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THE MASTER OF THE HARVEST
"That which thou dost not understand when thou readest, thou shalt understand in the day of thy visitation; for
there are many secrets of religion which are not
perceived till they be felt, and are not felt but in
the day of a great calamity."
 THE Master of the Harvest walked by the side of his
corn-fields in the early year, and a cloud was over his
face, for there had been no rain for several weeks, and
the earth was hard from the parching of the cold east
winds, and the young wheat had not been able to spring
So, as he looked over the long ridges that lay
stretched in rows before him, he was vexed, and began
to grumble, and say, the harvest would be backward,
and all things would go wrong. At the mere thought of
which he frowned more and more, and uttered words of
complaint against the heavens, because there was no
rain; against the earth, because it was so dry and
unyielding; against the corn, because it had not sprung
And the man's discontent was whispered all over the
field, and all along the long ridges where the
corn-seeds lay; and when it reached them they murmured
"How cruel to complain! Are we not doing our
Have we let one drop of moisture pass by unused, one
moment of warmth come to us in vain? Have we not seized
on every chance, and striven every day to be ready for
the hour of breaking forth? Are we idle? Are we
obstinate? Are we indifferent? Shall we not be found
waiting and watching? How cruel to complain!"
Of all this, however, the Master of the Harvest heard
nothing, so the gloom did not pass away from his face.
On the contrary, he took it with him into his
comfortable home, and repeated to his wife the dark
words, that all things were going wrong; that the
drought would ruin the harvest, for the corn was not
And still thinking thus, he laid his head on his
pillow, and presently fell asleep.
But his wife sat up for a while by the bedside and
opened her Bible, and read, "The harvest is the end of
the world, and the reapers are the angels."
Then she wrote this text in pencil, on the fly-leaf at
the end of the book, and after it the date of the day,
and after the date the words, "Oh, Lord, the
husbandman, Thou waitest for the precious fruit Thou
hast sown, and hast long patience for it! Amen, O Lord,
After which the good woman knelt down to pray, and as
she prayed she wept, for she knew that she was very
But what she prayed that night was heard only in
And so a few days passed on as before, and the house
was gloomy with the discontent of its master, but at
last, one evening, the wind changed, the sky became heavy with
clouds, and before midnight there was rain all over the
land; and when the Master
 of the Harvest came in next
morning, wet from his early walk by the corn-fields, he
said it was well it had come up at last, and that, at
last, the corn had sprung up.
On which his wife looked at him with a smile, and said,
"How often things came right, about which one had been
anxious and disturbed." To which her husband made no
answer, but turned away and spoke of something else.
Meantime, the corn-seeds had been found ready and
waiting when the hour came, and the young sprouts burst
out at once; and very soon all along the ridges were to
be seen rows of tender blades, tinting the whole field
with a delicate green. And day by day the Master of the
Harvest saw them and was satisfied; but because he was
satisfied, and his anxiety was gone, he spoke of other
things, and forgot to rejoice.
And a murmur arose among them,—"Should not the Master
have welcomed us to life? He was angry but lately,
because the seed he had sown had not yet brought forth;
now that it has brought forth, why is he not glad? What
more does he want? Have we not done our best? Are we
not doing it minute by minute, hour by hour, day by
day? From the morning and evening dews, from the glow
of the midday sun, from the juices of the earth, from
the breezes which freshen the air, even from clouds and
rain, are we not taking in food and strength, warmth
and life, refreshment and joy; so that one day the
valleys may laugh and sing, because the good seed hath
brought forth abundantly? Why does he not rejoice?"
As before, however, of all they said the Master of the
Harvest heard nothing; and it never struck him
 to think
of the young corn-blades' struggling life. Nay, once,
when his wife asked him if the wheat was doing well, he
answered, "Very fairly," and nothing more. But she
then, because the evening was fine, and the fairer
weather had revived her failing powers, said she would
walk out by the corn-fields herself.
And so it came to pass that they went out together.
And together they looked all along the long green
ridges of wheat, and watched the blades as they
quivered and glistened in the breeze, which sprang up
with the setting sun. Together they walked, together
they looked; looking at the same things, and with the
same human eyes; even as they had walked, and looked,
and lived together for years, but with a world dividing
their hearts; and what was ever to unite them?
Even then, as they moved along, she murmured
half-aloud, half to herself, thinking of the anxiety
that had passed away,—"Thou visitest the earth, and
blessest it; Thou makest it very plenteous."
To which he answered, if answer it may be called,—"Why
are you always so gloomy? Why should Scripture be
quoted about such common things?"
And she looked in his face and smiled, but did not
speak; and he could not read the smile, for the life of
her heart was as hidden to him as the life of the
corn-blades in the field.
And so they went home together, no more being said by
either; for, as she turned round, the sight of the
setting sun, and of the young freshly-growing
wheat-blades, brought tears into her eyes.
She might never see the harvest upon earth again—for
her that other was at hand, whereof the reapers were to
 And when she opened her Bible that night she wrote on
the fly-leaf the text she had quoted to her husband,
and after the text the date of the day, and after the
date the words, "Bless me, even me also, oh my Father,
that I may bring forth fruit with patience!"
Very peaceful were the next few weeks that followed,
for all Nature seemed to rejoice in the weather, and
the corn-blades shot up till they were nearly two feet
high, and about them the Master of the Harvest had no
complaints to make.
But at the end of that time, behold, the earth began to
be hard and dry again, for once more rain was wanted;
and by degrees the growing plants failed for want of
moisture and nourishment, and lost power and colour,
and became weak and yellow in hue. And once more the
husbandmen began to fear and tremble, and once more the
brow of the Master of the Harvest was overclouded with
And as the man got more and more anxious about the fate
of his crops, he grew more and more irritable and
distrustful, and railed as before, only louder now,
against the heavens, because there was no rain; against
the earth, because it lacked moisture; against the
corn-plants, because they had waxed feeble.
Nay, once, when his sick wife reproved him gently,
praying him to remember how his fears had been turned
to joy before, he reproached her in his turn for
sitting in the house and pretending to judge of what
she could know nothing about, and bade her come out and
see for herself how all things were working together
And although he spoke it in bitter jest, and she was
very ill, she said she would go, and went.
 So once more they walked out together, and once more
looked over the corn-fields; but when he stretched out
his arm, and pointed to the long ridges of blades, and
she saw them shrunken and faded in hue, her heart was
grieved within her, and she turned aside and wept over
Nevertheless she said she durst not cease from hope,
since an hour might renew the face of the earth, if God
so willed; neither should she dare to complain, even if
the harvest were to fail.
At which words the Master of the Harvest turned round,
amazed, to look at his wife, for her soul was growing
stronger, as her body grew weaker, and she dared to say
now things she would have had no courage to utter
But of all this he knew nothing, and what he thought,
as he listened, was, that she was as weak in mind as in
body; and what he said was, that a man must be an idiot
who would not complain when he saw the bread taken from
under his very eyes!
And his murmurings and her tears sent a shudder all
along the long ridges of sickly corn-blades, and they
asked one another, "Why does he murmur? and, Why does
she weep? Are we not doing all we can? Do we slumber or
sleep, and let opportunities pass by unused? Are we not
watching and waiting against the times of refreshing?
Shall we not be found ready at last? Why does he
murmur? and, Why does she weep? Is she, too, fading and
waiting? Has she, too, a master who has lost patience?"
Meantime, when she opened her Bible that night, she
wrote on the fly-leaf the text, "Wherefore should a man
complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?" and
after the text the date of the
 day, and after the date
the words: "Thou dost turn Thy face from us, and we are
troubled: but, Lord, how long, how long?"
And by and by came on the long-delayed times of
refreshing, but so slowly and imperfectly, that the
change in the corn could scarcely be detected for a
while. Nevertheless it told at last, and stems
struggled up among the blades, and burst forth into
flowers, which gradually ripened into ears of grain.
But a struggle it had been, and continued to be, for
the measure of moisture was scant, and the due amount
of warmth in the air was wanting.
struggling and effort the young wheat advanced, little
by little, in growth; preparing itself, minute by
minute—hour by hour—day by day, as best it could, for
the great day of the harvest.—As best it could! Would
the Master of the Harvest ask more?
Alas! he had still
something to find fault with, for when he looked at the
ears and saw that they were small and poor, he
grumbled, and said the yield would be less than it
ought to be, and the harvest would be bad.
And as more weeks went on, and the same weather
continued, and the progress was very, very slow, he
spoke out his vexation to his wife at home, to his
friends at the market, and to the husbandmen who passed
by and talked with him about the crops.
And the voice of his discontent was breathed over the
corn-field, all along the long ridges where the plants
were labouring, and waiting, and watching. And they
shuddered and murmured,—"How cruel to complain! Had we
been idle, had we been negligent, had we been
indifferent, we might have passed away
 without bearing
fruit at all. How cruel to complain!"
But of all this the Master of the Harvest heard
nothing, so he did not cease to complain.
Meantime another week or two went on, and people, as
they glanced over the land, wished that a few good
rainy days would come and do their work decidedly, so
that the corn-ears might fill. And behold, while the
wish was yet on their lips, the sky became charged with
clouds, darkness spread over the country, a wild wind
arose, and the growling of thunder announced a storm.
And such a storm! People hid from it in cellars, and
closets, and dark corners, as if now, for the first
time, they believed in a God, and were trembling at the
new-found fact; as if they could never discover Him in
His sunshine and blessings, but only thus in His
tempests and wrath.
And all along the long ridges of wheat-plants drove the
rain-laden blast, and they bent down before it and rose
up again, like the waves of a labouring sea. Ears over
ears they bowed down; ears above ears they rose up.
They bowed down, as if they knew that to resist was
destruction: they rose up, as if they had a hope beyond
the storm. Only here and there, where the whirlwinds
were strongest, they fell down and could not lift
themselves again. So the damage done was but little,
and the general good was great.
But when the Master of
the Harvest saw here and there patches of over-weighted
corn yet dripping from the thundershowers, he grew
angry for them, and forgot to think of the long ridges
that stretched over his fields, where the corn-ears
were swelling and rejoicing.
 And he came in gloomy to his home, when his wife was
hoping that now, at last, all would be well; and when
she looked at him the tumult of her soul grew beyond
control, and she knelt down before him as he sat moody
in his chair, and threw her arms round him, and cried
"It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not
utterly consumed. Oh, husband! pray for the corn and
for me, that it may go well with us at the last! Carry
And his anger was checked by fear, and
he carried her upstairs and laid her on the bed, and
said it must be the storm which had shaken her nerves.
But whether he prayed for either the corn or her that
night, she never knew.
And presently came a new distress; for when the days of
rain had accomplished their gracious work, and every
one was satisfied, behold, they did not cease. And as
hitherto the cry had gone up for water on the furrows,
so now men's hearts failed them for fear lest it should
continue to overflowing, and lest mildew should set in
upon the full, rich ears, and the glorious crops should
And the Master of the Harvest walked out by his
corn-fields, his face darker than ever. And he railed
against the rain, because it would not cease; against
the sun, because it would not shine; against the wheat,
because it might perish before the harvest.
"But why does he always and only complain?" moaned the
corn-plants, as the new terror was breathed over the
field. "Have we not done our best from the first? And
has not mercy been with us, sooner or later, all along?
When moisture was scant, and we throve but little, why
did he not rejoice over that little, and wait, as we
 more? Now that abundance has come, and we
swell, triumphant in strength and in hope, why does he
not share our joy in the present, and wait, in trust,
as we do, for the future ripening change? Why does he
always complain? Has he himself some master, who would
fain reap where he has not sown and gather where he has
not strawed, and who has no pity for his servants who
But all of this the Master of the Harvest heard
nothing. And when the days of rain had rolled into
weeks, and the weeks into months, and the autumn set
in, and the corn still stood up green in the ridges, as
if it never meant to ripen at all, the boldest and most
hopeful became uneasy, and the Master of the Harvest
But his wife had risen no more from her bed, where she
lay in sickness and suffering, yet in patient trust;
watching the sky through the window that faced her
pillow; looking for the relief that came at last. For
even at the eleventh hour, when hope seemed almost
over, and men had half learned to submit to their
expected trial, the dark days began to be varied by a
few hours of sunshine; and though these passed away,
and the gloom and rain returned again, yet they also
passed away in their turn, and the sun shone out once
And the poor sick wife, as she watched, said to those
around her that the weather was gradually changing; and
that all would come right at last; and sighing a prayer
that it might be so with herself also, she had her
Bible brought to the bed, and wrote in the fly-leaf the
text, "Some thirty, some sixty, some an hundredfold;"
and after the text the date of the day, for on that day
the sun had been shining steadily for many hours. And
 date the words: "Unto whom much is given, of
him shall much be required; yet if Thou, Lord, be
extreme to mark iniquity, O Lord, who may stand?"
And day by day the hours of sunshine were more in
number, and the hours of rain and darkness fewer, and
by degrees the green corn-ears ripened into yellow, and
the yellow turned into gold, and the harvest was ready,
and the labourers not wanting. And the bursting corn
broke out into songs of rejoicing, and cried, "At least
we have not waited and watched in vain! Surely goodness
and mercy have followed us all the days of our life,
and we are crowned with glory and honour. Where is the
Master of the Harvest, that he may claim his own with
But the Master of the Harvest was bending over the bed
of his dying wife.
And she whispered that her Bible should be brought. And
he brought it, and she said, "Open it at the fly-leaf
at the end, and write, 'It is sown in corruption, it is
raised in incorruption: it is sown in dishonour; it is
raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised
in power: it is sown a natural body; it is raised a
spiritual body.' " And she bade him add the date of the
day, and after the date of the day the words, "O Lord,
in Thy mercy say of me—She hath done what she could!"
And then she laid her hand in his; and so fell asleep
And the harvest of the earth was gathered into barns,
and the gathering-day of rejoicing was over, and the
Master of it all sat alone by his fireside, with his
wife's Bible on his knee. And he read the texts, and
the dates, and the prayers, from the first day when the
corn-seeds were held back by drought; and as he read, a
new heart seemed to burst out within him from the old
one—a heart which the Lord of the other
 Harvest was
making soft, and the springing whereof He would bless.
And the harvest of the earth was gathered into barns.
And henceforth, in his going out and coming in from
watching the fruits of the earth, the texts, and the
dates, and the prayers were ever present in his mind,
often rising to his lips; and he murmured and
complained no more, let the seasons be what they would,
and his fears however great; for the thought of the
late-sprung in his own dry, cold heart, and of the
long-suffering of Him who was Lord and Master of all,
was with him night and day. And more and more as he
prayed for help, that the weary struggle might be
blessed, and the new-born watching and waiting not be
in vain; so more and more there came over his spirit a
yearning for that other harvest, where he, and she who
had gone before, might be gathered in together.
And thus,—in one hope of their calling,—the
long-divided hearts were united at last.