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Like Rain Upon Mown Grass

Sacramental Meditation XVII

By John Willison, Practical Works (London: Blackie & Son, 1844), 266-7; minimally edited.

 

“He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth” (Psalm 72:6).

This is spoken and promised of Christ, and serves to teach us, that Christ coming to his church and people, by the gracious influences of his Holy Spirit, is most useful and refreshing to their souls, like showers of rain to the dry ground, or a meadow newly cut, to make it spring again.— Christ-less souls are like the dry ground, without the moisture of saving grace, their hearts are hard; neither rods, mercies, nor sermons, make impression upon them. Why? they are without Christ, the Fountain of grace and spiritual influences. Before the fall, man's soul was like a well watered garden, beautiful, green, and fragrant; but, by his apostasy from God, in Adam, our first head, the springs of grace and holiness are quite dried up in his soul; and there is no curing of this drought, but by the soul's union with a new head, to wit, Christ our second Adam, who has the Spirit given him without measure for the use of his members. Now, when we are united by faith to Christ, our head of influences, the dry land is turned into water springs. Christ comes down as the rain by his spirit of regeneration, and brings the springs of grace into the soul. He is the first and immediate receptacle of the Holy Spirit, and all regenerating and sanctifying influences, and out of his fullness we must by faith receive them. And when at any time the springs of grace are interrupted in the soul by sin or unbelief, so as the ground turns dry, the plants wither, and the things which remain are ready to die; the soul hath need to look up to Jesus Christ, to come down with new showers upon the thirsty ground, and decayed plants.

1. As the rain is the free gift of God to the dry ground, it comes free and cheap to poor and rich, small and great, and costs them nothing: so Christ, with his blessings, is God's free gift to a dry perishing world, for which we, should continually be thankful. 2. As nothing can stop the falling of the rain; so nothing can hinder Christ's gracious influences, when he designs to awake, convince, or soften a hard heart. When these showers do fall on sinners, the most obstinate will must yield, and cry, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? 3. As the rain is most necessary and suitable to the dry ground, and to the various plants it produce, and also to the different parts of every plant or tree; such as the root, trunk, branches, leaves, flowers, and fruit; so Christ is absolutely necessary, and his influences most suitable to all his people's souls, and every faculty of them, the understanding, will, memory, and affections; and to all their different graces, faith, love, repentance, &c. to root and establish them, strengthen and confirm them quicken and increase them, cherish and preserve them. 4. As the rain comes down in diverse ways and manners to the earth, sometimes with cold winds and tempests, thunders and lightnings; and at other times with calmness and warmth: So Christ comes to sinners, sometimes with sharp convictions and legal terrors, and sometimes with alluring invitations and promises. 5. O how pleasant are the effects of rain to languishing plants, to make them green and beautiful, lively and strong, fragrant and fruitful? So the effects of Christ's influences are most desirable to drooping souls, for enlightening and enlivening them, for confirming and strengthening them, for comforting and enlarging them, for appetising and satisfying them, transforming and beautifying them. —A shower from Christ would soon make the church, though withered, turn green and beautiful, and to send forth a smell as of a field that the Lord hath blessed; and likewise some drops of this shower, falling down upon the languishing graces of communicants, would soon make them vigorous and lively in showing forth their Saviour's death at his table.

Here I may see the reason why many souls continue as dry ground in their parched natural condition, while others near them are flourishing and fruitful; Christ's shower hath come down upon the one, and not upon the other; one piece is rained upon, and another piece is dry and withered, according to that word in Amos 4:7.— Oh, what cause is there to bewail the evident symptoms of this continuing natural drought in multitudes of souls! Why? their hearts are hard, impenetrable, and unaffected with the miserable state they are in by nature, and with the woeful plagues of their hearts. They have no sense or feeling of the evil of sin, notwithstanding of all the reproofs and threatenings of the word, or the rods and strokes it brings upon them; or of the sufferings of Christ for sin. And though God assures them, that the end of dry ground is cursing and burning, they are impenitent and unconcerned under all. O if parched souls in their natural estate were made sensible of their misery, and brought to bewail their case, and say, “Oh, I am as the heath in the desert that sees no rain: I am a dry tree; if I continue in this state, I'll be cut down as cumbering the ground, and made fuel to hell-fire. I see the axe of justice laid to my root, every hour I am in danger of the blow. O if Christ would interpose to spare me, and come down upon me as the rain, and bring the moisture of grace into my soul.

How lamentable also is the case of those who once seemed to be watered by this heavenly rain, and now are parched by a long consuming drought and withering wind! They have lost their former greenness and moisture, their spirituality and liveliness, and their duties are quite dwindled away into a lifeless carcase and a dead formality. They have lost their wonted freedom and enlargement in prayer, and are fallen under sad bonds and straitenings of spirit, which make them count holy things a weariness, and frequently neglect secret prayer. Surely such have great need of Christ coming down upon them as the rain, to make them spring up as the grass, and revive as the corn. Alas we have a sinful hand in bringing on such a spiritual drought, by quenching the motions of the Spirit, indulging fleshly lusts, giving the world Christ's room in the heart, and neglecting to live by faith on the Son of God, who is the rain and dew of Israel.

How happy are those who live under the droppings of this rain! They are like trees planted by the waters, their roots spread forth, and their leaves are green, Jeremiah 17:8, “Have I the signs of such persons? Is my heart ready to melt at the sight of a crucified Jesus set before  me in the sacrament? Do I mourn for my sins that pierced him? Am I ready to think worse of myself than any other person can? Is my heart soft and pliable to the will of God, both in his precepts and providences? Do the world's good things bulk but little in my eye? Is it my desire to meet with Christ in every duty and ordinance? Do I still look on sin as Christ's enemy? Am I afraid of provoking him by sin to withhold the showers, and make the heavens as brass to me? Am I desirous to bring forth fruit answerable to the waterings he graciously allows me?” O may I find these marks in my soul.

O that I could earnestly plead for the fulfilling of this promise in the text, that Christ would come down as the rain, that he would send the showers he hath merited and promised, send them to myself, to the church, and to the whole land; to the present age, and to the rising generation! O what glorious effects would these showers produce! They would beautify the church and her assemblies, make both ministers and professors to shine in holiness, and congregations to be lively in worship. They would open prison doors, loose bonds, enlarge hearts, revive drooping souls, turn their water into wine, their sorrow into joy, their complaints into praises, and make them sing in the ways of the Lord. By these showers God would be glorified, the church cemented, and her distempers healed. Ordinances would be successful, communions more pleasant, the godly more valued, religion more esteemed, and the way to heaven more delightful. Lord, look on the dry ground and present droughty season with pity, open the windows of heaven, and lend down showers as in former times, and as in other parts of the world. Send a shower to young communicants, and to those who have not seen thy goings in the sanctuary; a shower to stony hearts and withered hands, a shower to soften the clods, loose the roots, and open the springs. O how much good would one of Christ's showers do to a poor dry land! what wonders would it work! what prisoners would it loose! what cloudy minds would it brighten, and what doubting souls would it resolve! Come down, Lord Jesus. Amen. W.