The tiny hair, the spark, the screw!
(George Everard, "Little Foxes, and How to Catch Them!" 1878)
"Catch the foxes--the little foxes that spoil the vines." Song of Songs 2:15
Solomon is very emphatic here. It is "the little foxes" which do the mischief. If the vines are injured, if the beautiful clusters are destroyed--he warns us that it is the little foxes which have crept in and have been the culprits.
I want to linger over this thought. I want every reader to lay to heart the importance of little things.
"Is it not a little one?" is the excuse of many a soul when entering upon a course that will be fatal to all peace and happiness.
Yes, it may look a little one, but for that very reason, be the more on your guard. A man's life is made up of little things. "He who despises little things, shall fall little by little."
A tiny hair has in some way found an entrance into the works of a watch. It touches one of the inner wheels, and so again and again the watch stops or goes irregularly. Much valuable time is in consequence lost, and only after its removal, does the watch prove useful to its owner.
A spark of fire has fallen upon some inflammable materials. It is but a spark at first, but it soon kindles into a flame. By-and-by through that one spark, a group of valuable warehouses is burned to the ground.
A small screw has not been carefully fastened in the boiler of an engine. For a time, no harm comes of it; but after a while, the defect loosens other parts of the machinery. An unlooked for catastrophe shortly afterwards occurs. The boiler explodes and spreads devastation and death far and wide. Many lives are lost, and valuable property is destroyed.
The tiny hair, the spark, the screw--have often their counterpart in the Christian life. A permitted inconsistency stands in the way and hinders the working of the Savior's love in the heart. A harsh word does a world of harm. A neglected duty brings evil to thousands.
Catch the foxes, yes, the little ones--let not one of them escape! If you would be secure, you must be determined to spare none--not even the very smallest!
Bear in mind "the little foxes" are especially dangerous, because they creep into the vineyard so secretly. They often get in unobserved. Even so, little sins and faults have a peculiar power to beguile the conscience. They often pass unchallenged. They make but little noise or show, and therefore they deceive the heart, and do their deadly work while we are unaware.
Bear in mind also, that little foxes will soon grow. Week by week, month by month, very insensibly to yourself--the little one is growing stronger and larger! The one you thought at first a mere plaything because it was so small--becomes an over-bearing tyrant!
Is not this true of every sin? It grows by use and habit. Its strength and power is constantly on the increase.
Secret sins are the forerunners of open and presumptuous sins. If evil is cherished in the deep of the heart, if unholy desires are permitted to remain--soon may follow some terrible breach of the Divine law. Our safety is in watching against the first wrong step. We must not treat the smallest deviation from truth and righteousness lightly. If you once put your foot in the mire of sin--you will sink deeper and deeper!
The little foxes are dangerous, because they make a track for others to follow. A little thief may creep in at the window and open the door for those who are lurking near. So a little fox may lead the way for a troop of others to enter the vineyard. The path is easier to find. The hedge will be broken down, or the opening in the wall made larger; so that where at first there came but one, and that one a little one--by-and-by a whole tribe will be found, and the vineyard utterly laid waste!
So is it with sins. One makes way for another, and each one that goes before makes it easier for others to follow. There is a companionship in sins--you never find them alone. They always accompany one another.
A young man forsakes the House of God and the Bible Class, and regards Sundays as merely days for rest or pleasure. Very often the evil increases fast:
he takes up with bad company,
he then becomes loose in his talk,
he then finds his way to the drinking saloon,
then, perhaps, he gets into profligate habits, and
then acts dishonestly to supply means for his extravagance.
In this way, very often a young life is blighted and robbed of all its fair prospects, and perhaps the man ends his days in a prison or the poor house. In this and many similar ways, one sin is linked unto another--and wretchedness, poverty, shame, and temporal and eternal damnation, are their bitter fruit.
Look at the first sin that crept into our world. Truly it might seem to some to be a small matter--but it was the little fox that destroyed the tender grapes.
It begins with a look and a wish.
Eve sees the fruit and longs for it.
Then she gives ear to the Tempter.
She believes his lie, and doubts the truth and the goodness of God.
She touches, she takes, she tastes.
She persuades her husband to taste likewise.
Thus the evil spreads.
All the joys of paradise are forfeited.
The image of God in the soul is lost.
Briers and thorns spring up in the ground.
Sins and sorrows without end, spring up in the world.
One sin, as we might think a little one, has become a giant--and evil of every kind overspreads the face of the earth! The whole world groans beneath the violence, wickedness, and oppression that lie heavy upon it. And to this hour, the outcome of that sin is seen in the ten thousand times ten thousand forms of vice and wickedness which cover the earth, and fill mankind with untold misery and woe!
Therefore take good heed of little sins. Remember, sin grows, and grows fast! Watch against the beginnings of evil.
"Stay away from every kind of evil." 1 Thessalonians 5:22