There be four things which, are little upon the earth, but they are exceeding wise. PROV. xxx. 24.

THE ancient sage was safe in saying that " There be four things which are little upon the earth, yet exceeding wise." If he had lived in our time, he might have multiplied the four by fifty thousand, and yet the saying would have fallen within the limits of human knowledge. The world has made great progress in three thousand years. And still the wisest of men have much to learn from the little things of the earth. The research of modern times has discovered millions of living creatures so small that the unassisted eye of man has never seen them the sagacious mind of Solomon and the masterly genius of Aristotle never suspected their existence. And the more we know of their nature and habits, the more we wonder at the wisdom and power which God has conferred upon the little things of earth. If we compare ourselves with creatures that are counted a pest and crushed without a thought, we shall find that in many respects they have greatly the advantage of us. The sum of faculties* bestowed upon man is indeed immensely greater; and yet in some one particular he may be surpassed by the Lm

178 LITTLE THI GS. least and lowest of the brute creation. He has all the prerogatives of power and intellect fitting him to be crowned with glory and honor, and to have all things put under his feet the beast of the field, the fowl of the air and the fish of the sea. And yet he may see much to excite his wonder and admiration in the worm of the dust and the insect of a day. If we could move through the air with as great relative speed as the common house-fly, we could cross the Atlantic Ocean and return in the time that we spend at our breakfast-table every morning. Look out of a railway car when it is in the most rapid motion on a summer's day, and you will see winged creatures sporting in the air, moving up and down, backward and forward, keeping abreast of you all the while, just as if the car were standing still. The speed of sixty miles an hour counts for nothing with the little creature that plays at the window, apparently without making an extra stroke of the wing to keep up with the flying train. If we could walk on the earth at as rapid a relative gait, or change our position with as great agility, as insects that we hate and crush whenever we find them, we could spring to the top of the tallest steeple at a single bound we could make the fable of the giant taking a fifth of a mile at a step more a reality than a fiction. If we could build ships that would carry us at as great a comparative speed as the boat-fly skims the surface of the water, we could leave our homes at


noon, pass around the whole circumference of the earth, and return with the meridian sun directly above us all the way. Our progress would keep pace with the movement of the day, and we should only need to keep going to experience a literal fulfillment of the promise, " Thy sun shall no more go down." If our houses of worship were as large and strong in proportion to the size of the builders as the structures reared by the termites in Africa, we should be covered by domes rising five thousand feet above our heads, we should pass 4n and out through doors and arches four times higher than the highest church-spire in city or country, and our roofs would be strong enough to support the weight of a million men. If we grew as fast from birth as the silkworm, we should equal the size of the elephant in a month, and we should devour food enough to support an army of three thousand men. If our organs of vision were only as numerous and complex as those of the butterfly, we should have sixty thousand perfect eyes set in our brows to catch every hue and form of the view before us, and an extra pair to serve as watch-towers on the top of the head. If our vocal organs were as strong proportionally as those of the canary bird, we could make ourselves heard farther than the cannonade of Gettysburg or Waterloo without straining our voices. If our bodies were as well protected against violence as those of some creatures no bigger than a pin's head, we could stand all the cannon-shot in the world, and

180 LITTLE THI GS. mind it as little as we now mind the smallest particle of dust that is blown in our faces by the wind. I run over these comparative estimates simply to show that the infinite God has not gone to the extent

of his power in making us the creatures that we are. We have only to examine the little things of earth to learn that he has bestowed on them some one form of intelligence or power vastly superior to the corresponding faculty bestowed on us. The sum of God's gifts to man in his whole spiritual and immortal nature is indeed infinitely greater than all bestowed upon the brute. But he has endowed the smallest creatures with some one faculty in greater measure, to show us how easily he could increase our capacities for action and enjoyment a thousand-fold, and not do anything more difficult for him or wonderful to us than he is doing all around us every day. The vulture scents its food, the eagle sees its prey, the bee builds its cell, the spider spins its web, the swallow seeks its home, with an accuracy which would be nothing less than miraculous in man. God has bestowed, in separate gifts, upon the smallest creatures a degree of power and intelligence and activity which, if combined in one and given to man, would enable him to hurl the mountains into the sea and shake the foundations of the earth. These present limitations of our faculties are evidently designed to guard against abuse. If our present faculties were suddenly enlarged, and our command over the elements of nature

LITTLE THI GS. 181 wore proportionally increased, we should be like children playing with fire without knowing its quick and terrible power. Our Father is too wise and kind to give us faculties which we should only use in destroying ourselves. When the spirits of the just have been made perfect, it will be safe and easy for the Giver of all gifts to enlarge their capacities a thousand-fold. They may

then be made like the cherubim, full of eyes to survey the universe with an all-pervading vision. They may move with the speed of the lightning in any direction and to any distance they please and nothing have power to oppose their progress. They may be able to work without weariness and without rest, and always find pleasant and profitable work to do. They may be so perfectly guarded against accident and injury that neither fire nor flood nor force of any kind can hurt them. Knowledge may come to them as easily as it came to Adam in Paradise as easily as instinct comes to the bird and the bee. All this wondrous enlargement of faculty may God bestow upon man in the new heavens and the new earth. And the extraordinary gifts which he has already bestowed upon the little things of the earth lead us to expect that he will give more and greater to his redeemed and immortal children. He who gives a small insect power to fly over a thousand miles of ocean without resting, can surely give the soul of man power to pass from world to world with the speed of

182 LITTLE THI GS. liglit and with a wing that never tires. He who forms fifty thousand perfect eyes for the use of a creature that lives and dies in a day, may surely give more than five senses to that spiritual body which shall never die. The Bible says, Eye hath not seen, ear hath uot heard, heart hath not conceived the greatness and the glory of the home which God hath prepared for those that love him. But let our present faculty of vision be enlarged fifty thousand-fold ; let our ears be opened to take in the divine harmonies that roll through the eternal space from world to world ; let our minds be

gifted with angelic power to wander through immensity, where height and depth are lost in the infinite blaze of careering suns, and then the little world in which we now live, with all its fields of glory and parade of power, will seem like a half-forgotten dream when the night is past. This earth, which we now tread upon, and which seems so great with its voiceful seas and eternal mountains, will seem like a single mote in the sunbeam when we have the eye to see and the mind to measure the immensities of creation. The happiest hour of this earthly life will be remembered as the faint gleam of a falling star amid the splendors of that day to which there shall be no night. And all the mystic power and hidden wisdom of these little things of earth are appointed to raise our hearts and hopes to that glorious state when the perfect shall come and the partial shall be done away.

LITTLE THI GS. 183 It is the little things of earth that impress us most with the great power of God. When we look up to the starry heavens, when we wander among the solitudes of snow-clad mountains, when we survey the vast and melancholy sea, we feel ourselves to be standing in the presence of the Infinite. We are awed and elevated by sensible contact with the mighty workmanship of the eternal Mind. But in that case we are prepared for the emotions which we experience. We expect to be moved because we have designedly presented ourselves in the holy place, where Divine Power enthrones itself in the height and depth of its great works. But we have no such preparation of mind and heart for the contemplation of the Infinite when we seek it in the little things of the earth. We are startled and confounded when we see what unconquerable energy,

what mysterious intelligence, what resistless power, what invulnerable life God has conferred upon things &o small that it has taken the keenest science and the mightiest instruments to discover their existence. And some of these little things, that were large enough to be named in the meagre science of Solomon, are described in the prophetic word with every expression of power and sublimity. When they are sent forth in great numbers as a scourge upon the earth, they become more resistless and terrible to man than the earthquake, the pestilence or the storm. " The locusts," says the wise man, " have no king, yet

154 LITTLE THI GS. go they forth all of them by bands." They form in compact ranks, like the battalions of a disciplined army, and they march at the command of a divine and mysterious will. One spirit rules through the mighty hosts, and they come in numbers without number countless as the snow-flakes and dark as the clouds. It is impossible to imagine the greatness of the multitude. The advancing column has been known to be five hundred miles in length. In one instance a traveler directed his course across their line of motion, and he rode forty miles before he reached the edge of the living stream. When they travel on the earth they cover everything as completely as the deep river fills its bed. When they fly in the air they darken the sun, and the sound of their wings is as the sound of many waters. o green thing is left in the path of their march, and the earth behind them is scorched and burnt as if it had been swept by devouring fire. At morn the peasant looks forth from his cottage door upon cultivated fields and laden orchards and blooming gardens. At noon the army of locusts has passed, and there is not a flower or green leaf or a blade of grass to be seen in

the whole landscape. The desolation produced by armies is nothing compared to the ravages of locusts. Famine and pestilence follow their march. The hearts of men are hardened with hunger. The dead lie unburied in their own houses, and the living devour each other in their madness and misery. The Arabs of ancient and modern times ascribe to

LITTLE THI GS. 185 these little creatures the terror and power of the strongest beasts of the earth. They say they have the face of a horse, the eyes of an elephant, the neck of a bull, the horns of a deer, the chest of a lion, the belly of a scorpion, the wings of an eagle, the thighs of a camel, the feet of an ostrich and the tail of a serpent. The prophet Joel says they have the teeth of lions, the appearance of horsemen and of strong people set in battle array. They run like mighty men, and their march is like the noise of chariots upon the mountains. The earth quakes before them, the heavens tremble, the sun and moon are darkened and the stars withdraw their shining. When they appear advancing by millions of millions it seems as if the dust of the earth had been made all alive. There is no escape from the moving column. " It is terrific, irresistible, universal, overwhelming penetrating everywhere, overspreading all things, excluded by nothing." The Emperor Alexander of Russia once sent out an army of thirty thousand men in the \ain effort to stop their progress. They sweep across the plain and flow up the mountain side and descend the steep like a cataract. They roll over rocks and walls, houses and hedges, filling up the trenches that have been dug and putting out the fires that have been kindled to stop them. They enter windows and doors

and chimneys, covering beds and tables and furniture, filling all wells and springs and fountains of water. They descend into the deepest valleys. They flow over

186 LITTLE THI GS. mountains fourteen thousand feet high. They defy alike sword and spear and cannon. They pass right through the ranks of armies. They plunder the camp of the conqueror as easily as the garden of the peasant. They pass over city walls, they penetrate fortresses and palaces as easily as they traverse the open plain. They are omnipresent, like the pestilence ; they are resistless, like the tornado ; they are mysterious, like the judgments of God. And these little things of the earth show us how minute and resistless and pervasive is the power which governs the world. When God would send the most terrible scourge upon disobedient nations, he does not need to shake the heavens with mighty thunders or to call forth fountains and cataracts of fire from the bosom of the earth. He does not need to cast the mountains into the sea or cause the deep to overwhelm the land. He need only breathe upon the small dust of the ground, and the air shall be darkened and the earth shall be desolated by millions of millions of living creatures, whose march no force or skill of man can stop, whose appetite no fruit of the garden or field or vineyard can satisfy. The smallest and most contemptible creatures become terrible and resistless in the hands of Him who can call them in countless myriads, and command them to carry destruction and desolation wherever they go. The man of science cannot tell how or where the mighty armies are raised. The man of power cannot prevent their coming. The man of

LITTLE THI GS. 187 faith can only submit and say, This is the finger of God. And there are little things of earth which are even more mysterious and not less mighty. Within our memory a strange blight came upon a single plant in Ireland, and the wail of starving millions was sent around the world. And yet the cause of that terrible calamity was one of the little things which God uses in his great works. It was so minute, so mysterious, that the wisest men, by long and deep searching, and the most philanthropic, by the offer of great reward, have not yet found out its nature or origin. They have not yet discovered any means of checking its ravages. The rust, the mildew and the weevil are among the least of living things on the earth. The wisest of men know little of their nature. And yet God needs no mightier ministers of vengeance to destroy the food of nations and make millions mourn. A living dust forms on the bearded grain, and broad fields of wheat yield nothing but straw and stubble in the time of harvest. A little fly comes out of the earth and stings the forming fruit, and the husbandman cuts down his orchard in despair. A little brown creature, whose body is no more than a quarter of an inch long, goes out to sport in the pine forests of the South; and thousands of acres of trees, as goodly as the cedars of Lebanon, are changed to a wilderness of lifeless trunks and leafless branches. The ocean is sometimes red and green and yellow


over many miles of its surface. Sometimes it rises and swells in waves of silvery light, as if the whole surface were moulded and medallioned in fire. Sometimes the enow in Arctic regions is crimsoned with the hue of blood, as if it had been made the battle-field of nations. And the color and the light in all these cases comes from the presence of countless living creatures, so small that five millions could march abreast in a compact line along a street of moderate breadth. And it is by the toil of these small creatures that God is ever changing and rebuilding the earth. The bottom of the sea is their burial-ground, piled so high with their bodies that in some places they come to the surface and make islands for trees to grow upon and living men to gather in cities and kingdoms. They have built up a breakwater more than a thousand miles long to keep the sea from devouring the shore of Australia. o skill or toil of man could have raised so strong and enduring a barrier against the ceaseless onset of the waves. Whole ranges of mountains are made of the skeletons of creatures so small that we need the highest powers of the microscope to see any sign of organization in the handful of dust which is nothing but millions of their bodies. The fine powder of polishing slate is nothing but the unbroken and perfectly-formed shells of once living creatures, so small that forty thousand millions are contained in a cubic inch of the stone. The city of Richmond is built upon a bed of flinty marl, the whole mass of which,

LITTLE THI GS. 189 twenty-five feet deep, was once alive with cieatures a thousandth part of an inch in length. The flint that strikes fire on the face of steel is made of the minute skeletons of creatures that once lived and enjoyed life

as we live and move to-day. The sand of the great Sahara in Africa is an ocean of fossil shells that were once inhabited by living beings. One class of these living creatures, fully endowed with all the organs and faculties of perfect animal life, is so small that eight millions could live in the hollow shell of a grain of mustard seed. And God has put forth the most wondrous power and wisdom in the creation of these living things with which the air, the earth and the waters are filled. He has displayed infinite skill in making creatures so small that we cannot see them with the unassisted eye ; so numerous that we cannot conceive their number ; so mighty that they have done more to change the face of the earth than all the works of man in all time. It is equally impossible to find out God's work to perfection in beings so small that millions sport in the drop of water, or in worlds so vast that they fill the universe with light. And in this minute attention to things that are least the Divine Architect teaches us the great secret of all successful work. The longest journey is a succession of steps, and the swiftest traveler can take only one at a time. The strongest chain is made up of separate links. If the workman has failed in the forging of one, the whole is easily

190 LITTLE THI GS. broken. The beautiful structure of a strong, wellbalanced, symmetrical character is built out of individual acts of duty. As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he. o one can count the millions of thoughts that make up the unwritten history of a single mind for a single day. And yet every one of these thoughts has 'something to do in making the man. The slightest stain left upon

the surface of glass by the evaporation of a drop of turbid water is found to contain minute shells, perfectly formed and once inhabited by living creatures. The casual thought that disappears from the crystal surface of the mind as the dew-drop vanishes in the sun leaves behind a perfect impress of itself. If it was pure and good, the man is better for having cherished it only for an instant. The impress which it made will never be lost to the Infinite eye. The pulse of spiritual power which it gave will do something to make the man whole, just as every grain of sand is needed to build the shore and every drop of rain to fill the ocean. He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful in much. It is a small thing to give a cup of cold water in the name of Christ. But whoever is faithful in things so small will be first to meet the demands of duty when the trial is great. The man who is first to speak a kind word to a friendless child, or to carry a look of sunshine into an afflicted and desolate home, will be first to make the great sacrifices of duty when the Master calls. The King in the final day will say,

LITTLE THI GS. 191 " Come, ye blessed of my Father/ 7 to those who have only done the least and most common acts of kindness to those who have only done what anybody can do any day of his life. Depend on it, my friend, it is minute and conscientious attention to what the world calls little things that makes the great beauty and success of life. Little deeds of charity, little words of kindness, little acts of self-denial, little moments of diligence ; a careful watch against little sins, a grateful use of little blessings, a wise improvement of little opportunities, a diligent cultivation of little talents, patient continuance in well-

doing under little encouragement, these things make men great in the sight of God ; if these things be in you and abound, they will bring the knowledge and enjoyment of everything else. To be willing to give thousands to the cause of Christ, you must be willing to give such as you have, be it ever so little. If you would compass the earth upon missions of charity and instruction, you must begin at your own door ; you must show the spirit of Christ to those of your own household. If you would set up the kingdom of righteousness in all nations, you must first make one province of that kingdom in your own heart. God's great work is perfect as a whole, because it ia perfect in every part. He makes a leaf or a blade of grass with as much care as he makes a world. He polishes the scaly coat of the smallest insect as perfectly

192 LITTLE THI GS. as he feathers the wing of the cloud-cleaving eagle The soul of the little child that believes in Jesus is as precious in his sight as the burning seraph in the highest heaven. If you would be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect, let all your work be dono as unto him and in his sight. Be faithful in the least as well as in the greatest. Consider that anything worth doing at all is worth doing well. Learn to speak the little words of truth, to do the little deeds of kindness, to scatter the little gifts of love along the lowly pathways of life. And so, when your toil is done, your life-work shall bear fruit in heaven, and it shall be found precious before God.



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