Farmer Penniman's Dream

Posted Jul 03, 2010 by Bobbie Beck in Adventist History Hits: 4,649

" There's no need of a donation for Mr. Goodman," growled out Mr. Penniman, on
his way home from church, after the notice of a proposed donation visit had been given;
" he has salary enough without—six hundred dollars a year and a parsonage and garden
spot—that's enough for any family to live on; why, it doesn't cost us near that, and
we have six children, and they have only four. 'Twas real mean for Mr. Goodman to
exchange, and get that man to give out the notice." And Mr. Penniman fretted away in
the ear of his silent wife till they had nearly reached' home, quite unmindful of the four
children who, with wide open ears, were eagerly listening to every word.
Rev. Mr. Goodman was pastor of a little church in a small village of Manisuch, a
Home Missionary church composed of farmers, with a few members in the village where
two other churches of different denominations were also endeavoring to live and thrive.
Four hundred dollars was the nominal salary of Mr. Goodman from the Home Missionary
Society. Of the four hundred Mr.Penniman gave twenty-five dollars, usually
in advance, " to get it off his mind " he said —if all the subscribers had followed his example
it would have been better for the minister. But the last year's subscription was
two hundred dollars in arrears. And the Home Missionary Treasury was empty.
It was mid-winter; the minister's credit and provisions were well nigh exhausted,
and nothing had been said of the accustomed donation visit.
Driven almost to desperation, Mr. Goodman rode over to a neighboring city, where
one of his classmates was preaching to a large, prosperous church, and laid the case
before him.
" Let's exchange," said the sympathizing listener, when the story was told. "I'll
give notice of a donation visit on my own responsibility." The exchange was made;
and the notice was given to the astonishment of every one, Mrs. Goodman included.
Mr. Penniman's family went into their large, warm kitchen, laid aside their wrappings,
and sat down to a bountiful dinner, prepared by the eldest daughter during their
absence; and with the appearance of the hot mince pies began the discussion of the
coming donation visit.
" Mother, may I go ?" from a chorus of little voices, and comments from the elder
members of the family according to their moods.
" Well, I paid the whole of my subscription long ago," said Mr. Penniman, with a
satisfied air, " and if the rest had done the same, there would be no excuse for having a
donation visit."
" I don't believe Mr. Jones has paid a cent, and he's rich, too," said Clara, a bright
little girl of eleven.
" No, nor Mr. White, nor Mr. Cook, nor even Deacon Slocum," added George, a stout
lad of sixteen, who knew more, in his own estimation, than any man in the neighborhood.
Mrs. Penniman and the eldest daughter, Mabel, said nothing.
" Mother, I heard my teacher tell the superintendent that if people would only
give tithes now, as the Jews did, there would be no need of donation parties. What
are tithes ?" said Robert, the nine year old son.
" I will tell you all about it this afternoon. Finish your dinner, now," was the reply.
An hour later, according to promise, the mother sat, Bible in hand, explaining to her
younger children the Jewish law of benevolence. Clara and Robert were finding the
references, and James and Minnie were asking numberless questions. Jacob's vision
interested them greatly. Robert read the dreamer's morning vow, " Of all that thou
shalt give me, I will surely give the tenth unto thee."
"Then tithes mean tenths. Does it mean a tenth of everything ?" asked Robert.
" Turn to Leviticus, 27th chapter and 30th, 31st, and 32d verses," was the mother's
reply.
"Why, mother, it says cattle, too," exclaimed Robert in astonishment, "and a
tenth of all their grain and their fruit!
Sure! I guess my teacher was right; but does anybody do that now-a-days ?"
"Yes," replied Mrs. Penniman, "I have known several men in the city who conscientiously
gave to the Lord one-tenth of their income, and some of them were far from rich."
" Why can't farmers do the same ?" asked Clara.
" I suppose they might," replied the mother with a sigh. " Now turn to Malachi 3 :8,10."
"Let me read that," said Clara, and while she read her father said to himself, " That's
all right, I am glad my wife is so faithful in teaching the children, especially in teaching
them benevolence. I guess I have paid my tithes this year; twenty-five dollars for the
minister, and as good as twenty-five for Chicago, fifty dollars, that's a tenth and more
too, but I don't begrudge it, not a bit," and with a self-satisfied smile he fell asleep, and
dreamed.
Half an hour passed, and the sleeper awoke with a groan and a start. Rousing
himself, he said to the children, " Run away now and crack some nuts; I want to talk to
your mother awhile." The children obeyed, and the mother sat with folded hands, and
heart trying to prepare itself to listen patiently to more fault-finding.
" I have had such a fearful dream, Jennie," said Mr. Penniman, in a low, troubled voice;
a warning from God, I do believe. You are a better Christian than I am, let me tell you
my dream, and I know you will help me do my duty."
Then, in words often choked with emotion, he told his dream, while tears rolled
down his wife's cheeks.
The profound silence which followed was broken by the husband's voice solemnly repeating
the vow of Jacob, henceforth to be his own vow: "Of all that thou shalt give
me I will surely give the tenth unto thee." "Amen!" was the wife's joyful response.
"Isn't it Sabbath work to look over the books? It seems to me I shall feel better to
have this matter all arranged to-day," said Mr. Penniman, after a few moment's thought.
Mrs. Penniman brought the books, in which her husband kept a full record of all
the farm products.
"Now, Jennie," said he, "take a piece of paper, and as I call off the yield you take
out the tenths, and we will estimate the value and see how much we fall short."

200 bu. Wheat—tithes 20 bit. @'$1.00 per bu........ .$20.00

150 "....Potatoes.".....15.."...@ 0.60....."........................9.00

300 " ...Oats......" .....30.."...@0.30.....".........................9.00

600"...Corn......"......60.."...@0.28.....".......................16.80

200 "... Apples...."......20.."...@0.50....."....................10.00
10.."....Beans....".......1.."....@1.50...."..........................1.50
30.."... Turnips...".......3.."....@0.25...."..........................75
10 bbls. Beet......"......1 bbl...@10.00...........................10.00
20 tons Hay.......".......2 ton..@10.00..........................20.00
The amount of Tithes is..............................................97.05
said Mrs. Penniman, and
Deducting the.............................................................50.00
already paid here and for Chicago
Leaves .....................................................................$47.05
" Yes, that is correct," remarked Mr. Penniman, looking over the figures; " now, how
shall we arrange the rest ?
Let us see. We will give the minister
One barrel of beef.................................$10.00
and the tithes of turnips, beans
and potatoes, which will
Amount to ............................................11.25
........................................................$21.25
This sum deducted from the......... . .......... .$47.05
Leaves ................................................$25.80
a little more than the price of two tons of hay, as we valued it. But we have not
tithed our cattle yet; we have ten cows, you know—shall they ' pass under the rod ?' "
asked the husband, with a meaning smile.
" Yes, certainly," was the earnest reply.
"Well, then, one cow—you shall say which one—and two tons of hay to feed her
on. There are a good many things we cannot tithe this year, so I will take a good
large grist, and you may take what you like from the house, and next year we will be
more exact," said Mr. Penniman in a tone of great satisfaction.
"A good deal to give away," said Mrs. Penniman, doubtingly, for in her heart she
feared her husband would repent his liberality when the excitement of his dream had
passed away.
"Why, Jennie, you are not sorry the Lord made the tenths so large, are you ?" he
said, half reproachfully. "Nine-tenths are left for us to use without doubt or reproach.
How blind I have been all my life," he added, with a sigh.
" Father, George says it is milking time," called out little Clara, looking in at the door.
"Yes, I'll come," answered the father, rising. "Jennie, which cow shall I give,"
he asked, turning to his wife. "Give the best to the Lord," was her reply.
" Mabel, come here a few minutes," said Mrs. Penniman to her eldest daughter, a
young lady of nineteen when the door had closed on the father and the two boys. In a
few words the mother related what had transpired within the last hour; and the
daughter listened with clasped hands and glistening eyes.
" Oh, mother, I am so glad!" she exclaimed. Giving a tenth has always seemed
right since I read God's own law to the Jews. He must know best. If the Jews were
commanded to give tithes, surely, with our greater blessings, a tenth of our income is
the very least we ought to think of presenting to the Lord as a thank offering. It seems
a great deal because God gives us so much."
" Well, my dear, you and I must look up our tithes, to-morrow," said Mrs. Penniman
with a smile.
The day of the donation visit came at last.
" George, I guess we will take over our loads this morning," said Mr. Penniman while
they were doing the chores at the barn. " You may fasten Brindle's rope to the back
of that load of hay, and let her eat while you help me load up the other sleigh; then you
may harness the old horses, I will take the colts, and we will go over together."
"Why, father, what are you going to do with old Brindle ?" asked the astonished boy.
" Give her to the minister; we have nine cows left," was the reply.
The two went to the house and proceeded to load up the " big sleigh " which stood before
the door. A barrel of beef, potatoes, turnips, beans, and a "monstrous grist," the
children said, and away the two drove to the parsonage.
" Why, Mr. Penniman, haven't you made a mistake. What does all this mean? " exclaimed
Mr. Goodman running out of the house without his hat, as they drove through
the great gate. " What does it all mean ?"
" Only the tithes," replied Mr. Penniman, laughing.
" Here's your hat, father," said little Henry Goodman, holding up the missing article.
" Thank you, my son, now run into the house."
" Where shall I put your cow ?" asked Mr. Penniman.
"My cow ! why Mr. Penniman, you can't afford———"
" Got nine left," interrupted Mr. Penniman. " Drive on, George, we'll find a place."
The little barn was a rickety old affair, but Brindle was soon tied in one corner of the
stable, and Mr. Penniman and his son stowed away the hay as best they could in the bay
and shaky loft. The boards on the sides were some of them hanging by one nail, but
George said that the roof looked as if it would not leak, and he would drive a few
nails in those boards before night.
Then came the unloading of the second sleigh, amid exclamations of wonder and delight
from Mr. and Mrs. Goodman and the children, and such a time as they all had preparing
the little almost unused cellar for such an-unexpected supply of vegetables.
Two empty barrels were filled to overflowing with the best of flour, the bran and
shorts for the cow found a place in some old barrels in the woodshed, and Mr. Penniman
and George drove home delighted.
" What has happened to Mr. Penniman ?" asked Mrs. Goodman after they had gone.
" Is he going crazy ?"
" I asked him what it all meant, and he said he had a dream last Sabbath which he
would tell me sometime," replied her husband.
" The result of his dreaming will bless us all the year," said Mrs. Goodman gratefully.
" Mother, is that cow to be our very own, always ? " asked one of the children.
" Yes. We all thank Mr. Penniman very much, and I am sure none of us will forget
to thank Him who put the thought of this great kindness into Mr. Penniman's heart."
The afternoon and evening passed off as usual on such occasions, with one exception.
The Penniman children had all faithfully tithed their nuts, pop-corn, and the money
in their savings banks, and brought their gifts to the children at the parsonage, and
child-like, Robert told the story to a group of listening children, and some of larger
growth.
"We are all tithed," said he, "George gave his tithes in money—mother and Mabel
brought butter and eggs and dried apples, and every so many cans of fruit, and father
tithed everything in the cellar, and even tithed old Brindle, too."
"What is tithing? I don't know what you are talking about," said Willie Greene,
the merchant's son.
" Why the Bible says folks must give to the Lord one-tenth of all they can raise on
the farm," replied Robert. " Clara and I read it there last Sabbath, and that is just
what we have been doing at our house. We have just begun, but we mean to keep on
doing so all the time. I tell you, Henry Goodman, you'll get lots of eggs and chickens
before summer is out, and I shouldn't wonder if you should get, now and then, a
harvest apple. I have one tree that's all my own."
" That boy of yours has been telling quite a long story to the children about the tithing
done at your house," remarked Mr. Stevens to Mr. Penniman when they went out after
supper to attend to their teams. " Haven't you changed your mind lately ? " he asked.
"Yes, I have most essentially," replied Mr. Penniman, " but it is a long story;
come to prayer-meeting to-morrow evening, and you shall hear all about it."
Twenty minutes later everybody In the house knew that Mr. Penniman would explain
the reason for the change in his feelings and practice at the next prayer-meeting, and
everyone had resolved to go to-morrow evening— not long to wait.
"Are you going to prayer-meeting to-night to hear Penniman tell his dream?" asked
Mr. Greene, the merchant, of the first customer who made his appearance the next
morning.
" Yes. I want to hear what he will say ; it seems silly, though, to talk about a dream
doing such wonders, for his donation was large for any one, and certainly "wonderful
for him."
" A dream !" sneered Mr. Greene, brushing his coat-sleeve; "conscience, more likely."
"I don't know about that," was the reply; "Mr. Penniman is close, but he is honest,
and true to his word—always pays when and what he agrees to pay; his subscription is
always paid in advance, if possible."
So passed the day ; in every house and in every shop and store the subject of tithing
was thoroughly discussed, always concluding with a wise shake of the head and the sage
remark : " The Pennimans won't hold out long. No farmer can afford to give away one tenth
of what he raises, cattle and all." But they went to the prayer-meeting, and for once
the cold, cheerless little church was packed full.
Mr. Goodman opened the meeting as usual, and then remarked : " Brethren and friends,
I know you are all anxious to hear the message which Brother Penniman brings us tonight,
and we will listen to him now."
Slowly Mr. Penniman rose to his feet and looked around on the congregation. His face
was deadly pale, and his lips quivered for a moment. Then, in a calm, distinct tone he
said:—
"My first duty to-night is confession. I have frequently said, in the presence of many
of you, my brethren, that our minister's salary was amply sufficient to support his family
without donation parties ; that he must be extravagant, or he would not get into debt.
Now, that was all wrong ; I am sorry for it, and ashamed of it. In the first place the
statement was not true, though I did not intend
to falsify. I made the mistake which we farmers are apt to make; we only reckon
our money outlay, and count as nothing what we consume.
" Yesterday I took my books and deducted the amount of family supplies I had sold from
the amount produced on my farm last year, and I was surprised. Now, I only wonder
how, with the closest economy, our pastor's family could live comfortably on his salary and
our donations too. But if my assertion had been true to the letter, it was no business of
mine how he spent the money he had honestly earned, any more than it is how any other man
spends the money he earns. The only question for me, as a member of this church to decide is
whether Mr. Goodman's labors among us are worth the salary which we agree to pay. If
so, my portion of his salary is to be paid promptly and fully, like any other debt, and
he and his family left to the expenditure of the money well and faithfully earned, without
remark or hindrance. This shall always be my course toward him and every other pastor
hereafter.
" Last Sunday I sat in my easy chair, listening to my wife and children as they read
and conversed about the Jewish law of tithing, till I fell asleep with the very comfortable
feeling that, for myself, I had brought all the tithes into the store-house—and I really
believed it.
" I dreamed that I went to the anticipated donation visit with my family, and carried
about my usual donation—a bushel of flour, a bag of potatoes, and a bag of apples—and
thought I had done well, for I was very sure the minister did not need even that with his
salary.
" The evening passed as usual, we farmers talking of the crops of last year and discussing
our plans for the coming season. I was well satisfied to find, by comparison, how
abundant my harvest had been.
" When I came in sight of my home, that night, I saw my well-filled barn in flames,
my garnered treasures gone beyond hope of rescue. It was a terrible blow; and as I
stood there helpless—for nothing could be done—and saw the product of my hard toil a
great, blazing mass, how I wished I had given more of that burning wheat to my pastor.
But it was too late now. I had only enough left for bread and for seed—a few bushels put
in another barn for lack of room.
" It was summer ; my oats were sown, my corn and potatoes planted, the cattle and
sheep were in the pastures ; but there was no rain. Day after day the sun arose without a
cloud, and night after night the moon and stars shone with undimmed beauty. So
the summer months passed—not one drop of rain, no harvest. The winter came, and still
no moisture for the thirsty earth. I had no grain in store, it had been burned; no hay
for my cattle, the grass had not grown. The cattle died, one after another; and through
the long winter it was a fearful struggle to get bread to eat."
Spring returned, and yet no rain. I had no grain to sow, and others began to be in
want. "We grew weak and sick at heart. We were in the midst of what this country
had never known—a real famine. Terror took hold of the soul, while hunger tormented
the body.
" Day and night we prayed for relief, and the answer, always the same, echoed and reechoed
everywhere : 'Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein
have we robbed Thee ? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse; for ye
have robbed me, even this whole nation.'
" Summer's burning heat poured down upon us, and one after another my whole family
sickened and died. Oh ! the agony of watching over sick beds with nothing to alleviate
their suffering! To see our dearest friends dying of starvation ! Yet so my loved
ones died, and I lived on. I buried them with my own hands, for the famine had taken
all sympathy from the community; each was fully occupied with his own sorrow.
" Day after day I wandered through the rooms of my desolate home, and touched reverently
the common things which their dear hands had used, and found some comfort in
this indulgence of my sorrow.
" But even this poor solace was taken away from me. Another fiery tempest came,
sweeping away every remaining vestige of my earthly possessions, and I fled before it. On,
and on, and on, still flying, still pursued, never tiring, impelled by a terror indescribable, till
at length, I know not how, I found myself in a deep gorge of a California mine. All around
me lay broken fragments of rich gold-laden quartz, the very earth beneath my feet seemed
formed of golden sand, and on either side of the narrow valley the mountains rose, full of
treasure. But all this wealth awakened no emotion, for yonder, trickling over the rocks,
was water, pure cold water ! Almost frantic with joy, I rushed toward it, but fell fainting
ere my lips were moistened. I did not lose consciousness, but, too weak with my utmost
effort to drag myself onward, there I lay, with the life-giving water almost within my reach!
"At last relief came; the miners gathered to the little grass plot not far away to eat their
noonday meal. They seated themselves on the grass, made tables of the broken rocks,
and spread out their bountiful repast. How delicious their food looked ! I had not seen
so much at one time for months. How I longed for the very crumbs that fell from their
hands, yet I could not ask. It was not pride, but despair. All the ungrateful past of my
life seemed to come up before me; the food I had carelessly wasted, or carelessly received,
unmindful of the Giver. I never was hungry till this famine began, and now it seemed impossible
for me ever to be fed. " Cursed with a curse " for my ingratitude and robbery of
God ! Oh, the thought was agony ! A deep groan escaped my lips and discovered me to
the miners. One brought me a cup of water, and others gave me food. What a luxury
was that cold water ! How delicious was that coarse but wholesome food ! I ate and
drank like the famished creature that I was, till fully satisfied, and my kind friends returned
to finish their own repast, leaving me lying on the soft grass with a heart full of
praise and thanksgiving.
" The miners were rough men, of many nationalities. Irish, Germans, Chinese, and
profane, God-defying Americans, worked side by side. And as they sat in groups, enjoying
their noonday meal, I listened to their fearful profanity till my soul was sick within
me. There I lay, all that long summer afternoon, living over the years of my past prosperous
life, bemoaning my selfishness and thinking how little I had ever done to send
the gospel to such as the men in the mines.
"But all the future was dead within me. What could a poor, bereaved, famine-stricken
man do, only to pray for pardon and for death?
"At last the day was ended, and two of the kind miners, half led, half carried me to their
camp, shared their evening meal and their scanty tent with me. My heart was full of
gratitude, and, before seeking repose, I knelt to thank him who had given such unexpected
deliverance from famine and death.
" Scarcely had I lain down, when one of the men touched me on the shoulder, saying :
' Stranger, if you can pray won't you come and see a sick man just over here ?'
"I arose and followed him, and there in a dirty tent, lay, and had lain for weeks, tossing
with fever and delirium, my once happy, innocent boy, my long lost Henry. The fever
had left him, and now, pale and exhausted, he seemed only waiting for the last heartthrob
of a wasted life. Some of you, my friends, have known of this great sorrow
which has lain on my heart for years, and may imagine the meeting and the sad recital
I had to make. He said little of himself till I asked him of his spiritual state—his preparation
for an exchange of worlds. An expression of anguish passed over his face. ' I
am not ready—not prepared,' he exclaimed. All is lost, lost! Don't interrupt me,' he
continued, as I was about to speak. ' I know what you would say; I know the way, but
have lost the desire to walk there. I feel I am forever lost! Two years ago,' he continued,
' there came to the mines a young Christian minister, full of life and enthusiasm, yet
so gentle and blameless, so Christ-like that we must all love him. He had a wonderful
power over all, even the roughest, and I loved him as a brother. He remained with us a
year, preaching, talking, and praying, till profanity was banished, and many seemed
almost persuaded. His second year's labors were scarcely begun, when news came from
the Home Missionary Society, saying the treasury was empty, and they did not know
how long it would be before they would be able to pay what remained due on his salary,
and there were so many feeble churches needing a little help, so many new settlements to
be occupied, that they could not continue his commission another year. His heart was full
of grief. He loved those rough men. He would have gladly worked with his hands as
did Paul, but had not the strength, nor could he live without the salary. The miners
might have paid it, but they would not; they liked him, but he was a restraint upon them,
and he left us. Father, I thought of home then, of those rich farms, those bountiful harvests,
and those men and women professing so much love to Christ, yet neglecting to fully
support their own minister, and doing nothing to give these poor miners the bread of life. I
might have been a Christian if young Hurd had remained here, but when he went away
I was angry with Christians, with God, and myself. I went back to my old ways, and
now I cannot repent.'
" My poor boy sank back on his pillow exhausted; a deadly pallor overspread his
face, his breath grew shorter and shorter, and in my agony at seeing him dying thus,
without hope, I uttered a deep groan and awoke.
" At first I could scarcely believe it possible that all I had passed through was but
a dream, and then such a flood of contending emotions poured in upon my soul as almost
overpowered me. I was indeed like one rescued from deepest misery, and put in possession
of every needful blessing. How happy I was, how grateful for the sparing mercy of
my heavenly Father! and never did I receive any worldly good with half the satisfaction
that it gave me to know that God would accept a thank offering at my hands.
I was in haste to make the offering, for I feared the old life-long selfishness would come
back to trouble me; and I could see that my wife had the same fear.
" But the offering was made, gladly and in good faith, by us both. During the few
days that have intervened since then, I have thoroughly investigated the subject of tithing,
and it seems so reasonable, so just, indeed so very little to offer in return for
our many mercies, that I only wonder, I, a professedly Christian man, could so long
have been blind to my duty and privilege.
"Just think of it, year after year, I have plowed my fields and sowed the seed, utterly
powerless to make one single seed germinate. I have planted orchards, and could
neither make the trees live, nor the fruit grow. And every season, God has given
the sunshine and the dew, and the copious rain. And more wonderful still, he has constantly
carried on that chemical process by which each plant has appropriated to itself
the elements it needed for growth and perfection.
Then, when the rich harvests have been gathered in, I have not brought to
God a thank-offering of even one-twentieth of the fruits of the earth, and the
little which I have doled out, I have called benevolence.
"And all these years, men, like the miners in my dream, men from the corrupt
nations of the old world, whom God has sent to us for light; and our own people, somebody's
sons, every one of them, have been going down to eternal death uninstructed
and unwarned; while I Cain-like, have said in my heart, ' Am I my brother's keeper ?'
O my brethren ! God would be entirely just if he were to visit upon me all the horrors
of that fearful dream.
"Yet he is long-suffering, and abundant in mercy, and his fearful denunciation is followed
by the comforting words : " Bring ye all the tithes into the store-house, that there
may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of Hosts, if I
will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing that there shall
not be room enough to receive it!
"I cannot recall the past; I can only pray God to forgive it, but most gladly for the
future, do I, from the depths of a grateful heart, adopt Jacob's vow : " Of all that Thou
shalt give me, I will surely give the tenth unto Thee."
A solemn hush pervaded that large assembly when Mr. Penniman ceased speaking,
broken, at length, by Mr. Goodman's voice in prayer. A hymn was then sung and the
meeting closed.
by-E.M.S.
Signs of the Times Mar.7,1878