What Shall the Harvest Be?

Words by Emily S. Oakley Music by P. P. Bliss

"Sowing the seed by the daylight fair,
Sowing the seed by the noonday glare.”




In the winter of 1876 Mr. Moody and I were holding meetings in Chicago in a large building owned by John V. Farwell, one of Mr. Moody's first and most valued friends in that city. It was our custom to hold temperance meetings on Friday afternoons. At one of these meetings the following testimony was given:

“At the breaking out of the war in 1861 I enlisted in the army and was soon appointed a first lieutenant. I was not yet eighteen and had never been away from home influences. I had never tasted liquor and did not know one card from another. The regiment to which I was assigned was principally officered by young men, but many of them were old in dissipation. This new life was attractive to me, and I entered upon it with avidity. I was soon a steady drinker and a constant card-player. I laughed at the caution of the older heads, and asserted with all the egotism of a boy that I could abandon my bad habits at any time I wanted to. But I soon found that my evil desires had complete control over my will. In 1870, being a physical wreck, I resigned, and determined to begin a new life. Time and again I failed, and at last I gave up all hope and abandoned myself to the wildest debauchery, speculating with reckless indifference on how much longer my body could endure the strain. In anticipation of sudden death I destroyed all evidence of my identity, so that my friends might never know the dog's death I had died. It was while in this condition that I one day wandered into this Tabernacle and found a seat in the gallery. There I sat in my drunken and dazed condition, looking down upon well-dressed and happy people. I concluded that it was no place for me, and was just about to go out, when out of a perfect stillness rose the voice of Mr. Sankey singing the song, ' What Shall the Harvest be?' The words and music stirred me with a strange sensation. I listened till the third verse had been sung:

'Sowing the seed of a lingering pain,
Sowing the seed of a maddened brain,
Sowing the seed of a tarnished name,
Sowing the seed of eternal shame;
Oh, what shall the harvest be?'

These words pierced my heart. In desperation I rushed downstairs and out into the snowy streets. I soon found a saloon, where I asked for liquor to drown my sorrow. On every bottle in the bar-room, in words of burning fire, I could read ' What shall the harvest be?' When I took up my glass to drink I read, written on it, ' What shall the harvest be?' and I dashed it to the floor and rushed out again into the cold, dark night. The song still followed me wherever I went, and finally drew me back to the Tabernacle two weeks later. I found my way into the inquiry room and was spoken to by a kind-hearted, loving brother. With his open Bible he pointed me to the Great Physician who had power to cure me and heal me of my appetite, if I would only receive him. Broken, weak, vile and helpless, I came to him, and by his grace I was able to accept him as my Redeemer; and I have come here to-day to bear my testimony to the power of Jesus to save to the uttermost."

We were all deeply touched by this testimony, and there was scarcely a dry eye in the audience. A week later this man came into our waiting-room and showed me a letter from his little daughter, which read about as follows:

“Dear Papa: Mamma and I saw in the Chicago papers that a man had been saved in the meetings there, who was once a lieutenant in the army, and I told mamma that I thought it was my papa. Please write to us as soon as you can, as mamma cannot believe that it was you."

This letter was received by the man at the general post-office. The mother and their two children were sent for, and with the help of Mr. Moody a home was soon secured for them and employment for the man. He was asked to go to many places to give his experience, and he soon became so effective in his addresses that his friends prevailed upon him to study for the ministry. Eventually he became a pastor of a large church in the Northwest, where he labored for a number of years till his death, in Evanston, Illinois, in 1899. His name was W. O. Lattimore. He wrote a hymn for me, entitled, ”Out of the darkness into light,” which I set to music.

The author of ”What shall the harvest be? ”who was born at Albany, was a frail, delicate woman, always an invalid, never having known, as she once said, an hour of health in all her life.