« EelmineJätka »
free course and be glorified in all the affairs and departments of life.
When Pythagoras demonstrated the geometrical proposition, that in a rectangular triangle the sum of the two lateral squares is equal to the square of the hypoteneuse, it is written, that he ordered a sacrifice of one hundred oxen. What offerings of gratitude, my fellow-citizens, have we made for all the many discoveries of modern times? What have been our thank-offerings for the printing-presses, the railways, the steam-ships, the telegraphs, the steam printed books, the free institutionsgood gifts of our God to us? By the progress of human arts, the increase of substantial comforts and of medical knowledge, the average of human existence has been lengthened many years. Have we been careful to give to the Author and Sustainer of our being at least the one day in seven which he claims as his own? He has favored us with the means of swift transit. Are we extending the knowledge of Him,
"Far as the ocean waters roll,
"Truth makes our children free at home,
May shine, where'er our children roam,
It is the good will of Him that dwelt in the bush on Horeb's awful summit that has given us the precious things of Heaven, the precious fruits brought forth by the moon and sun, and the chief things of the ancient mountains, and the precious things of the lasting hills, the precious things of the earth and the fulness thereof. To Him be all the praise, forever and ever.
BY REV. WILLIAM CLIFT,
FOLLY OF AMASSING WEALTH FOR CHILDREN.
"Yea, I hated all my labor which I had taken under the sun; because I should leave it unto the man that shall be after me.
"And who knoweth whether he shall be a wise man or a fool? Yet shall he have rule over all my labor wherein I have labored, and wherein I have showed myself wise under the sun. This is also vanity."-ECCL. ii. 18, 19.
THE doubt, which Solomon expresses in the text, is thought to be solved, and the men of modern times, with almost unvarying uniformity, leave the result of their labors to their natural heirs, not doubting their competence to use it wisely. Where the wisdom of Solomon could only see an even balance of probabilities, they see a certainty, and instead of hating their labor from any apprehension that the man who shall come after them will abuse his inheritance, they delight in it, as the one thing needful for him. If they can but place him above want, and make him realize a life of luxurious ease, they attain their highest aspirations. Toil and danger are sweetened by the prospect of the brilliant career that awaits the heirs of their fortune. And this is the result to which nearly all classes, both in the church and out of it, come, notwithstanding that the adverse teachings of nearly three thousand years have been added to the wisdom of Solomon.
This experience fixes the rule with rare exceptions, that inherited wealth tends to make a man a fool, whatever may be his native endowments. And yet, every man who hoards money for another generation, is confident that his own children shall be an exception, and labors industriously to leave them a fortune. The great ends of life and the noble uses of wealth are lost sight of, that he may repeat an experiment, which Providenco has suffered to be repeated in all ages, and which will continue to be repeated, until men see the folly of their cravings for the generation that is to come after them, and labor wisely to better the condition of their own.
In nine cases out of ten, at least, after a man has met his own reasonable wants, and those of his family, he hands over his surplus wealth to his natural heirs. Instead of using it himself as a talent entrusted to him by his Maker, he throws off this responsibility, and bequeaths it to his children, to be used by them, not knowing whether they shall be wise men or fools. We are at a loss to determine whether this is the result of design, deliberately cherished through life, or whether surprised at death's approach, men thus dispose of their property, when they can hold it no longer. As the most lenient view of human nature, we are inclined to believe that it is one of the many ways in which procrastination cheats us of present usefulness and happiness. The money that comes only by the hard toil of the hands or the head-that has been accumulated by the aching limbs and the throbbing brain, we are slow to part with. If it
must go, we are anxious that it shall do the most good possible-and as the offered almoners of our bounty come and go, we hesitate, thinking that the best opportunity for charitable investment is not yet. Sudden disease or old age surprises us amid these wary deliberations, and as the best disposition of a vexed question, we bequeath our hoarded gains to our heirs, hoping they will be wiser.
Whatever be the cause of this hoarding, it is, in almost every respect, an evil. Nothing so much stands in the way of the right use of wealth; so fosters avarice in the parent, and vice in the child; so mars personal happiness and usefulness; so palsies the energies of our churches-as this toiling to save money for another generation. Both the Revelation and the Providence of God are at war with the practice.
Solomon is very clearly committed against it; for he had no pleasure in all his labors, for the thought that he should leave his wealth to the man who should come after him, not knowing whether he would be a wise man or a fool. His apprehensions in this respect were not groundless, for history teaches us that Rehoboam was one of the weakest and most foolish of Jewish kings. To this result, doubtless, his inherited wealth very largely contributed. With a fortune and a kingdom ready to his hands, with no great public work, like the temple, to enlist his energies, and puffed up with ancestral pride, what marvel that his folly and insolence lost him the ten tribes? The experiment of making fortunes for children from that day to this has rarely been attended with better success. Must there not be something radically wrong in a practice resulting, so generally, in disaster and ruin?
The text suggests the
FOLLY OF ACCUMULATING FORTUNES FOR CHILDREN.
And here I would premise that the bare fact of leaving property to children or other heirs is not declared an evil. Whether it be such or not will depend on circumstances. If a child were insane, idiotic, or in any way disabled, it would be palpably wrong in a parent, having the means, to make no provision for his wants. Doubtless, it is also right and proper to furnish a child with the means of prosecuting some business for a livelihood. A certain amount of capital is as necessary in most kinds of business, as tools are for the mechanic. The expediency, or the moral right even, of leaving children more than this, is questionable. At any rate, to leave them so much as shall put them beyond the necessity of self-exertion-"a fortune," as it is called-is wrong. It is an evil to children, to parents, to society.
I. It takes from children the expectation and the purpose to succeed in life by their own efforts. This is the general tendency of expectations of fortune. It is admitted that there are those who, either blessed with rare mental endowments, or a happy moral training, resist this tendency, and rise superior to the corrupting influences with which they are surrounded. But the exceeding rareness of such cases only sets the real tendency of expectations of wealth in a stronger light. The heir of fortune will naturally make his anticipated wealth the hope and reliance of his life. And difficult will it be to induce him to devote his attention and his energies to any useful occupation. The spur of necessity will be wanting. If under parental guidance he be put to some mechanical employment, to
trade, or to study, his feelings will seldom be enlisted in his occupation. He is assured that his fortune is made, and whether industrious or not, he is secure of the comforts and luxuries of life. What matters it to him, whether he masters the science of his business or not? He does not expect to live by it. In academic life, his studies are a painful drudgery. His greatest mental efforts consist in framing cunning devices, to cheat his teachers of respectable recitations. If parental pride covet professional reputation for the heir, and he be sent to the appropriate schools of training, he avails himself of the larger license accorded to his riper years in these institutions. He is more reckless of study, because he can be so without censure. He attends the ordinary routine of lectures, and possibly receives the customary diploma out of deference to his social standing, and is published to the world, on the catalogue, as a graduated master of divinity, medicine, or law. If he attempt professional practice, as he may, to save himself from the mortification of failure, he finds it altogether a different matter from professional study. The public have not the same pecuniary interest in submitting to a sham, that teachers and lecturers have. An enlightened community will not be likely to entrust its morals, health, or property, to the guardianship of men who have no proper qualifications for their professions. Wealth cannot command success in these callings. The heir usually makes but a professional blank, and feigned bronchitis or some other friendly disease early comes in to relieve him from duties, for which he has neither affection nor qualifications. He retires to elegant leisure, and ceases to be known except as the courted heir of fortune, the prodigal spendthrift, the bankrupt, or the drunkard. This is the ordinary history of the sons of affluence.
And the philosophy of such facts is almost as obvious as the facts themselves. Those strong incentives to exertion, which Providence designed should act upon every youth and help mould his character, are wanting. There has been a rude interference with God's plan of making virtuous and manly characters, and what wonder if the result be failure and disappointment? Full-grown men-men who leave their mark upon the community and the age in which they live-are only moulded under the expectation and the firm purpose to succeed in life by their own efforts.
II. The practice under consideration deprives children of the education and discipline of self-reliance. In regard to the great objects of life, they have neither faith nor works; they not only do not expect to succeed by their own efforts, but they are deficient in that practical training which commands success. The purpose of the parents to make them independent of labor, vitiates all their efforts at practical training, just as the expectations of the children vitiate their efforts at self-improvement. In either case, the thing aimed at is but half done. Parents may take the most correct views of the education and discipline their children need, and yet fail of attaining the ends they know to be so desirable. They may have correct theories about the vanity of wealth, and the reverses of fortune, and see that some other reliance is indispensable. They may dream of letters or trade for their sons, or of domestic service, good housewifery, teaching, or artistic skill for their daughters. Yet the time and patience to make them truly accomplished in any of these callings, will always be wanting. Much may be attempted in the way of mastering the vulgar minutiae of the occupations by which people get their bread, but little will ac
tually be done. There will be a smattering of almost everything-a mastery of nothing. Great excellence in any of those callings by which men live, is not to be looked for among the heirs of fortune. The thought is ever present to the minds of the parents, that their children will not need these callings; and as a man thinketh, so is he in his parental training, as in every thing else. His expectations for his children will give character to the influence he exerts upon them. Men are not wont to make much provision for mere contingencies. Daughters, expected to shine in the parlor, will hardly become well versed in the mysteries of house-keeping, upon the remote possibility that these may hereafter be available. Sons that are only expected to spend fortunes, will rarely know much of the drudgery of business, or of that close application to it which ensures success. There is no substitute for necessity in the training of youth, and God never designed there should be. Nothing but the stern fact that a man must work in some reputable calling, will make him prepare to work. Put this before the mind of an intelligent youth, and it will operate like a charm which genius can never supply. It will give him a firmness of nerve, and a skill in execution, that will distance all amateur rivals.
III. The folly we are discussing educates children in the radical error, that they are not to do service in the world, but are to be served. This is the tendency of their expectations, and do what you may to remove it, the impression remains still. This error is radical wherever it exists, and will vitiate any character, however interesting or amiable by nature. It is at war with all the arrangements of God's providence, quite as much as with the provisions of his grace. In the natural world, every thing ministers to the welfare of the whole, from the meanest insect, to the largest animal-from the smallest atom, to the mightiest globe. To make children an exception to this universal law is not only to separate them from their kind, but to sever the ties which bind them to all of God's works. That bond of sympathy with their fellows, and with the external world, which is essential to the development of their characters, is broken. You can no more grow a plant without light and heat, than you can rear a symmetrical character without sympathy with humanity, and with nature. Let a child come up to maturity with the idea that he is to do no service, and fill no sphere of usefulness, and call him by what pleasing name you will, he is a monster of selfishness. In his view, all things exist for his service. A view that runs so athwart the arrangements of Providence, must necessarily render him miserable. God has made us to find our happiness, not in passive pleasures, but in ministering to others. Hence the highest luxury of the soul consists in deeds of self-forgetting benevolence. Kind words, kind acts to make others happy, kindle in our own hearts a glow of satisfaction which the selfish soul never knows. What wretchedness then, awaits the petted and effeminate nursling of affluence! Neither man nor nature will do his bidding, and minister at all times to his selfishness. But,
IV. Hoarding property for heirs brings evil to parents, as well as to children.
Scarce anything beside fastens upon them so strongly the chains of avarice. The man who determines to be the executor of his own estate, finds a safeguard against the encroachments of this vice of old