Money - Its Use And Abuse—examples
( Originally Published 1884 )
Earl St. Vincent: his protested Bill.—Joseph Hume on living too high.—Ambition after Gentility.—Resistance to Temptation.—Hugh Miller's Case.—High Standard of Life necessary.—Proverbs on Money-making and Thrift.
"Neither a borrower nor a lender be:
ADMIRAL Jervis, Earl St. Vincent, has told the story of his early struggles, and, amongst other things, of his determination to keep out of debt. " My father had a very large family," said he, " with limited means. He gave me twenty pounds at starting, and that was all he ever gave me. After I had been a considerable time at the station [at sea,] I drew for twenty more, but the bill came back protested. I was mortified at this rebuke, and made a promise, which I have ever kept, that I would never draw another bill without a certainty of its being paid. I immediately changed my mode of living, quitted my mess, lived alone, and took up the ship's allowance, which I found quite sufficient; washed and mended my own clothes; made a pair of trowsers out of the ticking of my bed; and having by these means saved as much money as would re-deem my honor, I took up my bill, and from that time to this I have taken care to keep within my means." Jervis for six years endured pinching privation, but preserved his integrity, studied his profession with success, and gradually and steadily rose by merit and bravery to the highest rank.
Mr. Hume hit the mark when he once stated in the House of Commons though his words were followed by " laughter" that the tone of living in England is altogether too high. Middle-class people are too apt to live up to their incomes, if not beyond them: affecting a degree of " style" which is most unhealthy in its effects upon society at large. There is an ambition to bring up boys as gentlemen, or rather " genteel " men, though the result frequently is only to make them gents. They acquire a taste for dress, style, luxuries and amusements, which can never form any solid foundation for manly or gentlemanly character; and the result is, that we have a vast number of gingerbread. young gentry thrown upon the world, who remind one of the abandoned hulls sometimes picked up at sea, with only a monkey on board.
There is a dreadful ambition abroad for being " genteel." We keep up appearances, too often at the expense of honesty; and, though we may not be rich, yet we must seem to be so. We must be " respectable," though only in the meanest sense in mere vulgar out-ward show. We have not the courage to go patiently onward in the condition of life in which it has pleased God to call us; but must needs live in some fashionable state to which we ridiculously please to call ourselves, and to gratify the vanity of that unsubstantial genteel world of which we form a part. There is a constant struggle and pressure for front seats in the social amphitheatre; in the midst of which all noble self-denying resolve is trodden down, and many fine natures are inevitably crushed to death. What waste, what misery, what bankruptcy, come from all this ambition to dazzle others with the glare of apparent worldly success, we need not describe. The mischievous results show themselves in a thousand ways in the rank frauds committed by men who dare to be dishonest, but do not dare to seem poor; and in the desperate dashes at fortune, in which the pity is not so much for those who fail, as for the hundreds of innocent families who are so often involved in their ruin.
The young man, as he passes through life, advances through a long line of tempters ranged on either side of him; and the inevitable effect of yielding to degradation in a greater or less degree. Contact with them tends insensibly to draw away from him some portion of the divine electric element with which his nature is charged ; and his only mode of resisting them is to utter and to act out his " No" manfully and resolutely. He must decide at once, not waiting to deliberate, and balance reasons : for the youth, like " the woman who de-liberates, is lost." Many deliberate, without deciding; but " not to resolve, is to resolve." A perfect knowledge of the man is in the prayer, " Lead us not into temptation." But temptation will come to try the young man's strength; and once yielded to, the power to resist grows weaker and weaker. Yield once, and a portion of virtue has gone. Resist manfully, and the first decision will give strength for life; repeated, it will become a habit. It is in the outworks of the habits formed in early life that the real strength of the defense must lie; for it has been wisely ordained that the machinery of moral existence should be carried on principally through the medium of the habits, so as to save the wear and tear of the great principles within. It is good habits, which insinuate themselves into the thou-sand inconsiderable acts of life, that really constitute by far the greater part of man's moral conduct.
Hugh Miller has told how, by an act of youthful decision, he saved himself from one of the strong temptations so peculiar to a life of toil. When employed as a mason, it was usual for his fellow workmen to have an occasional treat of drink, and one day two glasses of whiskey fell to his share, which he swallowed. When he reached home, he found, on opening his favorite book—" Bacon's Essays "—that the letters danced be-fore his eyes, and that he could no longer master the sense. " The condition," he says, " into which I had brought myself was, I felt, one of degradation. I had sunk, by my own act, for the time, to a lower level of intelligence than that on which it was my privilege to be placed; and though the state could have been no very favorable one for forming a resolution, I in that hour determined that I should never again sacrifice my capacity of intellectual enjoyment to a drinking usage; and, with God's help, I was enabled to hold by the de-termination." It is such decisions as this that often form the turning points in a man's life, and furnish the foundation of his future character. And this rock, on which Hugh Miller might have been wrecked, if he had not at the right moment put forth his moral strength to strike away from it, is one that youth and manhood alike need to be constantly on their guard against. It is about one of the worst and most deadly, as well as extravagant, temptations which lie in the way of youth. Sir Walter Scott used to say that " of all vices, drinking is the most incompatible with greatness." Not only so, but it is incompatible with economy, decency, health, and honest living. When a youth can not restrain he must abstain. Dr. Johnson's case is the case of many. He said, referring to his own habits, " Sir, I can abstain; but I can't be moderate."
But to wrestle vigorously and successfully with any vicious habit, we must not merely be satisfied with contending on the low ground of worldly prudence, though that is of use, but take stand upon a higher moral elevation. Mechanical aids, such as pledges, may be of service to some, but the great thing is to set up a high standard of thinking and acting, and endeavor to strengthen and purify the principles as well as to reform the habits. For this purpose a youth must study himself, watch his steps, and compare his thoughts and acts with his rule. The more knowledge of himself he gains, the more humble will he be, and perhaps the less confident in his own strength. But the discipline will be always found most valuable which is required by resisting small present gratifications to secure a prospective greater and higher one. It is the noblest work in self education for
Many popular books have been written for the purpose of communicating to the public the grand secret of making money. But there is no secret whatever about it, as the proverbs of every nation abundantly testify. " Take care of the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves." " Diligence is the mother of good luck." " No pains no gains." " No sweat no sweet." " Work and thou shalt have." " The world is his who has patience and industry." " Better go to bed supperless than rise in debt." Such are specimens of the proverbial philosophy, embodying the hoarded experience of many generations, as to the best means of thriving in the world. They were current in people's mouths long before books were invented; and like other popular proverbs they were the first codes of popular morals. Moreover they have stood the test of time, and the experience of every day still bears witness to their accuracy, force, and soundness. The Proverbs of Solomon are full of wisdom as to the force of industry, and the use and abuse of money:—" He that is slothful in work is brother to him that is a great waster." " Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise." Poverty, says the preacher, shall come upon the idler, " as one that traveleth, and want as an armed man;" but of the industrious and upright, " the hand of the diligent maketh rich." " The drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty; and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags." " Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings." But above all, " It is better to get wisdom than gold; for wisdom is better than rubies, and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it."
Simple industry and thrift will go far towards making any person of ordinary working faculty comparatively independent in his means. Even a working man may be so, provided he will carefully husband his re-sources, and watch the little outlets of useless expenditure. A penny is a very small matter, yet the comfort of thousands of families depends upon the proper spending and saving of pennies. If a man allows the little pennies, the results of his hard work, to slip out of his fingers some to the beer-shop, some this way and some that he will find that his life is little raised above one of mere animal drudgery. On the other hand, if he take care of the pennies putting some weekly into a benefit society or an insurance fund, others into a saving's bank, and confiding the rest to his wife to be care-fully laid out, with a view to the comfortable maintenance and education of his family he will soon find that this attention to small matters will abundantly repay him, in increasing means, growing comfort at home, and a mind comparatively free from fears as to the future. And if a working man have high ambition and possess richness in spirit a kind of wealth which far transcends all mere worldly possessions he may not only help himself, but be a profitable helper of others in his path through life.