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tion saps the strength, smothers ambition, and binds men and women with fetters of brass, let us consider it for a little while.
Some years ago, in common with other newspapers, the Boston Herald editorially defended the head of a great life insurance company who had been universally respected as a man of unimpeachable honesty, but who had been shown to be utterly unscrupulous in his handling of great trust funds. He was excused as a victim of modern business conditions. The plea was true as to his original integrity and ability. Probably true as to his success being the product of modern business, conditions; absolutely not true that he was entitled to excuse as being the victim of modern business conditions in his downfall. Modern business conditions did create the atmosphere of high finance, modern legal attitude of invoking legal process to defeat the ends of justice rather than to uphold its majesty, did make possible the legal doing of many questionable transactions, the handling of large sums of money did give the opportunity of the misuse of trust funds.
But just because he was originally a man of integrity this man knew that however great the temptation, and however easy the opportunity, right was right since God is God. Had one, years before, told him that he would misuse money not his own, he would have made answer with righteous indignation. But he lived in the atmosphere of loose financial dealing so long that his moral vision
became blinded. He slept. “ And he awoke out of his sleep and said I will go out as at other times and shake myself free. But he knew not that his strength was departed from him, and the Philistines laid hold of him and put out his eyes, and they brought him down to Gaza and bound him with fetters of brass, and he did grind in the prisonhouse." This modern Samson of the financial world knew not that his strength had departed from him. Unconscious deterioration was his disease.
1. Deterioration's method is always insidious. Like the mighty monster in Hugo's “ Toilers of the Sea,” it wraps the coils of its tentacles round the busy workman who is cumbered with the cares of life. Like a vampire breathing forth the charmed atmosphere of promised success, it sucks the very breath of life out of strong men. Like a serpent it waits in the vernal woods of childhood and youth and lies coiled behind the boulders of later life ready to strike at the unwary passer-by with its forked tongue. Like a tiger it draws near on velvet feet until it pounces on the unsuspecting traveller in the jungles of life. Like the roundleaved sun-dew, which plies its nefarious vocation from Labrador to Florida, its agent's outward appearance is most fair, but death is in its embrace. Naturalists tell us that the pretty little white blossoms of the sun-dew beckon to wayfaring flies and moths a token of good cheer. Circling the flower stalk in rosette fashion are a dozen or more round leaves, each of them wearing scores of glands, very
like little pins, a drop of gum glistening on each and every pin by way of a head. This appetizing gum is no other than a fatal stick-fast, the raying pins closing in and the more certainly to secure a hopeless prisoner. Soon his prison-house becomes a stomach for his absorption. So ease and contentment with present attainment lure one to rest for a while, that deterioration may feed upon that which should have been for the strengthening of his better development.
This then is the insidiousness of deterioration: That its victim is unconscious of its approach, but its attack is none the less deadly.
No normal man ever really means to lie or steal, he only does it when deterioration by constantly breathing into its victim the atmosphere of loose financial dealing perverts his moral judgment, or by the alluring picture of success weakens his will. But lying is lying and stealing is stealing, none the less. No normal man ever really means to be untrue to talents that God has given him, but comfort and contentment and laziness weave a silken net about him and basking in the sunshine he remains a mediocre man all his life. So is dishonest dealing with God's talents set on high. No normal man or woman ever really means to shut God and the highest yearnings out of the heart; but neglect and the undue pursuit of pleasure dry up that which should have been springs of living water. This is the misuse of God's mightiest trust fund. Premeditated evil has slain her thousands, unconscious
deterioration has slain her tens of thousands. If you don't believe it, study the facts of the case.
2. Note the widespread field of deterioration's campaign.
In the development of talents, unconscious deterioration hesitates not to strike the highest as well as the lowest. Dr. M. J. McLeod tells of a young man, who, fifty years ago, left the service of his country after giving four years of enduring hardship. “Heroic service had he rendered and he came out of the Civil War with medals. His mother, in her girlhood, was a distinguished beauty and ever a representative of the noblest type of womanhood. His father was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of one of the proudest of the thirteen original states. He, himself, became governor of that state. Less than thirty years ago the man was tall, stately, kingly, eloquent, wealthy, charming. Today, his picture hangs in the rogues' gallery. On trial in Boston a few years ago, he said: 'I am but fifty-eight years old, but look at me! My hair is white, my skin is browned and seasoned, my cheeks are hollowed, my frame is shrunken, my hands palsied like a man of eighty. Opium and morphine, the twin curses of my life, were not content in undermining my physique, they attacked my mind and my moral nature.'” Looking at that life you see the fatal sting of unconscious deterioration.
In the middle of the eighteenth century, a poor Scottish farmer set himself to give his children all that he could of his own companionship that he
might make up the deficit of the education which his penury denied. Among the large family of this humble Scottish home grew up one youth of marked characteristics. “A proud, headstrong, impetuous lad, greedy of pleasure, greedy of notice,” yet having this personal vainglorying somewhat mollified by the splendid powers of body, mind, and soul that were possessed by him. His wonderful ability of expressing homely and insignificant things of everyday life soon won for this farmer's lad association with the prominent. He was everywhere in Edinburgh received with acclaim by the titled and the great. But, alas, he who had achieved the friendship of the great, who wrought his name into the temple of fame by his immortal
Auld Lang Syne,” “Cotter's Saturday Night," “Lines to a Mountain Daisy," who ought to have laboured long, as did Wordsworth and Browning and Tennyson, after a brief six months of his greatest productive work began to totter and fall. He who had been the guest of lords and ladies whistled to the inn by any curious stranger.' He fain would get enough for his family to eat as an exciseman. As Robert Louis Stevenson says of him: “His death in his 37th year was indeed a kindly dispensation. He had trifled with life and must pay the penalty. He had grasped at temporary pleasures, and substantial happiness and solid industry had passed him by. He died of being Robert Burns."
That you might realize the tragedy of the man