WE are all to be teachers of the gospel, according to our ability; and the way to do it is to be “as the small rain upon the tender herb.” Perhaps, dear friend, you say, “Well, I should be small rain, without any great effort, for I have not much in me.” Just so, but yet that small rain has, a way of its own by which it makes up for being so small. How is that, say you? Why, by continuing to fall day after ,clay. Any gardener will tell you that with many hours of small rain there is more done than in a short period with a drenching shower. Constant dropping penetrates, saturates, and abides.
Little. deeds of kindness win love even more surely than one bounteous act. If you cannot say much of gospel truth at a time, keep on saying a little, and saying it often. If you cannot come out with a wagon-load of grain for an army, feed the barn-door fowls with a handful at a time. If you cannot give the people fullness ,of doctrine like the profound divines of former ages, you can at least tell out what the Lord has taught you, and then ask Him to teach you more, As you learn, teach; as you get, give; as you receive, distribute. Be as the small rain upon the tender herb Do you not think that in trying to bring people to Christ we sometimes try to do too much at once? Rome was not built in a day, nor ,will a parish be saved in a week. Men do not always receive all the gospel the first time they hear it. To break hearts for Jesus is something like splitting wood; we need to work with wedges that are very small at one end, but increase in size as they are driven in. A few sentences spoken well and fitly may leave an impression where the attempt at once to force religion upon a person may provoke resistance, and so do harm. Be content to drop a word or two to-day, and another word or two tomorrow.
Soon you may safely say twice as much, and in a week’s time you may hold a long distinctly religious conversation. It may soon happen that where the door was rudely shut in your face you will become a welcome visitor, whereas had you forced your way in at first you would have effectually destroyed all future opportunity.
There is a great deal in speaking at the right moment. We may show our wisdom in not doing, and in not saying, as; much as in doing and saying. ‘rime is a great ingredient in success. To speak out of season will show our zeal, but not always our sense. ‘We are to be instant out of season as well as in season, but this does not involve incessant talking. I commend to everyone who would be a winner of souls by personal effort, “as the small rain upon the tender herb.” The rain is seasonable, and in accordance with its surroundings The rain does not fall while a burning sun is scorching the plants, or it might kill them’ neither is it always falling, or it might injure them. Do not bring in your exhortations when they would be out of place, and do not be incessantly talking even the best of truth, lest you weary with chatter those whom you desire to convince with argument. If you will wait upon the Lord for guidance, He will send you forth when you will be most useful, even as He does the rain. Clod will direct you as to time and place, if you put yourself at His disposal.
Now, small rain is meant to enter the herb, so that it may drink in the nourishment and be truly refreshed. The rain is not to drench the herb, and it is not to flood it; it is to feed it, to revive it, to refresh it. This was what Moses aimed at. This is what all true preachers of Christ aim at. We long that the word which we speak may enter into the soul of man, may be taken up into the innermost nature, and may produce its own divine result.
Why is it some people never seem to take in the word, “as the small rain upon the tender herb “? I suppose it is, first, because some of it may be above their understanding. If you hear a sermon, and you do not know at all what the good man is about, how can it benefit you? If the preacher uses the high-class pulpit-language of the day, which is not English, but a sort of English-Latin — produced rather by reading than by conversation with ordinary mortals, — why then the hearer usually loses his time, and the preacher his labor.
One said to me, “If I went to such-and-such a place I should not want my Bible, but I should need a dictionary, for otherwise I should not know what was meant.” May that never be the case with us! When people cannot understand the meaning of our language, how can we expect that they can drink in thee inner sense?
We cannot feed upon that which is high above and out of our sight.
Ballooning in theology is all very fine, but it is of no use to poor souls down here below, who cannot hope to be allowed a place in the car.
Tender plants are not refreshed by water which is borne aloft into the clouds, they want it to come down to earth, and moisten their leaves and roots; and if it does not come near them, how can they be refreshed by it?
The fountains of Versailles are very ground, but for the little flower-pot in London window a cupful from a child’s hand, poured near the coot, will suffice. “As the small rain upon the tender herb.” Now, observe, in looking about among mankind, that whenever wise men expect any result from their labors, they always go to work in a manner suited and adapted to the end they have in view. If Moses means that his speech shall bless those whom he compares to tender herbs, he makes it like small rain. I see clearly’ that he seeks a result, for he adapts his means. There is a kind of trying to do good which I call the hit-or-miss style of doing it. Here you are going to do good: you do not consider what method of doing good you are best fitted for, but you aspire to preach, and preach you do. Of course, you must give a sermon, and a sermon you give. There is no consideration about the congregation, and its special condition, nor the peculiar persons composing it, nor what truth will be most likely to impress and benefit. Hit-or-miss, off you go! When a man means to see results, he begins studying means and their adaptation to ends; and if he sees that his people are strong men, and he wants to feed them, well, he does not bring out the milk jug, but he. fetches out a dish of strong meat for them. You can see he means to feed his people, for he has great anxiety when preparing their spiritual meat.
When a person wants to water plants, and they are tender herbs, if he looks for results he does not drench them: that would look as if he had no real object, but simply went through a piece of routine. Moses meant what he was doing. Finding the people to be comparable to tender herbs, he adapted his speech to them, and made it like the small rain.
Now, what will be the result if we do the same? Why, it will come to pass thus: there will be among us young converts like tender herbs, newlyplanted, and if we speak in tenderness and gentleness we shalt see the result, for they will take root in the truth, and grow in it. Paul planted, and then Apollos watered. Why did Apollos water? Because you must water plants after you have planted them, that they may the more readily strike into the earth. Happy shall you be if you employ your greater experience in strengthening those whose new life is as yet feeble! You shall have loving honor as nursing fathers, and your wise advice shall be “as the small rain upon the tender herb,” for you shall see the result in the young people taking hold of Christ, and sucking out the precious nutriment stored away in the soil of the covenant, that they may grow thereby.
When discourse is like small rain to the tender herb, the weal< and perishing revive and lift up the head. The herb was withering at first, it lay down as you see a newly-planted thing do, faint and ready to die; out the small rain came, and it seemed to say, “Thank you,” and it looked up, and lifted its head, and recovered from its swoon. You will see a reviving effect produced upon faint hearts and desponding minds. You will be a comforter, you will cheer away the fears of many, and make glad the timid and fearful. What a blessing it is when you see that result, for there is so much the more joy in the world, and God is so much the more glorified!
When you water tender herbs, and see them grow, you have a further reward. It is delightful to, watch the development and increase of grace in those who are under our care. This has been an exceedingly sweet pleasure to me. I quote m3 own instance because I have no doubt it is repeated in many of you. It has been a great delight to me to meet men serving God, and preaching the gospel gloriously, who were once young converts, and needed my’ fostering care. I know men, deacons of churches, fathers in Israel, that I recollect talking to twenty or twenty-five years ago, when they could not speak a word for Jesus; for they were not assured of their own salvation. I rejoice to see them leaders of the flock, whereas once they were poor, feeble lambs. I carried them in my bosom, and now they might almost carry me. I am glad enough to learn from them, and sit at their feet.
Once more, we water plants that we may see them bring forth fruit, and become fit for use. So shall we see those whom God blesses by our means become a joy to the Lord Himself, yielding fruits of holiness, patience, and obedience, such as Jesus Christ delights in. His joy is in His people; and when He can rejoice in them, their joy is full. Let us try to be little in our own esteem, that we may be as the small rain. Let us try to be a little useful, if we cannot reach to great things: the small rain is a great blessing.
Let us try to be useful to little things. Let us look after tender herbs; let us try to bring to Jesus boys and girls. Let us look after the tender plants of the Lord’s right hand planting, those who are babes in grace, the timid, trembling., half-hoping, half-fearing ones.