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Good Farming PDF Print E-mail
Written by John R. Respess   


There is a good deal said in this day about good farming, and it is right it should be said, because it is a subject in which all classes of society are more or less interested. We are an agricultural people: and upon successful agriculture depends in a great measure not only our material but also our moral prosperity. Not only is it true that the mere man of the world cannot live right who is enthralled and unskilled and un­successful in his business, but the christian himself cannot do it. A man who is out of debt and has plenty to live upon, is not tempted to evade the payment of debts, to take advantage of his creditor or to put on false pretenses and deceive him to obtain credit; and having plenty to eat he is not tempted to steal it. There was a wise man once who prayed that he might not be in a condition so low as to be tempted from his neces­sities to steal. We know not how many of the human family, through hunger and starvation, have stolen other people’s property; nor how many females have from the same cause, fallen from chastity into shame and degradation, but that many have fallen there is no question. It is obvious therefore that a certain degree of competency and morality are too close­ly allied to be safely separated: and this competency depends upon the successful tillage of the soil in which all classes of society are interested and none more so than the christian; in fact he may be said to be the most deeply interested in it, as he is the most deeply interested in the good morals of society.

When the farmer has labored the year round and gathers but little from his fields, he, as a rule, ascribes his failure to providence, and as an exception, but not as a rule, it may be providential; but if the farmer be wise he will seek the cause in his own lack of skill rather than in Providence. He will review his year’s work and see wherein he lacked to do all he should have done: and he may learn it from a good spot of corn in the midst of a field of very poor corn; why was that spot so much better than all around it? Simply because a stump was taken up there, to do which the ground was dug up deeply all around for several feet, and it therefore, absorbed and re­tained the moisture and was green and growing whilst all around it was withering and stunted. Corn will stand a long drought where the work is thoroughly done and will with a very little rain make a good crop. And if after these conditions be com­plied with the farmer makes insufficient corn for his stock, it is probably designed to teach him to make a winter crop for them, to make oats for his horses. If our summers are getting dryer in addition to our exhausted lands, we must conform to this state of things by thorough preparation and manuring and by winter crops; and like Mahomet go to the mountain when the mountain would not come to him. After a thorough pre­paration of the soil by deep ploughing, manuring and good cultivation we may expect as a rule a good yield. The Sav­ior teaches us in the parable of the farmer who went forth to sow grain, that we should give our seed “deepness of earth,” breaking up deeply; by this means we secure moisture for the crop, without which our plants would like those upon the stony ground wither away when the heat came, the necessary heat to mature the crop. But “deepness of earth” is not all. Good cultivation is necessary lest the thorns choke the seed: nor are these all, the field must be enclosed; we must pay at­tention to our fences else the crop will be trodden down and devoured. With these conditions complied with, thorough preparation and good cultivation of soil, safely enclosed, we may expect a good yield; some thirty, some sixty and some a hundred fold.

But there are also smaller crops deserving the attention of the farmer; crops that greatly conduce to the peace, health, contentment and prosperity of the household: nor reckoned in dollars and cents, are they by any means to be despised. The value of the potatoes, peas, vegetables, melons, fruits, the chickens and eggs, butter and milk, if imported to us would probably be equivalent in money to the cotton crop. We very often overlook these little things, and seek happiness in big things and find adversity and discontent for our pains. We should not devote ourselves exclusively to any single crop if our soil is capable of a diversified industry, but produce every thing at home that can be profitably made. We should work for a comfortable living: it is the duty of christians to provide for their families and honestly provide: but it is neither their duty nor privilege to work for riches.

But I must drop this sort of farming and turn to that kind of work that mainly prompted this article; our spiritual farm­ing, if I may so designate it. Adversity seems to be upon us in both natural and spiritual things; we are not seemingly prospering in either. As for myself, I fear I am more worldly than spiritual, because it seems to me if I feel sorry for any people in the world; it is for that class reduced from affluence to poverty. It is a sore trial; and in the South it seems almost universal. We are, so to speak, besieged by strong forces against which we have no might nor power; even the very stars in their course seem to fight against us, and all things conspire to reduce us to want. I pray God none of us may be reduced to degradation, so that we shall lose our self-respect and manhood, and become moral and physical wrecks. Such things are grievous, nor can we for the time being help their being so: “no chastisement is joyous for the present., but grievous,” the truth of which both the scriptures and our experience teach us. We can’t as of old, in a worldly sense, run big farms, but may be we can have a little one; one big enough to yield us a living, and that is sufficient after all. So it may be spiritually: let us work for a living. Failing to get it as we are now doing, God give us grace to amend our doings that we may do well. We may be reduced to a potato patch, which we once did not deign to consider a crop, but only a matter of convenience to be attended to at leisure times; but which now becomes in our reduced circumstances a matter of necessity, and the crop from which we mainly expect our living. So there may be some “little things,” such as Bro. Mitchell spoke of in the Pathway for August, that we have been neglecting, whilst our attention has been wholly directed to big things. It was a little thing that cleansed Naaman, because it humbled him; whilst the big thing would have exalted him. We may have labored too exclusively in the big field and have neglected the little patches; and have therefore no fruit trees, no grapes and figs, no vegetables and melons, no butter and milk and eggs and chickens, and nothing but the fattest meat and bread; and it seems that is more or less infested with cholera, so that even the strong meat may be getting unhealthful, or we may have become too gross, feeding so exclusively upon it, so that it is necessary for some of us to be put, for awhile at least, upon a lighter diet that we may learn to mix our meat with fruits and vegetables. Home comforts are the best of all comforts, and blessed is that man who makes a living at home. I feel very miserable at times at the thought of being seemingly, more gentle, kind and patient to other people than to my own family. Whilst I have taken some pains with my children, it seems nevertheless to me, that I have neglected them, in that I have not been gentle and patient, but as it were, aloof from them. No wonder if we have failed towards our children, that they fail towards us, and like Absalom for David, proclaim our neglect upon the house tops. So with the pastor to the church. As farmers sow so shall they reap; sowing sparingly they reap sparingly; and if they do not sow at all, they reap not at all. This is a law like that of the Medes and Persians, that cannot be reversed.

If then we fail to make a living, wisdom dictates not a ces­sation of work, but an inquiry into the cause of the failure. We can’t quit though we be never so out of heart. I have a colored man farming on my place who came out a little behind every year. He said to me, “Mr R., I am out of heart.” “Well” said I, “Henry, it you are out of heart, you can’t quit; you are obliged to work on. Try some other plan; hire out, if you can’t support your family farming yourself; and let some man direct your work who knows more about farming than you. If the worldly farmer can’t make corn enough for his purposes, he will be apt to try oats or some other forage crop for his stock; he will make a winter crop, and go against the grain and work whilst it is cold. So may we do work in the winter, plough when it is cold and cloudy, and sow our seed in the well broken soil, though we may not, feel like it, and we shall in due time reap if we faint not; and it will be warm, bright and sunny at harvest time, it don’t rain in the spirit­ual harvest time. Every little handful of seed we sow in cold weather will be a hundred handfuls in harvest: thus we scat­ter and increase. Every gentle word spoken, especially when we did not feel gentle, every kind act, especially when it seem­ed hard to do it, every time we visited the widow and afflicted, and every time we deny self; we put up, so to speak, a rail on the fence that separates us from the plagues of the world. We must work if we live; we must sacrifice if we reap. It is just as much our duty to go to meeting or do any other duty when we feel unlike it as it is as if we felt like it, and far more necessary for us. That man who is inclined to go to meeting and is unable to go, is in a much better condition, is living bet­ter and has more to live on, than the one who is able to go but is lacking in inclination. It is more necessary for him to go than the other; it is true it would be a greater sacrifice for him to do it, but it is because a greater sacrifice is necessary; it would be harder work because it was necessary, to make him a living. He, when he went to meeting, aided his minister, studied his bible, went apart in daily prayer, patiently instructed his children in their duty, kept down his anger and petulance, spoke softly and kindly, denied himself things in which he was no longer able to indulge, held his tongue between his teeth, so to speak, to keep from back-biting the brother he envied, visited the poor and afflicted widow and gave his companionship to others for their benefit and from whom he could receive nothing, and thus fenced himself out from the world, the flesh and devil;, this worldly minded man who did such things would make a great sacrifice; he would offer a bullock; he could not offer any thing less and nothing less would do for him; nor would he be proud of it either. He would be humbled by it, and that is good living. This he would get, nor would he get it without work. That one who had more to live on, or more inclination and less ability, would only offer a dove, a very little sacrifice; nor could he make it bigger, because a bigger one was not required, and he would be humbled by his sacrifice; it being so little; and would be at the feet of his brother who offered the bullock, saying in his heart, “what great evidences my brother has that he is a christian, but mine are so little: if I could make such a sacrifice as he makes then surely I would never fear!” The other one mean time would be saying in his heart, “If I only had the humility my brother with the dove has; his spiritual mindedness, his meekness, and unworldliness, his gentleness, patience and general love­liness, then surely I would never fear,” and thus they are at each other’s feet each esteeming the other better than himself .

This is good living, living upon the fat of the land, and there will be a peaceful and healthy household. This is what good farming does. They will have food for all the household and fodder for the ox. Their oxen will not low over their fodder, because they will be well fed; and good feed is a good face for them, for they’ll have no disposition to break out of the lot. These oxen are preachers; and if we live well ourselves they will live well too; nor can we live well and they not live well because to live well we must do our duty, and it is our duty to see to them. We can’t prosper and hear them low in hunger; God forbids it. They reap down our fields, and their hire if kept back by fraud will surely come up, sooner or later, against us. Let us then, whilst we give due attention to the main crops, not neglect the smaller crops that conduce so materially to the well-being of the family. “Thou shalt never,” com­manded Moses “forget the Levite (minister), for he has no inheritance save in the sacrifices of his brethren.”

 Finally may we as spiritual workers, study our business, amend our ways, and bring forth fruit unto God.




Last Updated ( Monday, 18 September 2006 )
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