"But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some a hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold." -- Matt. xiii: 8.
If I sow a bushel, I expect to reap ten or twenty bushels. I can sow in one day what will take ten men to reap. The Spaniards have this proverb: "Sow a thought and reap an act. Sow an act, and reap a habit. Sow a habit, and reap a character. Sow a character and reap a destiny." And it takes a longer time to reap than to sow. I have heard of a certain kind of bean that reproduces itself a thousand fold. One thistle-down which blew from the deck of a vessel is said to have covered with thistles the entire surface of a South Sea island. The oak springs from an acorn, the mighty Mississippi from a little spring.
One glass of whisky may lead to a drunkard's death. One lie may ruin a man's career. One error in youth may follow a man all through life. Some one has said that many a Christian spends half his time trying to keep down the sprouts of seed sown in his young days. Unless it is held in check, the desire to "have a drink" will become a consuming thirst; the desire to "play a game of cards" an irresistible gambler's passion.
Abraham gave up his only son at God's bidding, and as the fruit of that act of obedience God gave him seed as numerous as the stars of the heaven and as the sands upon the seashore.
Jacob told one lie, and his ten sons came back with his lie multiplied tenfold. For twenty years Jacob mourned for Joseph, supposing that he was dead. I have no doubt that night after night he wept for Joseph, and in his dreams saw the boy torn to pieces, and heard his cries for help. It took him a long time to reap the harvest.
Israel murmured against God because of the report of the land of Canaan brought back by the spies. Had they not to reap a multiplied harvest? Listen: "After the number of the days in which ye searched the land, even forty days, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years, and ye shall know my breach of promise."
When I made the remark in a meeting once that a man had to reap more than he sowed, a man in front of me dropped his head and sobbed aloud. After the meeting, a friend stepped up to him and said:
"What is your trouble?"
Pointing to me he said, "Every word that man has been saying is true. Four years ago I was the confidential clerk of a firm in this city. I have reason to believe that if I had continued as I began, I should have been in the firm now. But one night in a saloon under the influence of drink I committed a crime, and I was sent to the penitentiary, where I repented in sackcloth and ashes. To-day I came back for the first time, and went to the old house, and they ordered me out. I went to other business-houses I was acquainted with, and received the same treatment. I met men on the street whom I once knew, who had held inferior places to me, and I lifted my hat, but no one returned the bow."
The man wrung his hands in agony and said, "It is all true, it takes a longer time to reap than to sow."
Do you not believe it? Ask your neighbor who has drank up his character and reputation and home, and has brought a blight on his family. It takes a long time to build up a character, but you can blast it in a single hour.
A man died in the Columbus penitentiary some years ago who had spent over thirty years in his cell. He was one of the millionaires of Ohio. Fifty years ago when they were trying to get a trunk road from Chicago to New York, they wanted to lay the line through his farm near Cleveland. He did not want his farm divided by the railroad, so the case went into court, where commissioners were appointed to pay the damages and to allow the road to be built. One dark night after the tracks were laid, a train was thrown off the track, and several were killed. This man was suspected, was tried and found guilty, and was sent to the penitentiary for life. The farm was soon cut up into city lots, and the man became a millionaire, but he got no benefit from it. Before he died, the chaplain told me that he became a child of God. It may not have taken him more than an hour to lay the obstruction on the railroad, but he was over thirty years reaping the result of that one act!
In the history of France we read that a certain king wanted some new instrument to torture his prisoners with. One of his favorites suggested that he should build a cage, not long enough to lie down in, and not high enough to stand up in. The king accepted the suggestion; but the first one put into the cage was the very man who suggested it, and he was kept in it for fourteen years. It did not take him more than a few minutes, perhaps, to suggest that cruel device; but he was fourteen long years reaping the fruit of what he had sown.
If a man could do his reaping alone, it would not be so hard; but it is terrible when he has to make that godly father, and that mother who loves him, or that wife and family, reap along with him. Does not the drunkard make his wife and children reap a bitter harvest? Does not the gambler make his relatives reap? Does not the harlot make her parents reap agony and shame? What a bitter enemy is sin! May God help each one of us to turn from it at once!
Whenever I hear a young man talking in a flippant way about sowing his wild oats, I don't laugh. I feel more like crying, because I know he is going to make his gray-haired mother reap in tears; he is going to make his wife reap in shame; he is going to make his old father and his innocent children reap with him. Only ten or fifteen or twenty years will pass before he will have to reap his wild oats; no man has ever sowed them without having to reap them. Sow the wind and you reap the whirlwind.
We cannot control our influence. If I plant thistles in my field, the wind will take the thistle-down when it is ready, and blow it away beyond the fence; and my neighbors will have to reap with me. So my example may be copied by my children or my neighbors, and my actions reproduced indefinitely through them, whether for good or evil. How many have gone to ruin because of the sins of such men as Jacob and David and Lot!
Nothing But Leaves.
Nothing but leaves! The Spirit grieves
Nothing but leaves! No gathered sheaves
Nothing but leaves! Sad memory weaves
Ah, who shall thus the Master meet,
-- L. E. Ackerman.