in the spring those not yet mated choose their mates. We say that those not yet mated choose their mates early in the spring; for in almost all species of birds they pair for life; and certainly their courtships are most noteworthy and interesting. They go about it in dead earnest, and give an example of courtship experience that outrivals that of the ordinary human male and female in their courtship. In their married life they are certainly examples of faithfulness, mutual love and kindness. From the eagle to the pigeon, from the condor to the humming bird, with rare exceptions, such conditions prevail. This can daily be observed, e.g., from pigeon couples. They mourn each other's death; and often the dove refuses to mate again, though sometimes she does after
a long period of mourning. A case is on record of a canary that fell dead while singing to his incubating mate, which flying to him and finding him dead refused to eat and starved at his side. If a female pelican proves unfaithful to her mate, the other females of the neighborhood gather, hold a council over it; and after discussion, if they decide on the death of the faithless one, they fly to her and peck her to death. But sometimes they declare her guilty with mitigating circumstances, in which case they banish her from their neighborhood. Accordingly, with rare exceptions, birds are neither polygamous, polyandrous, unfaithful, nor promiscuous; and in this they certainly preach a wholesome and needed lesson to humans. Thus God has creatively endowed the winged tribes with a high sexual and conjugal morality.
Once paired, birds go about the work of building nests for themselves and more particularly for their expected offsprings. It is remarkable how they choose the location for their nests. Here a great variety in kind of the location of their nests prevails, and that according to the varying conditions of climate, comfort and safety adaptable to each variety. The main thing sought is evenness of warmth for incubation. The strong and predatory birds are not so particular as to climate, comfort or safety for their fledglings as the weaker and preyed-upon birds are. Hence the eagle, the hawk, the emeu and the osprey build rough, exposed and uncouth nests, they depending on the size of their bodies to communicate enough warmth for incubation and on the strength of their young to endure the hardness of their nests; but the goldfinch, the thrush and the wren, whose little bodies can communicate but little warmth take much care in the construction of their nests to insure comfort and safety against cold. And their nests are architectural wonders, considering their builders. The ostrich makes a hole in the tropical sands and there deposits
her eggs; but the eider duck, in the colds of the polar regions, tears out the down of her own body to make the nests of her young warm. Great skill is used by birds in constructing their "home, sweet home." The woodpecker after examining many trees selects the best for his purpose, cuts out a well measured and symmetrical hole, inclined for six inches, and then straight downward for ten inches more. The entrance is no larger than will admit snugly the body of these birds; inside, however, the den is much more capacious, and is as to its surface, smooth as though cut out by a machine. Woodpeckers usually carry the "chips" quite a distance away from the tree so as not to betray the whereabouts of their home. The South American woodpecker goes about his nest-building in another way, because he must guard his young against snakes and monkeys. He uses Spanish moss as his main building material, then chooses the most distant and weakest branch obtainable and builds at its end, upon which a monkey or snake would not venture for fear of its breaking and plunging him to the earth. It builds strands of rope out of the Spanish moss and mucilages this rope to the end of the chosen branch with a sticky substance that it finds in the forest. Then at the end of this rope it builds a pouch that serves as a nest. Here the eggs are laid and hatched; and if a wind blows this nest back and forth—well, it is a "rock-a-bye baby on the tree top," however, with ne'er a fall; and if snakes and monkeys seek prey thereon, they seek it in vain, for they dare not go out so far on so fragile and swaying a branch. The tailor-bird beats them all in skill and caution. It sews with its bill and fine fibers a dead leaf to a live one and out of this makes a pocket-like nest capable of bearing its less than a quarter-ounce weight and its young!
As all know, birds are oviparous—breed by eggs. The predatory birds lay few and thus propagate sparsely, while those that are preyed upon lay many.
Thus the Creator has arranged for a balance to be preserved among the feathered tribes. The work of incubation is carried on wondrously. The mother bird usually sits on the eggs, while her mate stands by encouraging her with his songs and antics. Then he flies away in search of food for the brooding mother and brings it to her to her delectation. If she desires a change or exercise or a hunt for food, her mate takes her place on the eggs and remains there until she returns. At night they sleep side by side in the nest and thus neutralize by more warmth the comparative coolness of the night. The mother instinct in the female bird makes her willingly give up the pleasures, songs and pranks of courtship and nest building days in the long, patient self-denials of incubation. She covers the eggs well, equalizes the heat by turning them at regular intervals, until her pains receive as her gains the little ones. And with what joy do the parent birds greet their young! With what tender affection do they treat them! And with what busy and self-denying labor do they seek and give food to their young, whose large open mouths are ever ready to receive the grub, the worm, the berry, the cherry, or other succulent morsel that parental love and care have secured for them! And when the fledglings leave the nest, with what care the parent birds teach them to fly, to be on their guard against predatory enemies and to learn to secure their necessary food! And if danger approach, what care and stratagems do the parent birds exercise to protect their young! On one occasion we saw parent robins seeking to give one of their offsprings a start in life. Unknown to the parents a cat watched them, especially the young. The cat stealthily approached; the parents were not aware of any danger; we sought to intervene to protect the fledgling. In a second the mother bird flung herself between the little one and us, very near to us, but so as to avoid being caught and then retreated
from us in a direction away from her young, pretending that one of her wings and one of her legs were broken, and seeking to draw us on after her and away from her precious charge; but we made for the young bird and got it just in time to save it from the cat, which felt the impact of a vigorous kick administered by a foot that had in adolescence been strong in football playing. Instantly the birds recognized in us a savior of their young. Their attitude of fear and strategy quickly changed into joyous gratitude and expectant faith, which were, as soon as the danger no more threatened, rewarded by the release of their young robin. Their rushing to it in strong affection and wholesome joy showed in another form their parental love. When the parental labors and responsibilities of the bird mates are over, by the easing up of life's labors and cares they remind us of the easing up of life that we observe in human parents who have successfully launched on the sea of life the fruit of their wedded love. In the many families and tribes of bird life we recognize the fulfillment of some of the words of our text: "And God blessed them, saying … let fowl multiply in the earth" (v. 22). We could write more on birds as God's creative works, but this will suffice for our present purpose. Surely in the fowl world God's wisdom and power are displayed.
And now we will turn briefly to a consideration of the insect world as a part of God's creative works. Since most of these fly their creation may be considered as included in the word fowl, if used in the widest sense, of things with wings; otherwise we would have to conclude that the record of their creation is omitted entirely from the history of creation as contained in Gen. 1: 1—2: 4. The thought of such an omission is, we think, not to be entertained, especially when we call to mind two of the most interesting members of the insect world—ants and bees. It has been suggested that there are from 2,000,000 to
3,000,000 species of insects. Be this as it may, there certainly are many of these. Every one of them is susceptible of thorough study, such as would require volumes to describe to exhaustion. Herein again we see the marvels of Divine wisdom and power illustrated. Some insects are exceedingly numerous, e.g., locusts, which at times have increased to untold numbers, as witness the pertinent plague upon Egypt. A case on record of an army of them in Southern Africa covering an area of 2,000 square miles; part of these were drowned in a broad river, which was so fully covered by them as to make the water invisible. Then a strong wind blew the rest into the sea, whose billows washed them back to the shore, where they were piled three feet high along many miles of the coast. The kingdom of ants, in great variety, is also very numerous. Insects have many habits like large animals and live and act in all essential matters very much like them. They can swim, dive, walk, run, leap, jump, creep and fly, like other animals. Yet they have movements peculiar to themselves. So complicated is their structure that years of study of but one of them do not exhaust the subjects presented to a scientist for investigation. A scientist in the body of one insect found 306 plates in the outer envelope of its structure, 494 muscles putting these plates into action, 24 pairs of nerves and 48 pairs of breathing organs. The finest thread of a spider's web is said to be composed of 4,000 strands. On the wing of one butterfly 100,000 scales were counted and 400,000 on that of a silkworm moth. These are certainly wondrous products of Divine wisdom and power. Their bodies are remarkably formed. Usually they have six legs and four wings; most of them have antennae-feelers, an awl, a proboscis and in some cases a sting. Their mouths have various members: some have biting jaws, some have a piercing proboscis, some have suckers, some have licking tongues, some have cutting lancets, some
have sharp saws and some have stings. The microscope reveals many wonders in these. They have no mouths, but breathe through spiral holes in their sides, these holes differing in number in different species.
In discussing insects it must be said that they have the same senses as other animals. Usually they feel by antennae. The bee illustrates their power to smell, since he scents the honey from afar; so does the fly that smells corruption at a great distance, thousands of times his length. They hear distinctly and their possession of taste is evident from their choosing delicacies and rejecting nauseous things. Their sight is powerful and many of them have multiple eyes, as illustrated by the multitude of lenses in the great eyes of flies, all of which are so many eyes, ranging from 4,000 in the house-fly to 13,500 in the dragon fly and to 25,000 in the queen bee. Insects, like bees and ants, have ways of talking to one another, both by sound and by signs. E.g., when the queen bee dies or is stolen, those who know it give by sound and touch the alarm to others and soon the greatest agitation sets in. The ants communicate even more with one another than bees. Both ants and bees have sentinels and police. When the ant sentinels see an enemy approach they communicate this by bumping the corselet of every ant they meet, with their heads. Each one in turn does the same to others. Soon some rush to repel the invader, while the others hide the eggs and larvae. Most insects manifest love, hatred, sorrow, happiness, fear, anger, sympathy, appreciation, secretiveness, etc. For their size they are strong indeed, often bearing or pushing objects many times heavier than themselves. The speed of movement in some of them is often faster than the fleetest racehorse. Some of them can stop at once, no matter how fast they are flying. Thousands of bees hang upon one another without tearing out the feet of the upper ones. Their strength is seen in the many times
greater than their size they are able to leap. If a horse could leap in proportion to the size and leap of a flea, he could at one bound leap higher than Mt. Everest and across our continent. They are mainly oviparous and usually pass through four stages of being: (1) in eggs, (2) as grubs, maggots or caterpillars, (3) as a chrysalis and (4) as adult insects. The butterfly is a well-known illustration of this fourth state of being. They are fertile beyond comprehension, as can be seen in the case of the queen bee and the queen ant, the former laying in one season 40,000 to 50,000 eggs, and the queen white ant laying 86,400 eggs a day and 2,592,000 in a month, the record of any animal above animalcules.
The bee and the ant are decidedly the most interesting of insects and of these two the ant leads the more complicated and developed life. Hence Solomon's advice to the sluggard: "Go to the ant, thou sluggard, consider her ways and be wise." (Prov. 6: 6) Both of them live a highly developed social life. E.g., certain of the ants have what is called a marriage flight, during which there is a courting. Then the marriage takes place; and thereafter copulation. In the meantime the soldier and worker ants of the colony are divided into as many equally numbered groups as there are females in the marriage flight. Each group is assigned to one of these females after the copulation takes place. These eat off her wings, then make ready a home for her, ever enlarging it as the eggs that the queen ant lays increase, as the larvae come forth and as the ants in four groups are developed. The workers receive the least nourishment and consequently are the smallest members of the ant colony. Next come the soldiers, which are given more nourishment. Next come the males that are destined for marriage and that by more nourishment are grown larger than the soldiers. Finally come the females that are destined to become queen ants and that by the
most nourishment are grown four times the size of the workers. The workers gather food, build the apartments and corridors of the home and take care of it and the young ants. The soldiers do sentinel work and fight the battles with intruders and other ants, often taking ants captives, which are enslaved, but treated so well as to love their masters and new homes. The breeding males are drones, whose end comes after copulation with the prospective queen ants. They have funerals, the burials always occurring away from their abodes, games, dances, banquets, courts, prisons, executions. In fact, they have an elaborate social life. The bee is only a little below the ant in the social life that they lead. Many details could be given on other features of insect existence, but enough has been given to show the glory of God's creative wisdom and power in their creation and preservation.
Thus we come to the end of the fifth creative day's work. Surely the facts given above prove that what God then created was good—useful, ornamental and diversified. Yea, all God's works, even those that are the lowest of His animal creation, praise Him and enhance Him in our gratitude, appreciation, love, worship and adoration!
"O dreary life!" we cry, "O dreary life!"
And still the generations of the birds
Sing through our sighing, and the flocks and herds
Serenely live while we are keeping strife
With Heaven's true purpose in us, as a knife
Against which we may struggle. Ocean girds
Unslackened the dry land: savanna-swards
Unweary sweep: hills watch, unworn; and rife
Meek leaves drop yearly from the forest-trees,
To show above the unwasted stars that pass
In their old glory. O thou God of old!
Grant me some smaller grace than comes to these;—
But so much patience as a blade of grass
Grows by, contented through the heat and cold.