Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.
We read in the New Testament of Christ being the Vine, and so our hearts joined to him are the vines, or, as they are called, branches. Now, we know that grapes grow upon vines, so the tender grapes that grow upon our vines are all the good thoughts, and words, and deeds that come forth from your young hearts. We are told that little foxes spoil the vines which have tender grapes. Why do you suppose that it is the little foxes against which we are warned? Because the little foxes are often far more dangerous than the big ones. I remember one day passing through one of our London squares. I saw two cruel dogs chasing a eat — indeed, it was only a kitten. The poor little thing ran for its life, and the two dogs after it, a big fellow foremost, and a smaller one coming on as fast as it could behind. The kitten got safe to the railings of the square, and it jumped in through them; and when the big dog, almost touching it as it went through, tried to follow, he couldn't get in after it — the railings were too close together, and so the little kitten thought itself safe. But up came the little dog, and he was able to get through when the big fellow couldn't; but I'm glad to say a gardener, who was working inside, drove it back again, and so the little kitten was rescued. Do you see what I mean by that story? It shows us how small things are often more dangerous than big things, for they can get in through small openings. Now that is just the way it is with your young hearts. There are tender grapes growing in them, and while you couldn't let a big fox in, perhaps many a little one creeps in and destroys them, and takes all the sweetness out of them. You often could not let a great big sin come into your heart, but a little one creeps in almost without your knowing it. And the worst of it is these little fellows come into the vineyard of your heart, and stay there, and grow big there. A little untruth, so innocent-looking that we don't think it can do harm, gets in first, and it grows and grows so gradually, that we don't notice it, and at last it is a big lie! Ah! be on your guard against the small things — the small unkindness, the first bad word, the first untruth, the first disobedience. Take care of the little foxes, or they'll get in and destroy the tender grapes. Don't be taken in by their looks. One time, when our soldiers were fighting against Indians in America, a sentry at a very important point was found one morning dead at his post. The guard had heard no sound, and they could not imagine how any one could have come so close to the sentry as to kill him. They thought he must have fallen asleep at his post. Another man was put in his place, and next morning he, too, was found dead there. They were greatly surprised, for he was a very steady man, and had been warned to be on the look-out. So the officer selected another soldier, and said to him, "Now, let nothing escape you; if it's only a dog tries to get near you, shoot him." The man promised his officer to obey him. Well, an hour passed, and not a sound reached the sentry. He thought then that lie heard a very little noise, as of something walking on the dead leaves. He called out, "Who goes there?" and there was no answer. So he looked, and listened; and he saw a slight movement of a branch some few yards off. "If you don't answer, I'll fire," said he, and raised his rifle to his shoulder. He was just going to pull the trigger, when he saw a small bear passing away from him beside a bush. So he lowered his gun, saying to himself, "What a fool I should have looked to have startled all the camp by shooting that poor animal!" Still, he remembered his promise to his officer that he'd shoot even a dog; so saying to himself, "I know they'll all laugh at me, but I'll keep my word like a good soldier," he fired. The bear fell, and out rushed the guard at the sound of the shot. They ran over to where the bear lay dead, and they found it was only a bear's skin and an Indian dead inside it! The Indian had night after night approached the sentry, walking on hands and feet, and concealed in the skin of a bear, and when he got close to the soldier he had killed him. So, boys and girls, be on your guard. No matter how innocent, no matter how small the untruth, the unkindness, the deceit, the dishonesty may look, don't let them pass in that way. They are enemies, after all: they'll kill you, if yon don't kill them. Beware of the foxes that spoil the tender grapes.
(T. T. Shore, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.