Here a Little and There a Little
Isaiah 28:10
For precept must be on precept, precept on precept; line on line, line on line; here a little, and there a little:

We take this text because it seems to express with extraordinary conciseness a principle in God's procedure and in His ways towards man.

1. Have you considered the manner of God's revelation to His people in the olden time? Have you considered with what marvellous patience and consideration it was conducted? The will of God was not flashed, as in a moment, upon the minds of His people, but unfolded by degrees as they were able to receive it. And when through unbelief and disobedience they lost it, it was brought back to them by fresh messengers from God. Is not the Old Testament full of kind and various and gracious repetition? That is because it is the record of the Divine training and instruction of the people who were, alas! stiff-necked and, too often, proved themselves, as the martyr Stephen told them, uncircumcised in heart and ears.

2. Obviously the same principle runs through the New Testament also. Jesus Christ did not deliver His message, or doctrine, once for all, in a studied manner. He spoke to His followers as they were able to receive.

3. I have just said those things in regard to the two testaments and the construction of the Bible, desiring to go on and try, if I can, to show that this is a principle of God all through His works, and all through His training of His people. Shallow minds are apt to think much more of bold and rapid effects; but those who have observed most widely, and reflected most deeply, know this well — that Omnipotence works slowly. It is impotence that is in hurry. Now, what I want to put before you is that, it being so, it should be expected, and it turns out to be true, that the supreme wisdom of God will, on the very same principle, carry on the work of human enlightenment in the truth. Now take a lesson from this earth on which we dwell. The earth was not built up suddenly. In its history, as expressed in the records that science can decipher on its caves and its seashores, there have been some sudden changes, but, far more generally, long, long processes, small in detail, but working out immense effects. Lands, slowly sunk beneath the water, slowly rose again. Ice patiently rounded off our mountains and shaped our valleys. Great strata slowly formed themselves — deposited themselves — grain by grain, during prodigious periods of time. Innumerable plants and trees flourished and died, and, after death, prepared — how deliberately — those vast coal measures that make so much of England's prosperity. Look at man. Look at that microcosm — that little world of man. How is a man built? Of body, and mind, and heart, and character. Is it not by little and little the frame grows from its first beginning? Take him after birth. See how he grows by repetitions of natural processes — repetitions — constant repetitions. A little sleep, a little food, a little exercise. Over again, a little sleep, a little food, a little exercise. And again, a little sleep, and so on. Well, so grows his mind — by observation — by comparison of objects — by comparison of objects near him — by asking questions. What a thing it is to teach a child the letters, and to teach a child to read! What a business — little by little — repeating over, and over, and over again! Now, then, raise the subject a little. Take the question of moral culture, and then we will take the subject of spiritual advancement; but no otherwise than on this principle can moral culture or spiritual advancement be attained. There are some moral natures, if I may so speak, much stronger and healthier to start with than others, just as there are physical natures that are stronger; but it is not always the very strong child that grows up the very strongest man, is it? You see some poor delicate child grow fast; and so it is with the moral nature. They gain habits of self-control, and integrity becomes inseparable from their life. There is no real moral strength till that is reached — till integrity is wrought into the character so that it cannot be taken out of it. It is inseparable from the character and life, and thus, "line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little," are needed to form an honest man, that "noble work of God." And if it be so with moral progress, is it not also so with what we call spiritual advancement? Real spiritual qualities are given from heaven, but they are given upon the same principle upon which God gives moral strength, and upon which He even gives physical strength to His people. How is a Christian made? I say, by a process to which these words before me, "here a little and there a little," may be very well applied. Let us just study this a little. Let us develop thin" inquiry," "for it is full of practical importance. And to be the clearer I will put four questions.

(1) How does a Christian receive the truth through the faith of which he is purified? And I answer, not by one lesson but by many lessons. He sees his sin. The Spirit of the Lord shows you the way of pardon and peace through the blood of Jesus crucified for our sin. By and by you see that more clearly. You get a glimpse; you get another glimpse; you get a longer look; you get a steadier vision of Christ crucified.

(2) How does a Christian get rid of indwelling sin? And my answer to that again is, by little and little.

(3) How is it that a Christian learns practical wisdom and sobriety of mind, so much needed in this intoxicating world? Not at a bound. It is not a miraculous infusion into him of another mind than his own. It is his own mind that must be made wise; and a man can never be made wise, I think, but by repeated exposures of his folly.

(4) How does a Christian gain likeness to Jesus Christ? By little and little. Have you seen a painter at work — a portrait painter, we will say? After the great outlines of the picture are placed upon the canvas, have you noticed how gradually and how minutely he produces the required likeness? A touch of the brush here, and then a pause. Then he looks at it, and looks at it; and then another touch, and then another touch.

(D. Fraser, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:

WEB: For it is precept on precept, precept on precept; line on line, line on line; here a little, there a little.

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