( Originally Published 1853 )
IN the preceding chapters the reader has learned how money is made, and also how it may be earned. In this chapter I shall speak of the manner in which money is often abused, and shall try to show the young reader that those who thus abuse it are not half so wise nor half so happy as they might be.
In saying that money is abused, I do not mean that it is thrown away, or put in the fire and burned so as to spoil it, or trodden under foot in the mud so as to soil it. No, I have never known any person who abused money in any of these ways. If a good little boy were treated in this manner, he would be greatly abused ; but if he were tenderly loved, it would be no abuse at all.
No, loving good boys and girls does not abuse them ; but loving money does abuse it. A little boy is abused when he is treated as he ought not to be ; and it is just so with money, that is abused when it is treated as it ought not to be.
Money ought never to be loved, and this is why those who love it abuse it.
Who ever thought of loving a stone, or a brick, or a stick of wood ? And why should money be loved any more than these ? It is just as lifeless, just as insensible, just as incapable of hearing what we say to it, or of talking to us, or of loving us. I have seen dogs and cats and horses and cows which I could almost love, because they seemed to know so much, and because I really believe they loved me. The little dog would come jumping with joy, and leaping up to my face, would give me a kiss as soon as he came near me. The cat would hum her low, sweet hymn of happiness, if I took her in my lap and put my hand upon her head. My faithful horse and cow would greet me with looks of so much intelligence and kindness when I entered their stables, that I could not help feeling some degree of affection for them. But money never showed any more signs of knowledge or affection, than did the bones of my poor horse after he was dead and moldered away. And who ever thought of loving the bones of a dead horse !
No, my money. does not know anything at all ; and it does me no good so long as I keep it. It is only when I part with it, and let somebody else have it, that it really benefits me. Then it brings me a book to enlighten my mind, or clothes to keep me warm, or food to nourish and strengthen my body.
Now I presume the reader is ready to exclaim, " I wonder if there is anybody in the world so foolish as to love their lifeless insensible gold and silver !"
Yes, there are many just so foolish.
They keep their money in some secret place where it will be very safe; and frequently they go to it, take up the pieces in their hands, and look at them with a great deal of interest, and count them over to see how much there is; and they really think more of their money than they do of their kind, beautiful, and useful animals, or even of their own dear children.
There was one of these money-lovers not very far from where I live. He was taken sick, and the thought that he must die, and be torn away from his money, seemed to be more painful to him than anything else. At last he found that he was dying : he called for his chest of money. It was brought to him, and he thrust his hand down as far as he could among the dollars, and died clenching them with a convulsive grasp. Poor man ! Did his love of money prepare him to meet God ? O, let me die the death of the righteous, and not of the miser.
Many parents take more pleasure in looking at their money than they do in giving wise instructions to their children, such as will make them happy and useful when they grow up. Some keep hundreds of dollars in their houses, but let their children grow up almost as ignorant as the dumb beasts in their pastures. If asked why they do not send their sons and daughters to school, they reply that they cannot afford it.
If you inquire what they intend to do with their money, they answer that they must lay up something for their children. Such parents certainly think that it is more important that their children should have money than useful knowledge. If you know any such parents, I wish you would carry this book to them, and ask them to read the following story.
Mr. Bush had two sons, John and William, who were almost grown up to manhood. He had watched their dispositions with a great deal of interest, and had been much pleased to see that John was a great lover of his books.
He had an ardent desire for knowledge, and spent all his leisure time in study.
But William gave his father as much pain as John did pleasure. William cared little about knowledge, but manifested a great love of money. He spent all the time be could, either in counting over his money and looking at it, or in contriving plans to get more.
One day, as the boys were seated in the door-yard, Mr. Bush stepped up to John with a flower in his hand, and said, " Here, my son, would you like to know something about botany ? Here is a flower, and the botanists tell us that this part is called a corol, this part a stamen, and this part a pistil." He then explained to him the uses of those parts of the flower. John listened with attention, and asked several questions which showed the lively interest with which he received the information.
Mr. Bush then turned to William, who had scarcely noticed what was going op, and gave him three pieces of silver, a dollar, a half-dollar, and a dime.
William's countenance brightened as he took the money, and thanked his father for the present.
" Now," said Mr. Bush, " I have given John three pieces of information ; I have told him about the corol, the stamen, and the pistil of a flower ; and I have given William three pieces of money.
Now I want to know which of you I have benefited most ?"
" Why, you have benefited me most," said William, " for you have given me money, the real specie, the best thing in the world."
John smiled at William's earnestness, and replied, " No, father, you have benefited me most ; for you have given me knowledge, and that is the treasure of the mind."
" Treasure of the mind !" said William, "you are always talking about treasures of the mind. I wish you had your mental money-purse full of such treasures. I should like to see how rich you would feel. But who do you suppose would think you were rich, or who would call you so ? But I like' to get hold of the genuine coin, it does me good to get it. And then I can take my wallet from my pocket as often as I please, and look at my pieces of money. I can say this is a dollar, this is a half-dollar, and this is a dime ;and I feel a real satisfaction every time I count them over."
" Yes," said John, " I don't doubt your love of money, or the pleasure you take in getting it, and counting it over.
But you must allow me to take as much pleasure in acquiring knowledge as you do in getting money. And don't you think it does me as much good to have my knowledge by me, as it does you to have your money ? Whenever I go into the garden or the field I can pick a flower, and say, This is a corol, this is a stamen, and this is a pistil ; and compare these parts of a flower with the same parts of other flowers : I feel a real satisfaction in thus counting over my pieces of information."
Their father now interrupted them.
" Well, I do not see that you are likely to settle the question. The truth is, John has a strong desire for knowledge, and the pieces of information which I just gave him gratified that desire, and he is really benefited. William has a strong desire for money, and the pieces which I gave him gratified his desire,. and he is really benefited.
So far, then, you seem to be about even."
" Yes, but then," said William, " you must remember that my money is something real ; it is substance ; I can see it, and feel it, and hear it chink."
" Ay," replied John, "but suppose you wish to give your pieces of silver to a friend, or suppose you lose your wallet, or some sly rogue slips it from your pocket ; your money is gone in a moment, and you can only lament, ' I had a dollar, and a half-dollar, and a dime ; but alas, they are gone forever !'
Not so with my knowledge. I can show a flower to my friend, and describe. to him its parts. Thus I can give them away ; or I can get up a class in botany, and sell them a hundred times over ; but they are not gone forever ; they are mine still, mine to be used as ' long as I live, and mine forever ! I therefore contend that my knowledge is more substantial than your substance, that it is really worth more than money."
William hesitated, for he knew not what to reply ; and his father followed up the advantage which John had gained, by saying, " And then, William, in addition to all this, you must reflect how much nobler is the love of knowledge than the love of money. The latter is the love felt by the miser, the most selfish, degraded, and miserable creature in the world ; while the love of knowledge is cherished by all good and wise men, and is approved by God himself. Indeed, it is the love of useful knowledge which makes men wise and good and happy.
" I am sorry, my son, that you think so much of money, and so little of knowledge. For my part, I would rather be a wise man than a miser; I would rather be good than rich; I would rather be honored than despised ; I would rather be happy than miserable ; and for all these reasons I preferknowledge to money."
" well," said William, as he turned to go away, " I shall think a little more about that ; I never looked at the thing just in that way before."
Perhaps the story of Mr. Bush and his boys might be useful to those parents who think nothing so important for themselves and their children as a great deal of silver and gold.
But that these parents prefer money to knowledge, is not their greatest folly.
Our Saviour says, " How hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God ! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." Mark x, 24, 25.
From this we learn, that those who love money are in great danger of being shut out of the kingdom of heaven. 0 what folly it is for a person to spend his life striving to be rich, while he ought to be laying up treasures in the kingdom of God ! I hope that none who read this little book will be so unwise and wicked.
The Bible says, " Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength." Mark xii, 30.
If we love God and his holy word, we shall be wise and good and happy in this world, and shall be prepared for eternal happiness in the world to come.
We ought also to remember another important lesson which the Bible teaches.
It says : " The love of money is the root of all evil." 1 Tim. vi, 10. No evils result from loving God, or loving the souls of men, or loving truth and holiness ; but a thousand evils do result; from loving money. Murders, thefts, robberies, frauds, falsehoods, Sabbath-breaking, gambling, oppression, and a great many other crimes are committed because of the love of money. When you hear of the dreadful sufferings of the poor African who is stolen from his native country and his beloved friends, and carried across the ocean to spend his life in the miseries of bondage, you may know that it is the love of money which induces the wicked oppressor to treat him so cruelly.
Ah ! the love of money is not only a very foolish thing, it is a very wicked thing. Don't let it come into your heart, my young friend. Keep it out, as you would keep a deadly viper out of your bosom. Think of the fearful judgments which the indulgence of this base passion brought upon Achan of old, and upon Judas Iscariot, and upon Ananias and Sapphira. Those who love money are covetous ; and God calls covetous persons idolaters, and declares that he abhors them. Psalm x, 3.
You remember that Mr. Bush told his boys that the love of money was a very unworthy feeling, not half so elevated and noble as the love of knowledge. If you would be lovely in the sight of God and of all good men, you must love what 'is truly lovely. Love God then, for he is loved by all the angels in heaven. Love Jesus, for he is altogether lovely. Love truth and holiness, for it will make you good and wise, useful and happy.