The Age of Swindle.
[A Sermon b? the Rev. Db Talmage.] Whose trust shall be a spider's web.—Job viil., 14. The two most skilful architects in all the world are the bee and the spider. The one puts up a sugar manufactory, and the other builds a slaughterhouse for flies. On a bright summer morning, when the sun comes out and shines upon a spider's web bedecked with dew, the gossamer structure seems bright enough for a suspension bridge for supernatural beings to cross on. But alas! for the poor fly, which in the latter part of the day ventures on it, and is caught and dungeoned and destroyed. The fly was informed that it was a free bridge and would cost nothing, but at the other end of the bridge the toll paid was its own life. The next day there comes down a strong wind, and away goes the web and the marauding spider and the victimised fly. So delicate are the silken threads of the spider's web that many thousands of them are put together before they become visible to the human eye, and it takes four million of them to make a thread as large as the human hair. Most cruel as well as most ingenious is the spider. A prisoner in the Bastille, France, had one so trained that at the sound of a violin it every day came for its meal of flies. Job, the author of my text, and the leading scientist of his day, had no doubt watched the voracious process of this one insect with another, and Baw spider and fly swept down with the same broom, or scattered by the same wind. Alas, that the world has so many designing spiders and victimised flies! There has not been a time when the utter and black irresponsibility of many men having tho financial interests of others in charge has been more evident than in these last few years. The unroofing of banks and disappearance of administrators with the funds of large estates have made a pestilsnce of crime that solemnises every thoughtful man and woman, and leads every philanthrophist and Christian to ask: What shall be done to stay the plague ? There is a monsoon abroad, a typhoon, a sirocco. I sometimes ask myself if it would not be better for men making wills to bequeath the property directly to the executors and officers of the Court, and appoint the widows and orphans a committee to flee that the former got all that did not belong to them. The simple fact is that there are a large number of men sailing yachts, and driving fast horses, and members of expensive clubhouses, and controlling country seats, who are not worth a dollar if they return to others their just rights. Under some sudden reverse they fail, and with aftiicted air seem to retire from the world, and seem almost ready for monastic life, when in two or threo years they blossom out again, having compromised with their creditors—that is, paid them nothing but regrets ; and the only | difference between the second chapter of : prosperity and the first is that their pictures . are Murillos instead of Konsetts, and their horses go a mile in twenty seconds less than ( their predecessors, and instead of one country seat they have three. I have watched and have noticed that nine out of ten of those who fail in what is called high life have more means after than before the failure, ' and in many of the cases failure is only a stratagem to escape the payment of honest debts and put the world off the track while ) they practise a large swindle. There is , something wofully wrong in the fact that these things are possible of commission. First ofjall I charge the blame on careless, ' indifferent bank directors and _ boards having in charge great financial institutions. ! It ought not to be possible for a president or cashier or prominent officer of a banking institution to swindle it year after year without detection. I will undertake to say that if these frauds are carried on for two or three years without detection, either the | directors arc partners in the infamy and pocketed part of the theft, or they are guilty of a culpable neglect of duty, for which God ' will hold them as responsible as He holds the acknowledged defrauders. What right have prominent business men to allow their names to bo published as directors in a financial institution so that unsophisticated people are thereby induced to deposit their money in the scrip thereof, when they, the published directors, are doing nothing for the safety of the institution? It is, in my best judgment, a case of deception most reprehensible. Many people with a surplus of money not needed for immediate use, although it may be a little further on indispensable, are without friends competent to advise them, and are guided solely by the character of the men whose names are associated with the institution. When the crash came, and with the overthrow of tho banks went the small earnings and limited fortunes of widows and orphans and the helplessly aged, the directors stood with idiotic stare, and to the inquiry of the frenzied depositors and stockholders who had lost their all, and to the arraignment of an indignant public, had nothing to say, except: "We thought it was all right. We did not know there was anything wrong going on." It was their duty to know. They stood in a position which deluded the people with the idea that they were carefully ob3ervant. Calling themselves directors, they did not direct. They had an opportunity of auditing accounts and inspecting books. No time to do so? then they had no business to accept the position. It seems to be the pride of some monied men to be directors in a great many institutions, and all they know is whether or not they get their dividends regularly, and their names are used as decoy ducks to bring others near enough to be made game of. What first of all is needed is that 5.000 bank directors and insurance company directors resign or attend to their business as directors. The business world will continue to be full of fraud just as long as fraud is so easy. When you arrest the president and secretary of a bank for an embezzlement carried on for many years, have plenty of sheriffs out the same day to arrest all the directors. They are guilty either of neglect or complicity with the evil that has happsned. " Oh," some one will say, " better preach the Gospel and let business matters alone." I reply: "If your Gospel does not inspire common honesty in the dealings of men, the sooner you close up your Gospel and pitch it into the depths of the Atlantic I Ocean the better." A hypocritical orthodox I swindler is worse than a heterodox swindler. ! The recitation of all the catechisms and creeds ever written, and drinking from all the communion chalices that ever glittered in tho ohurches of Christendom, will never pave your soul unless your business character corresponds with your religious, profession: Some of the worst defaulters in America have been members of churches, I and they got fat on sermons about heaven, when they most needed to have the pulpits preach that which would either bring them to repentance or thunder tham out of tho holy communion, where their presence was a sacrilege and an infamy. We must especially deplore the misfortune of banks in various parts of this country, in that they damage the banking institution, which is the great convenience of the century, and indispensable to commerce and the advance of nations. With one hand it blesses the lender, and with the other the borrower. We have banks in all our cities and towns, thousands and thousands. On their shoulders are the interests of private individuals and great corporations. In them are the great arteries through which run the currents of the nation's life. They have been the resources of thousands of financiers in days of business exigency. They stand for accom-
modation, for facility, for individual, State, and national relief. At their head and in their management there is as much interest and moral worth as in any class of men—perhaps more. How nefarious, then, the behaviour of those who bring disrepute upon this venerable, benignant, and God-honored institution!
We also deplore the abuse of trust funds, because they fly in the face of that divine goodness which seems determined to bless this land. We are having the eighth year of unexampled national harvest. The wheat gamblers get hold of the wheat, and the corn gamblers get hold of the corn. The full tide of God's mercy towards this land is put back by those great dykes of dishonest resistance. When God provides enough food and clothing to feed and apparel this whole nation like princes, the scramble of dishonest men to (jet more than their share, and get it at all hazards, keeps everything shaking with uncertainty and everybody asking *' What next?" Every week makes new revelations. How many more bank presidents and bank cashiers have been speculating with other people's money, and how many more bank directors are in imbecile silence, letting the perfidy go on, the great and patient God only kuows! If you have a mind to take your own money, and turn it all into_ kites to fly them over every common in the United States, you do society no wrong, except when you tumble your helpless } children into the poorhouse for the public to take care of. But you have no right to take the money of others and turn it into kites. There is one word that has deluded more people into bankruptcy and State prison and perdition than any other word in commercial life, and that is the. word borrow; that one word is responsible for all trie defalcations and embezzlements and financial consternations of the last twenty years. When executors conclude to speculate with the funds of an estate committed to their charge, they do not purloin, they say they only borrow; when a banker makes an overdraft upon his institution, he does not commit a theft, he only borrows. When the officer of a company, by flaming advertisement in some religious papers, and gilt certificate of stock, gets a multitude of country people to put their small earnings | into an enterprise for carrying on some un- j developed nothing, he only borrows. When a young man with easy access to his employer's money-drawer, or the confidential clerk by close propinquity to the account books, takes a few dollars for an excursion, he expects to put it back; he will put it all back very soon. Certainly ;he only borrows. Why, when you are going to do wrong, pronounce so long a word as borrow, a word of six letters, when you can get a shorter word more descriptive of the reality, a word of only five letters—the word steal ? There are times when we all borrow, and borrow legitimately, and borrow with the divine blessing, for Christ, in His Sermon on the Mount, enjoins, "from him that would borrow of thee, turn thou not away." A young man rightly borrows money to get his education. Purchasing a house and not able to pay all down in caßh, the purchaser rightly borrows it on mortgage. Crises come in business when it would be wrong for a m*n not to borrow. But I roll this warning through all these aisles, over the backs of all these pews, never boirow to speculate, not a dollar, not a cent, not a farthing! Young men, young men, I warn you by your worldly prospects and tho value of your immortal souls, do not do it! If I had only a worldly weapon to use on this subject I would give you the fact fresh from the highest authority, that 90 per cent, of those who go into speculation lose all; but I have a better warning than a worldly warning. From the place where men have perished—body, mind, and soulstand off, stand off! Abstract pulpit discussion must step aside on this question. Faith and repentance are absolutely necessary, but faith and repentance are no more doctrines of the Bible than commercial integrity Render to all their dues; owe no man anything. And while I mean to preach faith and repentance,' more and more tc preach them, I do not mean to spend any time in chasing the Hittites, and Jebusites, and Girgashites of Bible times, when there are so many evils right around us destroying men and women for time and eternity. The greatest evangelistic preacher the world oversaw, a man who died for his evangelism —the peerless Paul—wrote to the Romans "Provide things honest in the sight of all men;" wrote to the Corinthians, "Do that that which is honest; " wrote to the Philippians, " Whatsoever things are honest;" wrote to the Hebrews, "Willing in all things to live honestly." The Bible says that faith without works is dead; which, being literally translated, means that if your business life does not correspond with your profession, your religion is a sham and unprofitable. Here is something which needs to be sounded into the ears of all the young men of America and other lands, and iterated and reiterated, if this country particularly is ever to be delivered from its calamities, and prosperity is to be established and perpetuated. Live within your means. I have the highest commercial au'hority for Baying that when tho memorable trouble broke out in Wall street four years ago, there were 225,000,000d0l (L 45,000,000) in suspense, which had already been spent. Spend no more than you make. And let us adjust all our business and our homes by the principles of the Christian religion. Our religion ought to mean just as much on Saturday and Monday as on the day between, and not bea mere periphrasis of sanctity. Ourreligion ought to first clean our hearts, and then it ought to clean our lives. Religion is not, as Home aeem to think, a sort of church delectation, a kind of confectionery, a sort of spiritual caramel or holy gumdrop, or sanctified peppermint, or theological atue3thetic. It is an omnipotent principle, all-controlling, all-conquering. You may get along with something less than that, and you may deceive yourself with it, bub you cannot deceive God, and you cannot deceive the world. The keen business man will put on his spectacles, and he will look clear through to tho back of your head, and see whether your religion is a notion or a fact. And you cannot hide your samples of sugar, or rice, or tea, or coffee if they are false ; you caunot hide them under the cloth of a com-munion-table. All your prayers go for nothing so long as you misrepresent your banking institution, and in the amount of resources you put down more specie and more fractional currency, and more clearinghouse certificates, and more legal-tender notes, and more loans, and more discounts than there really are, and when you give an account of yourliabilities you do not mention all the unpaid dividends, and the United States bank notes and the individual deposits, and the obligations to other banks and bankers. An authority more scrutinising than that of any bank examiner will go through and through your business.
I stand this morning beforo many who have the custody of trust funds. It is a compliment to you that you have been so entrusted; but I charge you, in the presence of God and tho world, be careful, be as careful of the property of others as you are careful of your own. Above all, keep your own private account at the bank separate from your account as trustee of an estate, or trustee of an institution. That is the point at which thousands of people make shipwreck. They get the property of others mixed up with their own property, they put it into investment, and away it all goes, and they cannot return that which they borrowed. Then comes the explosion, and the money market is shaken, and the Press denounces and the Church thunders. You have no right to use the property of others except for their advantage, nor without consent, unless they are minors. If with their consent jou invest their property as well as you can, and it is all lost, you are not to blame; you did the best you could, but do not come into the delusion which has ruined so many men, of thinking because a thing is in their possession therefore it is theirs. You have a solemn trust from God. In this assemblage there may be some who have misappropriated trust funds. Put them back, or, if you have so hopelessly involved them that you cannot put them back, confess the whole thing to those whom you _ have wronged, and you will sleep better nights, and you will have the better chance for your soul. What a sad thing it wouM be, if after you are dead your administrator should find out from the account books, or from the lack of vouchers, that you were not only bankrupt in estate, but that you
lost your soul. If all the trust funds tha* have been misappropriated should suddenly fly back to their owners, and all the property that has been purloined should suddenly go to its owners, it would crush into ruin every city in Amerioa. A missionary on a Pacific island preached on dishonesty, and on the next morning he looked out of the window and he saw his yard full of goods of all kinds. He wondered, and asked the cause of all this. " Well," said the natives, " our gods that we have been worshipping permit us to steal, but according to what you said yesterday, the God of heaven and earth will not allow this, so we bring back all these goods, and we ask you to help us in taking them to where they belong." If next Sabbath all the ministers in America should preach sermons on the abuse of trust funds, and on the evils of purloining, and the sermons were all blessed of God, and regulations were made that all these things should be taken to the city halls, it would not be long before every city hall in America would be crowded from cellar to cupola with fruits of restitution. Let me say in the most solemn and emphatic manner to all young men, dishonesty will never pay- -An abbot wanted to buy a piece of ground, and the owner would not sell it, but the owner finally consented to let it to him until he could raise one crop, and the abbot sowed acorns—a crop of two hundred years ! And I will tell you, young man, that the dishonesties which you plant in your heart and life will seem to be very insignificant, but they will grow up until they will overshadow you with horrible darkness, overshadow all time and all eternity. It will not be a crop for two hundred years, but a crop for everlasting ages. I have also a word of comfort for all who suffer from the malfeasance and dishonesty of others, and every honest man, woman, and child does suffer from what goes on in financial scampdom. Society is so bound together that all the misfortunes which good people suffer in business matters come from the misdeeds of others. Bear up under distress, strong in God. He will see you through, though your misfortunes shouldbe centupled. Philosophers tell us that a column of air forty-five miles in height rests on every man's head and shoulders. But that is nothing compared with the pressure that business life has put upon many of you. God made up his mind long ago how many or how few dollars it would be best for you to have. Trust to His appointment. The door will soon open to let you out and let you up. What shock of delight for men who for thirty years have been in business anxiety when they shall suddenly awake in everlasting and blessed holiday ! On the maps of the Arctic regions there are two places whose names are remarkable, given, I suppose, by some polar expedition: " Cape Farewell" and " Thank God Harbor." At this last the Polaris wintered in 1881, and the Tigress in 1873. Some Bhips have passed the Cape, yet never reached the Harbor. But from what I know of many of you, I have concluded that though your voyage in life may be very rough, run into by icebergs on this side and icebergs on that, you will in due time reach Cape Farewell, and there bid good-bye to all annoyances, and soon after drop anchor in the calm waters of Thank God Harbor—" Where the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at reßt."
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The Age of Swindle., Evening Star, Issue 7916, 25 May 1889, Supplement
The Age of Swindle. Evening Star, Issue 7916, 25 May 1889, Supplement
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