By J.R. Miller
"He who gathers crops in summer is a wise son, but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son." Proverbs 10:5. So the inspired proverb tells us. In its simplest form the reference is to the gathering and laying up of food in the summer days. There is a season when the harvest is waving in the fields, when the fruits hang heavy on trees and vines, when earth's good things wait to be gathered. That is the time when men must be diligent--if they would lay in store for their winter's needs. Not long does the opportunity wait. No sooner are the fruits ripe--than they begin to decay and fall off. No sooner is the harvest golden--than it begins to perish. Winter follows summer. Then there are no fruits on the trees or vines, no harvests waving on the fields. The hungry man cannot go out then to gather food, and if he has not gathered in summer--he must suffer hunger.
But the principle has wide application. Life has its summers and its winters--its times of health, plenty, opportunity; then its times of sickness or need; and these seasons of need must survive, from the stores laid up in the days of abundance. Youth is a summer. It is a time for the forming of habits, for the knitting of the muscles and sinews of character, for the making of friendships. Later on comes "real life," with its duties, its responsibilities, its struggles, its sorrows, its losses. But he who has gathered in life's summer--shall not lack in life's winter. A youth-time diligently spent in improvement, prepares one for whatever comes in the sterner years; while every opportunity wasted in youth---is a risk for misfortune, or failure in later life.
The same law applies in spiritual life. In our time of quietness and security, we may store up in our hearts, the resources we shall need to draw upon for meeting temptation. Childhood and early youth in a true Christian home, are sheltered in a large measure from stern assaults and bitter conflicts. The atmosphere is kindly and congenial. The influences are helpful. There is a mother's shoulder to cry on--and a father's hand to lead and protect. The family altar holds all the household close to God's feet. The sin of the world outside, washes against the very threshold, the spray of its tide dashing against the windows; yet within the sacred walls--there is a holy life, unperturbed, unstained, loving, gentle, and sincere. The child that grows up amid these holy influences, is sheltered from the temptations that make the world outside such a perilous a place in which to live. This is life's summer.
But the winter eventually comes. No young person can live always in such a shelter. The time comes, sooner or later--when the children must go out to face the temptations of the world. It is possible, however, in the days of quiet in the home--to so gather spiritual resources in the heart--that in the conflicts of later days, the life shall be safe.
When men build a great ship to go upon the sea, they pile away in its keel, tremendous strength, staunch ribs, immense beams and stays, and heavy steel plates. They at building the vessel for the ocean, and they make it strong enough to endure the wildest tempests.
In like manner, human lives should be built in the home in the days of youth--not merely for the sweet experiences of the home itself--but to meet the sternest buffetings and the severest testings that any possible future may bring. Principles should he fixed in the heart so firmly--that nothing can ever swerve the life from them. Habits should be so wrought into the conduct--that nothing can change them. Conscience should be so trained--that it shall do its duty in the greatest stress, without wavering.
The lesson is for the young. In the bright sunny days--they should gather into their lives, stores of moral and spiritual strength from which to draw--when they go forth to encounter the world's fierce temptations. Memory should be filled with the Words of God. The great essential principles of Christianity should be so fixed in their minds--that no assaults of skepticism can make them doubt. The fundamental laws of morality should be settled in their very soul--as the laws of their own life. Their spiritual habits should be so firmly fixed--that they will carry their faith with them out into the world--as they carry their faces or their throbbing hearts. Into the ship of their lives, their characters, they should stockpile massive strength, which nothing can possibly overcome.
The same is true of preparation for sorrow. We are not to forecast trouble--and yet we are to live so that when trouble comes, we shall be prepared for it. The wise virgins were not left in darkness as were their foolish sisters, when their own lamps went out because they had no reserve of oil in their vessels. If we have a store of divine promises and comforts hidden in our hearts, gathered and laid away there during the bright days--we shall never be left in darkness however suddenly the shadow may fall upon us. Here we see the benefit of memorizing Scripture in childhood. People often ask, "What is the use of teaching children Scripture texts which they cannot understand?" The use will appear, by and by.
In a new building, the workmen were observed putting gas-pipes and electric wires into the walls. There seemed to be no use in this. It would be months before there could be any need of light or heat. Yes--but the time to put them in is now, when the house is in the process of construction. They will be covered up and hidden behind the plastering and the woodwork. But when the house is occupied, it will be necessary only to push a button--and the electric lights will fill the rooms with light; or to turn a knob--and the flame would be there for heat or cooking.
There may seem to be no use in putting into a child's memory, words it cannot understand. They make no impression at present. They give out no light. But they are fixed in the life, and someday there will come sorrow. It will grow dark. Then from these words will flash out the sweet light of divine love, pouring the soft radiance of heavenly comfort--upon the night of grief.
A touching story is told of a young man who was rapidly and surely losing his eyesight. The physicians told him that he would be able to see but for a few months. At once, accompanied by a sister, he set out to travel over Europe, taking a last look at the beautiful things of this world, before his eyes would be closed forever. He wished to have his memory stored with lovely pictures of mountains, lakes, and waterfalls, of fine buildings and works of art, so that when he would no longer be able to see--he might have these beautiful visions in his soul, to lighten his gloom.
We should walk in the light--while we have the light. We should train ourselves to see all the beauty we can find in God's works and Word. We should gather into our souls--all the love, joy, and gladness that we can store there, while we may. Then when the night settles about us--we shall have light within.
In Rose Porter's little book, 'Summer Driftwood for the Winter Fire,' the grandfather's counsel to the child is "Annie, the flowers will fade, the sunshine will be hidden when the winter storm-clouds come, and the song birds will fly away. Find something lasting. Begin to gather wood now--that will warm the heart when the winter of life comes."
No wiser counsel could be given to the young. Let the sunshine into your hearts in the bright days--God's sunshine of love and truth. Read good, wholesome, helpful books that will leave great and honorable thoughts in your memory. Especially read the Bible, and store its words in your mind. Do beautiful things, things of love, of unselfishness, of helpfulness, things that are true, honorable, just, pure, and lovely. Nothing darkens life's winter days--as do memories of sinful things. Nothing makes life so sweet in old age--as does the memory of right and good things done through the years.
Gather about you, too, in the sunny days--gentle and worthy friends. Be sure they are worthy, for unworthy friends often make bitterness and sorrow for the dark days of those whom they disappoint. Above all, gather into your soul--the sweet friendship of Jesus Christ, and let His words bless your life and fill and enrich your heart! Then, when the winter days come, the memories of all these precious things will abide, and will shine like soft lamps in the gloom. Such gathering in the summer days of life--will make the winter cheerful and bright within, even with storm and darkness outside!