"BRINGING IN THE SHEAVES"
"He that goeth forth…bearing precious seed, shall…come…rejoicing, bring his sheaves…." (Ps. 126.6)
INTRO.: A song which compares the idea of preaching the gospel and winning souls to bringing in sheaves of grain is "Bringing In The Sheaves" (#571 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by Knowles Shaw (1834-1878). It was first published anonymously in his 1874 work The Golden Gate for the Sunday School and first appeared with his name in The Morning Star, A New Collection of Sunday School Music of 1877. Shaw was a well-known evangelist and song-writer among churches of Christ and Christian Churches during the late 19th century who lived in Ohio and Indiana, and died in a train wreck near McKinney, TX. Some of his other hymns which are still used today are "I Am The Vine," for which he provided both words and music, and tunes for Anne Richter’s "We Saw Thee Not" and Carolyn Smith’s "Tarry With Me."
The tune (Harvest) that we use is usually identified as having been composed by George Austin Minor, who was born on Dec. 7, 1845, in Richmond, VA. Educated at a military academy in Richmond, he served in the Confederate army during the American Civil War. Afterwards, he taught singing schools in VA, and about 1875 co-founded the Hume-Minor Company of Richmond and Norfolk which manufactured pianos and organs. His wife Jennie, whom he married in 1886, was the daughter of Capt. J. H. Prince of Green Plain, VA. A member of the First Baptist Church of Richmond, he led singing for the Sunday school and published several volumes of Sunday school music, including Golden Light for Sunday Schools No. 1 of 1879, which first included this melody, two more editions of Golden Light, Standard Songs, and The Rosebud, before his death in Richmond on Jan. 29, 1904.
Shaw had published his own music with the poem, but most books credit Minor with the present tune. Actually, Minor’s tune is quite similar to Shaw’s original melody and almost seems to be based on it, so that it could be called somewhat of an arrangement. In the 1927 Cross and Resurrection in Song Revised and Enlarged, editor Flavil Hall wrote, "’Bringing in the Sheaves’ was written, both words and music, by Knowles Shaw….Mr. Geo. A Minor later made a few ‘minor’ changes in it, transposing it from C to B-flat, and published it in a little leaflet with a few of his own pieces." It has been in almost every one of our books with the exception of the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1986 Hymns for Worship edited by Dane K. Shepard and R. J. Stevens; and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise edited by Alton H. Howard.
Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ during the twentieth century, the song appeared in the 1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1) and the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 both edited by E. L. Jorgenson; the 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1), the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2, and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 all edited by L. O. Sanderson; the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater; and the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch. Today it may be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church and the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed. both edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand, in addition to Sacred Selections; and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.
The song encourages us to keep sowing the seed that we might reap the harvest.
I. Stanza 1 emphasizes the importance of sowing the seed
"Sowing in the morning, sowing seeds of kindness, Sowing in the noontide and the dewy eves,
Waiting for the harvest and the time of reaping–We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves."
A. A sower must go forth to sow: Lk. 8.5; some might argue that Jesus or the apostles are the sower since they revealed the word, but the truth is that the Lord wants all Christians to be sowers: 2 Tim. 2.2
B. The seed which the Lord wants us to sow is the word: Lk. 8.11; so the "seeds of kindness" that we sow must be based on the teaching of God’s word
C. The aim of our sowing is to anticipate the harvest and the time of reaping: Mt. 13.39
II. Stanza 2 emphasizes the attitude that we need in sowing the seed
"Sowing in the sunshine, sowing in the shadows, Fearing neither loss nor winter’s chilling breeze;
By and by the harvest and the labor ended–We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves."
A. We are to sow in the sunshine and the shadows, that is, everywhere, because the gospel is for all people: Mk. 16.15
B. We are to sow, fearing neither clouds or winter’s chilling breeze; indeed, we have nothing in this life to fear: Mt. 10.28
C. And we are to sow at all times, because the time of our labor’s ending will come when we can sow no more: Jn. 9.4
III. Stanza 3 emphasizes the harvest that will result from sowing the seed
"Going forth with weeping, sowing for the Master, Though the loss sustained our spirit often grieves;
When our weeping’s over He will bid us welcome–We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves."
A. We need to remember that the Master for whom we sow is the Lord Jesus: Col. 3.23-24, 4.1
B. Sometimes, the work that we do doesn’t bear the kind of fruit that we hope, and we grieve: 1 Cor. 3.6-15
C. However, if we have labored for Him faithfully, He will bid us welcome at the time of harvest: Mt. 25.21
IV. A number of years ago, I saw an old hymnbook with Shaw’s original version in it; it had his own tune and I thought a fourth stanza. I’ve looked through all the books I have and even searched the Internet but never found a fourth stanza by Shaw, if there was one. However, I do have one book with a fourth stanza written by Charles R. Scoville in 1911 which emphasizes the invitation extended in sowing the seed (I’ve altered the ending a bit to match the other stanzas)
"Blessed whosoever is the invitation, We are all included, grace is full and free;
Men of every nation swell aloud the chorus–‘We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.’"
A. The gospel invitation is extended to "whosoever will": Rev. 22.17
B. Therefore, everyone is included in the offer of salvation by grace: Eph. 2.8
C. And men of every nation who respond to this invitation by obeying the gospel will join in the chorus: Matt. 28.19
CONCL.: The chorus continues to remind us of the need for sowing the seek that we might reap the harvest:
"Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves" (repeat).
Through the years, when a script for a western movie called for a church scene on the frontier, most often the hymn was "Bringing In The Sheaves." The argument offered for the omission of this famous hymn from many modern denominational hymnals is that it’s a throwback to our rural, agrarian past and just is not meaningful to very many in our more urban, technological society. Maybe, maybe not. But the acid test is not whether it is old or new but whether it is scriptural. And the thought of this song is taken directly from the Bible. If we can appreciate what God’s word says about sowing the seed and reaping the harvest in Ps. 126, then we should be able to understand the picture of the song and the importance of "Bringing In The Sheaves."