There be four things which are little on the earth, but they are exceeding wise:…
I. THE ANTS.
1. Their weakness. Look at their size; their foes; the duration of their lives.
2. Their wisdom. This wisdom consists in foresight, diligence, prudence, and union.
3. Their teaching. The lesson is weakness made up for by industry. We are now to gather and appropriate the bread of life.
II. THE CONIES.
1. Their feebleness. Physically: not armed by strength, or weapons, or armour. Intellectually: few creatures , are more timid than a rabbit. They have no daring, no strategy, no idea of combined action.
2. Their strength. This consists in renouncing self. Their safety is to flee to place of refuge. And as they are so weak themselves, they choose the strongest that can be procured. How wise would be feeble men if they would follow the same tactics. But it is the tendency of man to cling to his own thoughts and his own ways. Each thinks his own efforts, his own plans, his own productions better than his neighbour's. So, especially in religion, man is a feeble creature. If he attempts his own salvation his refuge shall be swept away. But if, knowing his own feebleness, he makes his dwelling in the rock Christ Jesus, he shall be safe. And what a home is that Rock! It contains not only shelter and protection, but provision and joy.
III. THE LOCUSTS. Locusts are not pleasant creatures. They often accomplish much harm, as they appear in large swarms, and destroy everything they come across. Notice —
1. Their principal characteristics. These are(1) Contemptible insignifcance. A dozen can be crushed in a man's hand or trod under his foot. They are poor, wretched, hideous creatures.
(2) Utter worthlessness. They accomplish no good purpose, and afford neither pleasure nor profit to any.
(3) Woeful destructiveness. All they accomplish is plague and ruin. The land may be a garden of Eden before them; they leave it behind a desolate wilderness.
(4) Absence from restraint. They have no king. This might teach us how people who have no government and no restraint rush madly on in their course of destruction. But this is not the purpose of the wise man. Notice —
2. Their remarkable power. Notwithstanding their evil purposes they accomplish mighty results, even though they be destructive. The wisdom which is commended to us consists in —
(1) Their unanimity. They have no varied counsels. What one does all do. They have no politics and no parties or sects. If men were equally united, what might not be accomplished.
(2) Their perseverance and determination. No obstruction can check their progress. People troubled with their ravages sometimes dig pits and trenches and fill them with water, or build piles of leaves and timber, which they set on fire. But the hordes rush on right into the water those behind walk on the dead bodies of their drowned comrades, or into the fires till they are extinguished by the moisture of their own bodies. Though uncounted millions perish in the front, there are always sufficient in the rear to fill up their places. Man has a work to accomplish — not of destruction, but of mercy. Many will fall in the effort; there must be martyrs. Christ Himself had to be a victim, but, though the world dig its trenches and Satan build up walls of fire, we are to go boldly, and, if need be, to fill the one with our dead bodies, or to quench the other with our blood rather than betray our Master's cause.
IV. THE SPIDER. The lessons from the spider are here rather implied than indicated, but it will be interesting to select a few from the many thoughts which this remarkable insect suggests. Here is —
1. Unostentatious toil. The spider does not court public gaze. The generality of the world is not particularly favourable to his presence. The bird would snap him up; the housewife would sweep him away. He is contented to do his own work without exciting either admiration or envy. So, to quote a writer, "It is not the daring public act that makes a man great and distinguished; it is not the splendid oration that makes a man an orator, but the long and painful culture of mind, body, and soul." The spider is not seen, and yet he works. His work is all of the best. There are no slovenly threads, no unfinished corners. His web is geometrically perfect. He might catch his prey with a carelessly-made trap or an unsightly web, but he never attempts to do so. We may well learn to do the least thing we undertake with the best of our ability, and not to shirk our duties because we suppose that our work will not be observed. Assiduity in little things, humble spheres, and private duties marks the true man. The spider taketh hold with his hands. Hands were made to use.
2. Honoured safety. Industry will make its way in whatever sphere of life those who employ it may be placed. The great and good will carry out their life-work, even amid the discouragements of uncongenial greatness.
Parallel VersesKJV: There be four things which are little upon the earth, but they are exceeding wise: