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SPECULATION AND EXTRAVAGANCE,
A case was recently heard in one of the bankruptcy courts, which exhibited so much reckless adventure in mining and other speculations, we cannot omit the opportunity it has afforded us of animadverting on what is evidently too much the spirit of the age. The individual, whose case we have referred to, exhibited himself as an agent, and, by means of advertisements and seductive prospectuses, aided by the adventitious advantage of a good house in one of the squares, well furnished with every thing that could give the appearance of respectability, succeeded in obtaining, under the expectation of great profits or a high rate of interest, from men of fortune and title, members of parliament, and we regret to add, clergymen also, no less a sum than £360,000, to be invested in mining speculations, of which they were utterly ignorant, and which, if entered into at all, never yielded one farthing in actual returns. The bankrupt declared this large amount was actually 'thrust upon him,' by eager applicants, and the commissioner exclaimed, on winding up the affairs, · It is awful to think how so many persons of education and station in society, could have been so deluded, by their own infatuation, of the enormous sum of £360,000.' They received back, it appears, in the course of three or four years, about £60,000, in the shape of interest, doubtless from their own subscriptions, and then the bubble burst, and they have lost the whole capital they had so rashly invested. · To what can be attributed this reckless sacrifice of substantial property, but to what, we fear, must be regarded as two most prominent vices in the present day - viz. extravagance, and the love of speculation. It would be curious to trace through all their ramifications, the manner in which these two vices are connected together, and act and re-act upon each other ; extravagance too often rendering speculation necessary, as the only probable, or perhaps remaining means of meeting the unavoidable demands of an undue expenditure, and successful speculation inducing a style of living, which can only be supported by the same forced and unnatural means to which it owed its birth, and which generally ends in ruin. Great changes are taking place in society and in property, as well as in the opinions of men, and few seem disposed to remain, according to the admonition of that old-fashioned, but most sound book, the Catechism of the Church of England, content' in that state of life in which it has pleased God to call them.' If we had leisure to examine the various classes, the agricultural, the mercantile, the manufacturing, the professions, and the trading, into which the community is divided, we should find in each a fearful departure from the prudent, economical habits of our forefathers, and we regret to add in each, a style of extravagance, which as it cannot be supported by the ordinary rate of profit, Aies to speculation as the only means by which it can be sustained.
A morning paper having reported the above case, has appended the following amongst many other excellent observations:
• Poverty is a disease almost universally prevalent even in the higher classes ; yet families immersed in society continue to waste
their substance in its follies and excesses; and men of the world will sacrifice their honesty sooner than lay down their carriages, or cease to give extravagant entertainments; and rather than relinquish their conventional importance will resort to borrowing until they are compelled to expatriate themselves, and uselessly or wickedly fret the remainder of their lives in second-rate continental capitals, or gambling and disreputable watering-places. Land, or, what amounts to nearly the same thing as possession, power over land, is rapidly passing into the hands of millionaires, and the influence formerly possessed by an hereditary aristocracy full of kindly feelings for the poor, is silently assigned to the mere owners of money.
• Great encouragement has of late years been given to the tendencies we have described by the abuse of the principle of joint-stock association, by the tempting dividends of public companies, and by the relaxation of the usury laws. We are indebted to political economy for the knowledge of those simple and beautiful laws which regulate the increase of capital, and that knowledge has undoubtedly thrown into the market a hoard of buried wealth, and thereby increased the resources of society; but the cupidity of some, and the knavery of others, have out of this good brought forth great evil and much suffering. They have produced a rage for speculation and facilities of credit, which have given birth to great dishonesty, to over-production; and, by calling forth too great competition of labour, have oppressed labourers. Men tempted by high rates of interest, or under the pressure of excess of expenditure over income, rush into all sorts of wild speculations, and too often support any losses therefrom by a descent into crime. Nor is this tendency confined to them : when the railway mania was at its height, a large proportion of scrip was held by clerks in Manchester warehouses, and betting on horseraces in that town is to its inhabitants as legitimate and constant an employment as time bargains in the Stock Exchange in London.
• Joint-stock-banks have, it is well known, been got up to give that facility of discounts to their originators and promoters which has been refused elsewhere ; and cases have been lately disclosed in which directors, whose insolvency was notorious, have been accommodated with the money of the shareholders to an extent that has involved the credit of an establishment with a large paid-up capital in their ultimate stoppage. Factories are no longer erected, and large concerns based on capital; a temporary facility of discounts or loans is now quite sufficient, to undertake and carry on works giving employment to hundreds of hands, and stimulating a fearful increase of population and of demoralization ; and when this facility is checked by the operations of an irregular and erratic currency, the blame is cast on that commercial system, which, under the prevalence of greater honesty and moderation, placed this country in the position it now occupies.
• By such means as we have thus with pain described, the national morals are injured, and the higher classes are degraded in the estimation of the poorer. To reform these vicious tendencies, law is inoperative; virtuous society must rouse itself, and mark by expulsion from its circle their verdict on the actors in these scenes. It is in vain that we continually glance across the Atlantic, and see the beam in the eyes of our Anglo-American brethren, if we will not condescend to observe the mote that is in our own.'
With this extract we might close our remarks, but remembering that we write chiefly for avowedly Christian readers, who admit the authority, and who profess to take as the rule of their conduct, the sacred Scriptures, we trust it will be instructive, especially to those who are about entering upon life, to consider some of those sound principles which are laid down in the volume of inspiration, as applicable to our station in life, and to the acquisition and use of wealth.
1. A sincere and humble acquiescence in the will of God in that station of life in which he has placed us, is clearly the duty of a Christian. This is evident from such injunctions as the following :“ But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord bath called every one, so let him walk.” “Godliness, with contentment,” or a competency, as it is sometimes rendered, “is great gain.” “ Let your conversation be without covetousness, and be content with such things as ye have.” This spirit is beautifully exemplified in the case of the Shunamite's preference of her own people, in Agur's moderate desires after earthly possessions, and in St. Paul's having learned in every vicissitude of life therewith to be content.
2. Every Christian is required to consider that it is the prerogative of God alone to bestow wealth. This is most explicitly stated in several passages in the Old Testament.
When the Israelites were promised the possession and the wealth of the promised land, they were expressly enjoined to guard against an unbecoming elevation of mind, and to remember that it was the Lord who gave them power to get wealth. In the song of thanksgiving, offered by Hannah, when she presented her son Samuel, she expressly states, “ The Lord maketh poor, and maketh rich; he bringeth low, and lifteth up.” In the case of Solomon, riches were given, and it is distinctly to be observed, that the same gracious Being who said, “I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart;' said also, “ And I have given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches and honour.'
In the last public devotional act of the venerable King David, recorded at length in the xxixth chapter of the first book of Chronicles, this principle is fully set forth, “ Both riches and honour come of thee, and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all,” and so powerfully did the dying monarch feel its weight, that in presenting to the Lord those vast stores which he had accumulated for the building of the temple, he uses these remarkable words, “ All things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee;” and “ all this store that we have prepared to build thee a house for thine holy name, cometh of thine hand, and is all thine own."
And in the book of Ecclesiastes, that sad record of disappointed worldly expectations, riches and wealth are again spoken of as the gift of God. It is therefore “ the blessing of the Lord, which maketh rich and addeth no sorrow with it," and although “ the lot is cast into the lap, the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord.”
The full conviction of this truth will suggest a further important reflection, viz.,
3. That the inordinate desire of wealth is to be guarded against, and not only for the considerations above stated, but because its indulgence is criminal in the sight of God, and leads to most injurious conséquences.
Honest industry is commended in the sacred volume, and the divine blessing is promised upon it, but it is said, “ He that is greedy of gain, troubleth his own house,” and while it is declared, that “a faithful man shall abound with blessings,” it is added, “ but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent."
The baneful effects which the insatiable desire of wealth, have upon the mind of persons professing godliness, are fully and accurately described by the Apostle, with a degree of minuteness, which sbews the estimate in which he holds them. “ But they that will be rich," instead of being contented with what God has bestowed upon them, “ fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil; which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
4. When wealth is possessed, a scriptural and not a worldly estimate should be formed of its value and importance.
An error on this point, by no means uncommon, staggered the confidence and harassed the mind of the Psalmist, and his perverse reasonings were only silenced when he went into the sanctuary of God.
Instead of regarding wealth as an unmixed good, to be ardently desired and earnestly sought after, we should remember that it is represented in the word of God as a temptation to pride, as a hindrance to the reception of the Gospel, as through its deceitfulness choking the word, as causing disquiet and trouble, as perishing and uncertain, and that it profiteth not in the day of wrath, whereas in contrast to it “ righteousness deliveretb from death.”
And lastly, wealth when bestowed by God upon any individual, is to be consecrated to his service, and used with a single eye to his glory.
In what manner this is to be done it seems unnecessary to point out : the opportunities are so numerous, the difficulty is in a judicious and wise selection ; nor should we here specify the particular proportion wbich must be so employed, for that must vary according to circumstances. The scriptural rule which is of most general application, is one tenth, and for this Dr. Hammond and others have contended, but it is known that Archbishop Tillotson appropriated one fifth of his income to charitable purposes; the philanthropic Howard nearly the whole of his income, and in our own times, the venerable Simeon reserved only to himself sufficient to supply his very moderate wants, and devoted to the service of Him he loved, a large annual income, especially in that particular way, the purchase of church property, by which be conscientiously believed, the glory of God and the salvation of men would be most effectually and permanently promoted in these lands.
Referring again to the word of inspiration, we find that the appropriation of wealth to the service of God, His Church, and the
poor, is expressly commanded, and promises of a special blessing are given to those who present their offering with a sincere and upright heart; which promises are fulfilled in a thousand ways unknown to man, by the constant superintending providence of God over the habitations of the just.
On the other hand, the neglect of this duty is marked by declarations of its withering effect both upon character and property, and the consequent displeasure of God. Thus says St. James, “Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that are come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver is cankered ; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days.”
There is also a passage in the prophecy of Malachi, which cannot be too attentively considered, for while it shews the jealousy of God in vindication of his right, it is a beautiful exhibition of his condescension, faithfulness, and beneficence.
" Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse : for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of Hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”
THE WANDERING SUNDAY SCHOLAR.
One of the parochial clergy of the city of Worcester, recently met on the Ludlow-road, a young girl about sixteen years of age, weeping bitterly. She did not ask for relief. In reply to questions, she stated that she had walked that day from Cleobury Mortimer, a distance of eighteen miles, without food; that she was on her road to Bath to seek an aunt, intending to sleep at Worcester, but knew nobody there, and had nowhere to go to ; that some days previously she had left Bolton, in Lancashire, having been sent from home by her mother, a widow, who was on the point of being married again; that she had sold her gown to pay for her lodgings; that she had once belonged to the Rev. Mr. Slade's Sunday-school, &c. The simplicity and apparent honesty of her tale excited the compassion of the clergyman. As night was approaching, he felt it would be cruel to leave this houseless stranger to wander in the streets, he therefore placed her under the care of a respectable woman, where she was supplied with food and lodging. It was found that, although she bad sold her gown through want, and had gone all day without food, she had preserved, carefully wrapped up in her pocket-handkerchief, the prayer-book and hymn-book she had received at the Sunday-school. The clergyman wrote to Mr. Slade to make the necessary inquiries, and immediately received a satisfactory answer, a small sum being kindly enclosed to assist the poor girl on her way. Some benevolent ladies paid her fare by the van to Bath, whither she proceeded to seek that refuge from her aunt which had been refused by her unfeeling mother.