APRESENT GOD! I cannot suggest a theme that may make you more full of courage in times of danger and trouble. You will find it exceedingly helpful and consoling if you can discover God in your trifles. Our life is made up of trifles, and if we had a God only for the great things, and not for the little things, we should be miserable indeed. If we had a God of the temple, and not a God of the tents of Jacob, where were we? But, blessed be our heavenly Father, he that wings an angel, guides a sparrow; he that rolls a world along, molds a tear and marks its orbit when it trickles from its source. There is a God in the motion of a grain of dust blown by the summer wind, as much as in the revolutions of the stupendous planet.
There is a God in the sparkling of a fire-fly as truly as in the flaming comet.
Carry home, I beseech you, to your houses the thought that God is there, at your table, in your bed-chamber, in your workroom, and at your counter. Recognize the doing and being of God in every little thing. Think for a moment, and you will find that there are many promises of Scripture giving the sweetest consolation in trivial matters. “He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands.” Why? Lest thou fall from a precipice? Lest thou dash thyself from a pinnacle? No, “Lest thou dash thy foot against a stone! ” A little danger, but a great providence to ward us from it. And what saith the Scripture also? Doth it say, “The very days of your life are numbered”? It saith not so, though that were true; but, “the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” And what saith the Scripture yet again? Doth it say, “The Lord knoweth the eagles, and not an eagle falleth to the ground without your Father?” No; but, “are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.” A great God in little things. I am sure it will spare you a world of vexation if you will but remember this, for it is hence our vexations come. We often get into a bad temper about a trifle, when a great trial does not agitate us. We are angry because we have scalded ourselves with a little water, or have lost a button from our clothes, and yet the greatest calamity can scarcely disturb us. You smile, because it is true. Job himself, who said, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away,” might have grown angry, because of some rough edge in his potsherd. Take care that you see God in little things, that your mind may be always calm and composed, and that you be not foolish enough to suffer a trifle to overcome a saint of God.
Our life is entirely dependent upon God. One sees strange sights in journeying, scenes which will never be erased from the memory. It was some years ago, just under a tremendous rock, I saw a vast mass of broken stones, and earth tossed about in wild confusion, and raised in huge hillocks. My driver said to me, “That is the grave of a village.” Some years ago there lived upon that spot a joyful and happy people. They went forth to their daily work, they ate, they drank, as men do to this day. One time they saw a great crack in the mountain that hung overhead; they heard alarming noises; but they had heard such sounds before, and the old men said, “There might be something coming, but they did not know.” On a sudden, however, without further notice, the whole side of the hill was in motion, and ere the villager could escape from his hut, the village was buried beneath the fallen rocks. And there it lies; and neither bone of man, nor piece of the habitation of man has ever been discovered in the wreck; so thoroughly was everything crushed and buried, that nothing, by the most diligent search, could ever be discovered. There are many villages standing in a like position at this day. I passed another spot, where there was a shelving mountain, with its layers slanting towards the valley. A town which had been built at the foot had been entirely covered, and a lake filled up by one tremendous slide from the top of the hill. Yet, there stand new houses still, and men venture to live among the graves of their sires. We are apt to say, “How these people ought to look up every morning and say, ‘O Lord, spare this village’!” Standing there, where they might be crushed in a moment, where the slightest motion of the earth within would bring down the hill upon them, they ought to lift up their hearts to the Preserving One, and say, “Oh, thou keeper of Israel, keep us both day and night.”
Ah! but you and I are in the same position. Though no beetling crags overhang our homesteads, though no mountain threatens to leap upon our city, yet are there a thousand gates to death. There are other agencies besides these, which can hurry mortals to their tombs. You are sitting today as near to the jaws of death as those villagers who are dwelling there. Oh, that you felt it! One breath choked up, and you are dead.
Perhaps your life is a thousand times in danger every moment. As many times as there are ebbings and flowings of the blood, as many times as there are breathings from the lungs, so many times does your life hang in such jeopardy that it only needs your God to will it, and you fall dead in your seat, and are carried out a pale, lifeless corpse.
There are parts of the mountain passes of the Alps of such danger to the traveler, that when you traverse them in winter, the muleteers muffle the bells of their beasts, lest the faintest sound should bring down an avalanche of snow, and sweep you into the bottomless precipice beneath. Then, one would think, the traveler must feel that he is in God’s hand. Ay, but you are in the same position now, though you see it not. Open but the eyes of your spirit, and you may see the avalanche overhanging you to-day, and the rock trembling to its fall at this very moment. Only let your soul behold the latent lightnings that God conceals within his hand, and you may soon see that to crush a gnat with your finger is not so easy for you, as for God to take away your life now, or whensoever he pleases.
As it is with our life, so is it with the comforts of life. What would life be without its comforts? Much more, what would it be without its necessaries? And yet how absolutely dependent are we upon God for the bread which is the staff of life! I never felt more truly the dependence of man upon his God than I did at the foot of the Alpine pass of the Splugen; I saw in the distance the whole road black, as if it had been spread over with heaps of black earth. As we neared it, we discovered it: was a mass of locusts in full march — tens of thousands of myriads of them. As we drew nearer they divided as regularly as if they had been an army, and made room for the carriage. No sooner was it passed than the ranks were filled up again, and they went on in their devouring march. On we went for several miles, and there was nothing to be seen except these creatures, literally covering the ground here and there in thick layers, like a shower of black snow. Then I realized the language of the prophet: “Before them was like Eden; behind them was a desert.” They had eaten up every green blade. There stood the Indian corn, with just the dry stems, but every green particle was gone. In the front of their march you saw the vines beginning to ripen, and the fields of grain hastening to perfection. There stood the poor cottager at his door; the wheat that he had planted, and the vines that he had tended, must all be eaten and devoured before his own eyes. The pastures were literally alive with these fiery creatures. When they first entered the field there was green pasture for the cows of the poor cottagers; let: them stop there an hour, and you might take up the dust by handfuls. And nothing left besides. “Ah!” said my guide, “it is a sad thing for these poor people: in a month’s time those creatures will be as big and as long as my finger, and then they will eat up the trees — the mulberry trees with which the poor men feed their silkworms, and which furnish them with a little wealth; they will devour every green thing until there is nothing left but the bare dry sterns.” In armies countless as the sands of the sea, and fierce to look upon, well described by the prophet Joel, in his terrible picture of them, as “a great army of the Lord.” Ah! I thought within myself, if God can thus sweep this valley and make a waste of it with these little creatures, what a mercy it is that he is a kind and gracious God, or else he might let loose the like on all the people of the earth, and then nothing would stare us in the face but famine, despair, and death!
We are not simply dependent upon God for the ,comforts, but for the power to enjoy the comforts. It is an evil which we have seen under the sun — a man who had wealth, and riches, and plenty, but who had not power to eat thereof. I have seen a man hungry and full of appetite, but no bread to eat; but I have seen a sight perhaps more sad — a man with food of the most luxurious kind, to whom taste seemed denied, to whom every mouthful was a thing of detestation. The Lord has but in his judgment to smite any of us with only nervousness — that nervousness at which the strong may laugh, but which makes the weak tremble, and everything will become dark before you. He has but to affect some portion of your body, and you shall see no brightness in the sun; the very fields shall lose their verdure before you; the most happy event shall only be a source of deeper gloom; you shall look on everything through a dark glass, and see nothing but darkness and despair. He has but to touch you with sickness, and motion may be misery, and even to lie upon a bed may be a repetition of tortures as you toss from side to side. Worse still, the Lord hath but to put his finger on your brain, and you become a raving lunatic, or what may seem better, but more despicable, a driveling idiot. Oh, how little then hath he to do to overturn your all, to pull down that mighty castle of your joys, and darken the windows of your hope! You are, again, for life, for necessaries, for comforts, as absolutely in the hand of God as the clay is in the hand of the potter. Your rebellion is but the writhing of a worm. You may murmur, but your murmurs cannot affect him. You may ask your comrades to join in league with you against the Almighty God, but his purpose will stand fast, and you must submit.