Damage Done By A Fast Young Man
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
THERE was a young lawyer who lived down in Egypt, in Southern Illinois, in the corn-growing belt which is skirted by the Ohio River. He had not the advantages of a liberal education, but he was competent and industrious and became a good counsellor and an excellent advocate. He had a large and lucrative practice, and at the ripening time of his life he was elected to the Judgeship of the circuit in which he lived. He was economical and thrifty, and finding that his income was larger than was necessary for a comfortable support, he made judicious investments which, in the course of years, grew into quite a little fortune, for that region. In a city in an adjoining State there was a young man who had entered a store when a small boy, to sweep out, attend to the fires, dust the goods, etc., who had been so apt, diligent and faithful to the tasks committed to him, that he had been advanced in his position and income, until he had become the chief salesman of the house, with a most excellent salary. He was a model young man in every regard; he was business from head to foot; was polite in his demeanor, and very popular with the customers. He was very frank in all his representations, and fair and square to the minutest detail in his dealings; having been raised in a religious home, he retained his Christian integrity and became an efficient worker in the Sunday School and Church to which he belonged. The young man was naturally ambitious to start a business of his own, and having saved some money out of his salary, he cast his eye about for some capitalist who would put money against his experience. Learning of this judge, in Illinois, who had money to lend, he visited him, and made much an impression upon him that he agreed to back the young man up with several thousand dollars to found a new business house, and to publicly become his partner. A large store was rented, a splendid stock of goods was bought, and a large and lucrative trade was secured. As the years went by, the stock was greatly increased and money was made in large quantities. The man was considered one of the leading merchants of the city, was the superintendent of a Sunday School, and was one of the most influential and conspicuous officers in the church of which he was a member. But his successes had turned his head; he got fat and lazy, hired people to do the planning which belonged to him. He began to live too high ; was petted and spoiled by gay society ; and, beguiled by the wine cup, was enticed by the gaming-table and by evil companionships. His face began to get red and then purple ; his eye, that used to be so clear and sincere, had a wild look about it ; the level-headed, evenly poised man had become nervous and fidgety. He was beating about, apparently aimlessly, in office and store, but always with bad instinct enough to make his way to the corner saloon several times a day. Of course trade began to get away from him; the balancing of the books at the end of the year showed a loss instead of a gain, and in an incredibly short number of years the man went to pieces, and with him the great business he had founded, and with it the fortune of the judge. The judge had had such complete faith in the ability and honor of his partner, that he risked every dollar he had in the world on him, and had lost it. He took no part in the management of the business, retaining his residence and practice in his home town in Illinois. When he discovered the financial danger of the firm, it was too late to avoid the ruin which so swiftly overtook him.
I was the pastor of that judge in the period of his financial distress and poverty. One day he told me the story of his misfortune and his wrongs. He said it was bad enough to lose the earnings of a lifetime, but the thing that made him feel worse, was that they were lost by the basest betrayal of trust. It was a pathetic picture I witnessed, as the little old man, with white hair and beard, wept over the story of his earthly loss and ill-treatment. Then he braced himself up, and with eye flashing with triumph, and with a smile of love, he said: " Well, pastor, I have lost every cent I ever had in the world, but I have not lost my honor. I have my manhood yet, and that is the principal thing. It is a richer treasure than all the wealth of the world."
Most of the misfortune and woes of life are caused by the mistakes and sins of others. There is sometimes the greatest material prosperity attended by the most marked spiritual declension. It often happens that honor stands se-cure and magnificent above the wreck of earthly fortune. Our success or failure in the spiritual world will determine the eternal fate of our fellow men who trust or follow us.