A Missionary Parable.
A wealthy farmer, who cultivated some thousands of acres, had by his benevolence, endeared himself greatly to his large staff of laborers. He had occasion to leave the country, in which his property was situated, for some years, but, before doing so, he gave his people clearly to understand that he wished the whole of the cultivated land to be kept in hand, and all the unreclaimed moor and marsh lands to be enclosed and drained and brought into cultivation; that even the hills were to be terraced, and the poor mountain pastures manured, so that no single corner of the estate should remain neglected and barren. Ample resources were left for the execution of these works, and there were sufficient hands to have accomplished the whole within the first few years of the proprietor's absence.
He was detained in the country to which he had been called very many years. Those whom he left children, were men and women when he came back, and so the number of his tenantry and laborers was vastly multiplied. Was the task he had given them to do accomplished? Alas, no! Bog and moor and mountain waste were only wilder and more desolate than ever. Fine rich virgin soil by thousands of acres, was bearing only briers and thistles. Meadow after meadow was utterly barren for want of culture. Nay, by far the larger part of the farm seemed never to have been even visited by his servants.
Had they then been idle? Some had. But large numbers had been industrious enough. They had expended a vast amount of labor, and skilled labor too, but they had bestowed it all on the park immediately around the house. This had been cultivated to such a pitch of perfection, that the workmen had scores of times quarrelled with each other because the operations of one interfered with those of his neighbour.
And a vast amount of labor had been lost in sowing the very same patch, for instance, with corn fifty times over in one season, so that the seed never had time to germinate and grow and bear fruit; in caring for the forest trees, as if they had been tender saplings; in manuring soils already too fat, and watering pastures already too wet.
The farmer was positively astonished at the misplaced ingenuity with which labor and seed and manure, skill and time and strength, had been wasted for no result. The very same amount of toil and capital, expended according to his directions, would have brought the whole demesne into culture, and yielded a noble revenue. But season after season had rolled away in sad succession, leaving those unbounded acres of various, but all reclaimable soils barren and useless; and, as to the park, it would have been far more productive and perfect had it been relieved of the extraordinary and unaccountable amount of energy expended on it.
Why did these laborers act so absurdly? Did they wish to labor in vain? On the contrary! They were forever craving for fruit, coveting good crops, longing for great results.
Did they not wish to carry out the farmer's views about his property? Well, they seemed to have that desire, for they were always reading the directions he wrote, and said continually to each other, "You know, we have to bring the whole property into order. But they did not do it. Some few tried, and ploughed up a little plot here and there, and sowed corn and other crops. Perhaps these failed, and so the rest got discouraged? Oh, no! they saw that the yield was magnificent; far richer in proportion than they got themselves. They clearly perceived that, but yet they failed to follow a good example. Nay, when the labors of a few in some distant valley had resulted in a crop they were all unable to gather in by themselves, the others would not even go and help them to bring home the sheaves! They preferred watching for weeds among the roses in the overcrowded garden, and counting the blades of grass in the park, and the leaves on the trees.
Then they were fools surely, not wise men? Traitors, not true servants to their Lord! Ah! I can't tell! You must ask Him that! I only know their Master said, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature," and that 1880 years afterward, they had not even mentioned that there was a Gospel to one half of the world!